Podcast: Shining through the shadows of history. Chamber music by Mark Nowakowski.

This first full-length album of music by Mark Nowakowski affords a deeply affecting experience: the fusion of the composer’s Polish heritage and that country’s defiant survival of historical upheavals, his American upbringing, the influence of Catholic philosophy and mysticism, masterful playing by the Voxare String Quartet, and an ingenious use of mixed media. Raymond Bisha Read More …

Humming bees

With temperatures shifting unpredictably, the hibernating bee must occasionally get confused about when it’s time to rise from slumber and resume its pollinating routine. In many parts of the world, however, they’ll have long been about their business. This week’s blog gives a nod to that vital work they do, and a mention of some Read More …

Podcast: Guitar Laureate: Xavier Jara

Raymond Bisha introduces the latest release in the Naxos Guitar Laureate series. The featured performer is Xavier Jara, winner of the 2016 Guitar Foundation of America Competition, adding to the artist’s ongoing string of successes. The acoustic guitar has an ancestry that can be traced back thousands of years; this recording presents music from the Read More …

Pizz eerier?

The ten years I spent as a newspaper arts reporter carry many happy memories of interviewing world-leading artists and academics. My recollections of their contributions to classical music brim with unforgettable anecdotes, both heart-warming and disturbing. Being based in south east Asia, the latter usually referenced the dark days of China’s Cultural Revolution; the former Read More …

Podcast: Villa-Lobos: Symphonies 8, 9 and 11

Heitor Villa-Lobos is probably the best known of all South American composers. His contribution to Brazilian music—in education, in community projects, in the concert hall—was all-pervasive. Raymond Bisha drops in on Naxos’ ongoing project to record all his symphonies in a new edition that was launched in 2011 by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra’s publishing Read More …

Classic tweets

I don’t know if the art of précis is still taught in the classroom. It was one of my stronger points as a teenager, although in a subsequent phase as a journalist, and in the face of a word count that exceeded the interest factor of the commissioned piece, it was easy to succumb to Read More …

Podcast: Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals

Published in 1638, Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals reflects a genius at the height of his powers and parades an incredible emotional range, from bold proclamations to a beauty and sensuousness that’s almost painful in its intensity. Raymond Bisha introduces the latest recording from the Italian instrumental and vocal ensemble Delitiæ Musicæ, under their founding Read More …

Cirque des Oreilles

There’s nothing worse for digestion than unshackled youngsters disturbing a restaurant’s oasis of calm. So there I was the other day, taking lunch in a restaurant I hadn’t tried before, appreciating its rather rare quietude, trying to think of a focus for this blog. And then all became clear; both the reason behind the peaceful Read More …

Podcast: International reach. Dvořák’s sacred choral music.

The first performance of the orchestral version of Dvořák’s Mass in D was given at London’s Crystal Palace in 1892. That same year also saw the premiere of his Te Deum in New York, a commission from the founder of the American National Conservatory, Jeanette Thurber, who also instigated the composer’s three-year residency in the Read More …

Wine bars

At the start of my teaching career, way back in the 1970s, I had to drive through deep countryside to reach the school where I worked. One memory from that period recalls passing a farm where, every afternoon, strains of Elgar’s orchestral music wafted over fields of corn from the cowsheds. The farmer was convinced Read More …