The sound of sirens

Mermaids, part woman, part fish. Sirens, part woman, part bird. Their natural environs, water. While mermaids swim with a gentler reputation, sirens are branded by their seductive powers, luring seafarers to their destruction on treacherous rocks. How are they represented in the recording catalogue? Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid, first published in 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 …

Can I quote you?

Borrowing other people’s music and weaving it into your own composition is far from uncommon. We’re not talking plagiarism here i.e. passing other people’s music off as your own, which seems to happen far more regularly in pop music than in classical. A composer might borrow from himself, which explains why you might get a Read More …

Bali hi!

I recently took a short break on the Indonesian island of Bali, a three-day cocktail not just of swimming, surfing and sunsets; colourful batik, engaging artwork and an ancient temple completed the mix. Ambling around the grounds of that temple, and above the respectful silence of the bevy of tourists, there floated a sound: gently Read More …

A Fab Four

The week ahead moves between the Zodiac signs of Leo (ends August 22) and Virgo (starts August 23). No doubt there’s a gradual astrological change of character traits between people born under the respective signs, but this particular week of 19-25 August marks the anniversaries of the births of four people who all bear a Read More …

Making connections

The 2015 BBC Promenade Concerts, the world’s largest music festival based at London’s Royal Albert Hall, kick off this week and run for the next two months. The first four weeks of performances sport a wealth of exciting music, opening on July 17 with Walton’s big-boned Belshazzar’s Feast (8.555869) and closing with Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony Read More …

Playing on one’s name

Many instruments evolved over centuries, their names changing in tandem with their timbre. The lute became the guitar, the viol progressed to the violin and the sackbut got transformed into the trombone. Just occasionally, however, an inventor introduces a brand new kid onto the block and, naturally enough, gives it the family name. The most Read More …