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 …

Global dawning

A note for those who come to life only after the second mug of coffee each morning: this blog is probably not for you. Our subject this week is that magical time before sunrise when dark gives way incrementally to light: dawn. It can be a magical few minutes, not least when birds limber up Read More …

Podcast: Towering transcriptions. Stravinsky and Debussy orchestral works in one pianist’s two very safe hands.

Ralph van Raat performs fiendishly difficult transcriptions for solo piano of two of the most important orchestral works of the early 20th century: Debussy’s symphonic sketches La mer, and Stravinsky’s score for the ballet The Rite of Spring. Raymond Bisha guides us through the transformation of these works from orchestral complexity to pianistic élan.   Read More …

Podcast: Hallmarks of Hungary. Kodály’s orchestral works.

Conductor JoAnn Falletta discusses the Buffalo Philharmonic’s latest recording of Hungarian music with broadcaster Peter Hall. Zoltán Kodály wrote major orchestral scores that were deeply enriched by his researches into Hungarian folk music, not least the heritage of gypsy music. The recording’s programme comprises Dances of Galánta and Dances of Marosszék, both full of swagger Read More …

Podcast: Percy Grainger’s music for wind band

The Australian born composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882–1961) maintained a lifelong affection for the wind band as a performance medium for his works. “As a vehicle of deeply emotional expression,” he once said, “it seems to me unrivalled.” Grainger’s initial commitment to the ensemble was hands-on: during a stay in London in 1901 he Read More …

Concerto superbo!

At the time of sitting down to write this edition of Thought for the Week, I decided to consult the Naxos monthly bestsellers  lists and consider writing a retrospective about our 2017 market leaders. While reviewing the January-October rankings, two things stood out. First, in no fewer than three of those months, the bestselling release Read More …

Rooted in Christmas

While the more commercial aspects of Christmas move in tandem with market sentiment, some elements of the season’s celebrations happily remain more constant. Christmas cards (dating from the 1840s), Advent calendars (the first examples appeared around the same time) and attractively wrapped presents (a reminder of the Three Wise Men’s gifts of gold, frankincense and Read More …

Podcast: Sounding singular. Onutė Narbutaitė’s orchestral works.

Onutė Narbutaitė came of age as a composer in the 1980s in Soviet-occupied Lithuania where, along with other artists, she strove to maintain a cultural environment of silent resistance behind a stifling iron curtain. This artistic, political stance was to produce haunting, mesmerising music crowned by Narbutaitė’s unique stamp of a truly arresting listening experience. Read More …

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 …