Podcast: Symphonic music by Claude Baker

The music on this new release of orchestral music by the American composer Claude Baker occupies a wide expressive range, ricocheting between wild brilliance and deep introspection. He translates literary references into a uniquely rich and imaginative sound world, with allusions to music by other composers by turns subtle and explicit. Raymond Bisha introduces Baker’s Read More …

Playing homage

A few months ago we aired a selection of works in which composers made reference to other composers by quoting snatches of their melodies. This week, we highlight pieces that are dedicated in their entirety to a particular composer, making the product less referential, and more reverential, although you may question that latter description in Read More …

Podcast: Saint-Saëns’ works for cello and orchestra

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, one of the most extraordinary musical prodigies in the history of western music, was born in 1835 (when Mendelssohn was still in full compositional flow) and died in 1921 (the best part of a decade after Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had delivered its shock waves). Amid all this change, Saint-Saëns retained Read More …

A breeze through trees

A news release caught my eye a few months ago. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, an organisation based in the UK, announced that they had managed to compile the first-ever comprehensive list of all known trees. The total? A staggering 60,065 different species. It then struck me that, unlike an event or an emotion, a tree Read More …

Phrases of the loon

The recent passing of the actor Jerry Lewis, forever branded the nutty professor in the madness rankings, put me in mind of British entertainers The Crazy Gang (yes, I am that old), the 1960s comedy film It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, and a whole host of other loony screenings. When crazy turns from Read More …

Podcast: Sister Carrie. The opera of the novel.

Sister Carrie, an opera by American composer Robert Aldridge, was first performed in 2012. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, the novel on which the opera was based, was written in 1900. It was one of the first American novels about social status which, for women around the turn of the 20th century, depended almost entirely on Read More …

Pirated goods

The resurgence of piracy off the coasts of Africa in recent years has been a serious and shocking development, both for the owners of large, commercial vessels and smaller, private craft. The mix of cargo thefts and ransoms for hostages has provided much headline drama; images of gun-toting assailants have made their graphic impact. But Read More …

Podcast: Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto

Raymond Bisha introduces Boris Giltburg’s latest album of music by Sergei Rachmaninov that features the Études-tableaux Op. 33 and his ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2. The latter charts a dramatic course: from the passion, darkness and pain of the first movement, through the dreamy idyll of the second, to the unequivocal victory of the finale. Read More …

Some capital music

The moment when the meaning of ‘globalisation’ started to sink in was during a visit I made to Beijing some years ago; specifically, a day trip to the Great Wall at Badaling, when first impressions weren’t formed by the impact of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, but by the incongruous vision Read More …

Podcast: The voice of Russia. Music by Georgy Sviridov.

Raymond Bisha introduces a new recording of music by the Russian composer Georgy Sviridov (1915–1998); the programme features one of his cantatas, a song cycle, and music for chamber orchestra. Sviridov was a prolific composer (his output encompassed film scores, symphonic suites and several thousand songs) and was fortunate to have Shostakovich as one of Read More …