Podcast: A final flourish.

The new Naxos edition of Saint-Saëns’ works for piano and orchestra reaches its final volume with a recording of the composer’s Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5, works described by soloist Romain Descharmes as “brilliant music that opens doors to a new world”. The Fourth Concerto showcases virtuosic music written by one of history’s most Read More …

Puerto Rico. Feeling the pulse.

The American composer Roberto Sierra was born in Vega Baja, in north central Puerto Rico, in 1953. I thought of him repeatedly in 2017, when Hurricane Maria was doing her worst as the most destructive natural disaster on record for the island. Sierra is currently the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Cornell Read More …

Ire and Fury

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak. So wrote William Congreve in 1697, as the opening lines of his poem The Mourning Bride. I’m sure we’ve all experienced music’s power to calm us down, chill us out and turn our doldrums into a more optimistic state Read More …

Podcast: Every step of the play. Prokofiev’s score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet.

As was often the case, bringing performances of classical music to fruition in Russia’s Soviet era was more challenging than the actual composition. Responding to a commission from the Bolshoi Ballet in 1935, Prokofiev quickly completed the task of writing a score for Romeo and Juliet, but the first performance had to be postponed owing Read More …

It simply could not have been written by a woman!

“Freed from the shackles and tatters of the old tradition and prejudice, American and European women in music are now universally hailed as important factors in the concert and teaching fields and as … fast developing assets in the creative spheres of the profession.” This affirmation was made in 1935 by Frédérique Petrides, the Belgian-born Read More …

Podcast: 3 new concertos. 1 original composer. Michael Daugherty.

Michael Daugherty is one of today’s leading American composers. Previous Naxos recordings of his works have received no fewer than seven GRAMMY® awards. His latest release features three recently completed concertos, respectively for flute, tuba and percussion. The programme boasts a rare line-up of female soloists and a release date that coincides with Women’s History Read More …

Podcast: Burgess meets Bach

Anthony Burgess wrote The Bad-Tempered Electronic Keyboard in 1985 to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of J. S. Bach. It was also the year he took receipt of a new electronic synthesiser that offered Piano, Organ, Frog and Funny among its pre-set sounds. The musical homage that resulted sports an intriguing mix of Read More …

The sound of sirens

Mermaids, part woman, part fish. Sirens, part woman, part bird. Their natural environs, water. While mermaids swim with a gentler reputation, sirens are branded by their seductive powers, luring seafarers to their destruction on treacherous rocks. How are they represented in the recording catalogue? Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid, first published in Read More …

Fake blues

If you’ve got to reading this far, then the title has served its eye-catching purpose and needs to be mitigated somewhat, for nothing can question the integrity of jazz. Let’s instead call this Thought for the Week ‘a muse on the blues’, and take a listen to how classical music has taken on board the Read More …

Podcast: All in the family. 3 concertos. 1 orchestra.

Principal players from the Nashville Symphony Orchestra step up to the solo spotlight in world premiere recordings of 3 wind concertos. Frank Ticheli’s Clarinet Concerto pays homage to a different American composer in each of its three movements; Brad Warnaar’s Horn Concerto attests to the composer’s own professional mastery of the instrument; while Behzad Ranjbaran’s Read More …