Stocking fillers

The Greatest Story Ever Told, George Stevens’ epic film depicting the life of Christ, received mixed reviews. It continued to do so more than forty years after its release, the Guardian opining on Christmas Day 2009 that ” …  it suffers in the retelling. With such inherently dramatic source material, George Stevens’s cameo-packed 1965 dramatisation Read More …

Podcast: Four centuries of music for guitar ensemble.

Guitar Gala Night comprises performances by the Amadeus Guitar Duo and the Duo Gruber & Maklar in a programme that’s a veritable variety show, combining original compositions with arrangements for one, two and four guitars. Ranging from the abstract to the descriptive, the earliest piece (1612) represents dance music by Michael Praetorius, while the most Read More …

Podcast: Rossini’s Sins of Old Age.

Raymond Bisha introduces us to the flip-side of Rossini the opera composer, who spent the last 40 years of his life in operatic retirement, instead composing some 200 vocal and solo piano pieces (his Sins of Old Age) whilst also indulging in the pleasantries of life as a gourmand and amateur chef. The final release Read More …

Podcast: Chamber music by Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968). World premiere recordings.

The three newly published pieces on this recording were written in the decade following Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s flight to the United States in 1939 in the wake of the proclamation of anti-Jewish laws by Italy’s fascist regime. The programme includes his Concerto No. 3 for Violin and Piano (1939–40), written for no less a figure than Read More …

In the wrong place at the wrong time.

When I decided to focus this week’s blog on the end of World War I, the centenary of which is marked this Sunday, Armistice Day, little did I think I’d be opening with a Franz Liszt connection and continuing with sketches of a group of musicians who were simply in the wrong place at the Read More …

Podcast: Relishing the realism. Orchestral music by Alfred Bruneau.

Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of orchestral music by Alfred Bruneau (1857-1934), a composition student of Jules Massenet and one of the most important yet overlooked figures in turn-of-the-century French musical life. Bruneau’s desire for theatrical realism in his operas mirrored the literary aspirations of his friend Émile Zola. Conductor Darrell Ang and the Barcelona Read More …

Cleopatra’s needled?

Well, I think I might be if I knew that the three obelisks generally referred to as Cleopatra’s Needles, sited in London, Paris and New York, had nothing to do with me, perhaps the most famous queen of all time. Constructed a thousand years before Cleopatra’s lifetime, they at least stand as a popular memento Read More …

Long to rain over us

If, like me, you abhor rain and its associated displeasures, you may already be rejoicing in the 195th anniversary of a miraculous event that occurred on the date of this publication in 1823: Charles Macintosh (1766-1843), a Scottish chemist, sold his first raincoat. Layers of cloth sandwiched a rubber substance that kept the unwelcome intrusion Read More …

Podcast: 3 orchestral works by Franz Schreker (1878-1934)

The last decade in the life of Austrian composer Frank Schreker (1878-1934) proved a tragic conclusion to his hitherto highly successful career as a teacher, conductor, administrator and composer. In the mid-1920s critics were bearing down on him for failing to step in line with developing compositional styles; by the 1930s his work had come Read More …

Florent Schmitt. An introduction.

The French composer Florent Schmitt was born on 28 September, 1870; he died in 1958. Marking the anniversary of his birth, this week’s blog presents a small selection of his compositions. If you’re unfamiliar with his works, we hope our choice will tempt you to explore further this intriguing composer’s output. For now, we’ll let the Read More …