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 …

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 …