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 …

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 …

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 …

Haydn peek

One of the Naxos label’s distinguishing features is the sustained effort it applies to promoting the music of lesser-known composers, those who are undisputed craftsmen, but have been sadly overshadowed by greater names in the course of music history. Spare a thought, then, for such a composer who was born on the same date as Read More …

Alma. Her life, loves, lieder.

Alma Margaretha Maria Schindler was born on the date of this post, 31 August, in the year 1879. On her death in 1964, aged 85, she had become Alma Maria Mahler Gropius Werfel. Alternatively, Alma Mahler-Werfel. She might be summed up as a Vienna-born composer and socialite who vacuumed up men’s attentions and several wedding Read More …

For Lenny, with love

You’ll need little reminding that this year marks the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, on 25 August, 1918. And you’ll find little opposition to the widely held view that he was, and remains, the greatest musician that America ever produced. Composer-pianist-conductor, he followed the 3-talent tradition of history’s greatest musical luminaries, from Mozart Read More …

Allongers and Marchongers

It took me a while to figure out exactly to what or to whom Charles Dickens was referring when talking of the Allongers and Marchongers in his novel Little Dorrit. The story opens in Marseilles c. 1826; the penny eventually dropped that the terms were describing soldiers singing Allons! and Marchons! in full voice; and Read More …

Summery executions

As July turns to August many of us will be enjoying the sunshine and thinking of vacations past and present, so here’s a clutch of examples of classical music seasoning to set the mood. Once heard, never forgotten: few melodies conjure the languid spirit of the season as effectively as Summertime by George Gershwin, from Read More …

The numbers factor

Triskaidekaphobia. Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Could they be ancient Greek versions of that song from Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, sounding even more atrocious than Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? No. They’re terms signifying respectively a fear of the number 13 in general, and Friday the 13th in particular. Today’s blog post, falling on such a date, will try and unearth some musical Read More …