Podcast: Stanisław Moniuszko’s sparkling legacy of dance music

Stanisław Moniuszko (1819–1872) may not be a household name today, but in 19th-century Poland his reputation as one of the country’s most significant composers was in no doubt. Statues were erected in his honour, competitions were named after him, and his portrait was included on postage stamps and banknotes. His life and prolific output ran Read More …

Facing the music

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to put names to faces on occasion. Which got me thinking about composers who have put music to faces, names, personalities, and so on. The practice has quite a long history, but for this week’s blog I’ve homed in on some examples from the past hundred Read More …

Podcast: Music to refresh the soul

The Elora Singers lend their meticulous, magical sound to the captivating music of Patrick Hawes, one of England’s most popular and inspirational choral composers. Raymond Bisha introduces the works on their programme, most of them in world première recordings. The dramatic imagery of Revelation finds a spiritual counterpart in the reflective Beatitudes, the two major Read More …

Podcast: Suite sounds. Strauss rescored.

The Buffalo Philharmonic’s latest release showcases two suites of music by Richard Strauss: the first, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, one of the composer’s favourite scores and an absolute jewel of incidental music; the second, a new symphonic orchestral suite of his opulent opera, Ariadne auf Naxos. Conductor JoAnn Falletta discusses both the music and the context Read More …

A bridge to nowhere, except…

The rainbow. A beautiful natural phenomenon with its terminus of an illusionary pot of gold. A bridge to nowhere. Except in the imagination, that is. Which got me wondering how composers have tackled the tricky task of recreating the concept of a rainbow in sound, approaching the subject variously via mythology, folklore, fantasy and religion. Read More …

Podcast: Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Pastoral perfection.

Shabbily treated at its première by Sergei Diaghilev, who commissioned the work for his dance company Ballets Russes, Daphnis et Chloé went on to be hailed by ensuing generations as Ravel’s masterpiece; by Ravel himself as “a vast musical fresco”; and by general opinion as the epitome of impressionism in music. Raymond Bisha delves into Read More …

From Mandalay to Tinseltown. An excursion with Rudyard Kipling.

Were you among the traditionalists who tuned in to the UK’s annual televised Royal Christmas address, broadcast on Christmas Day? It’s currently delivered by Queen Elizabeth II, who was just a 6-year old when the first such royal broadcast was made by her grandfather, King George V, in 1932. He opened this enduring tradition with Read More …

Podcast: Shostakovich. 2 popular piano concertos. 1 new transcription.

Time and again, Dmitri Shostakovich deftly managed to dodge the artistic bullet when it came to the expected political conformity of the day. His two piano concertos bear his distinctive musical voice, despite Soviet diktats. Cheeky banter and effervescence characterise the works, offset by a sublime movement in the second concerto that soloist Boris Giltburg Read More …

Exercising choice

So, with the festive season’s excesses not long past and New Year resolutions on our minds, it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine that many of us will be thinking about taking more exercise. Going to the gym these days seems to demand the heavy beat of pop music as a constant companion. Read More …