A point in time: December 8

An article in The Independent caught my eye a couple of months ago; maybe yours, too. A ghostly, unfinished, non-miniature portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots had been discovered layered beneath a later painting. The article about this colourfully tragic monarch gave a detailed account of both the queen and her unfinished likeness. I then Read More …

Podcast: Imposing imagery: Saint-Saëns’ symphonic poems.

Camille Saint-Saëns’ life stretched from 1835 to 1921, book-ended by Mendelssohn and Stravinsky, a witness to global conflict, and underscored by a unerring belief in the importance of melody and form, possibly out of fashion, but in the vanguard of impeccable craftsmanship. The composer’s symphonic poems are dizzying in their orchestral colour and imagery. Raymond Read More …

Forging a Ring. From junk boats to anvils.

November sees the release of Siegfried, part of the ongoing Naxos recording of Wagner’s complete Ring cycle. For this month’s blogs, we go behind the scenes of the finished product to meet some of the orchestral players involved in the project. We asked Natalie Lewis, a former member of the orchestra, to strike up the Read More …

Podcast: Lalo Schifrin. An immense talent. A wide reach.

Born in Argentina in 1932, Lalo Schifrin journeyed from his early classical training to study with Messiaen in Paris, before transforming into a jazz pianist, composer and arranger whose services were sought after by no less a luminary than Dizzy Gillespie. The composer of more than a hundred scores for film and television, in addition Read More …

Forging a Ring

November sees the release of Siegfried, part of the ongoing Naxos recording of Wagner’s complete Ring cycle. For this month’s blogs, we go behind the scenes of the finished product to meet some of the orchestral players involved in the project. We asked Natalie Lewis, a former member of the orchestra, to strike up the Read More …

Podcast: Terry Riley. A continuing spirit of exploration.

Terry Riley’s breakthrough work, In C, was written in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1991 that he produced his first orchestral piece. Over the years, Riley has come under the influence of a wide range of musicians, including John Cage, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Pandit Pran Nath, the master Indian classical singer. Raymond Bisha Read More …

A point in time: October 27.

October 27 marks five anniversaries—three births, two deaths—of four composers and a musicologist, so we’ll tune in to examples of their output, some of which may be familiar, others less so. It would be remiss, however, to begin without mentioning that October 27 also marks Black Cat Appreciation Day in the UK. The occasion attempts Read More …

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 …