Gershwin whingers.

I’ve always found it intriguing how a quality composition is seemingly indestructible when it’s pressed into new clothes by skilled arrangers. (Whingers, by the way, is simply an anagram of Gershwin to reflect that notion). My first taste of the industry as a youngster was on hearing the Swingle Singers elevate J. S. Bach’s instrumental Read More …

Podcast: Versatilité sans frontières. Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint–Georges (1745–1799).

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was a brilliant swordsman, athlete, violin virtuoso and gifted composer, with a claim to being the most talented figure in an age of remarkable individuals. He was an early and important exponent of the hybrid symphonie concertante, a genre that draws on both the symphony and concerto traditions. In this Read More …

Day in, day out.

If there’s a man for all seasons, is there a music for all days? The answer seems to be ‘yes’, so off we go. Our wake-up call comes from one of Naxos’ major artists, conductor Marin Alsop, who puts us In a Monday Mood with my first item. It’s by George Bogatko, who describes the Read More …

Podcast: The string quartets of Jurgis Karnavičius (1884–1941).

Raymond Bisha introduces the second volume of string quartets by the Lithuanian composer Jurgis Karnavičius (1884–1941), recorded by the Vilnius String Quartet on the Ondine label. Their first volume comprised the composer’s romantic, folk-music inspired first two quartets. Volume 2 presents the Quartets Nos. 3 and 4, which are more expressive and modern in style. Read More …

High scores.

It might seem improbable that something as solid and stolid as a mountain could be inspirational to composers. A quick flick through the catalogue, however, throws up numerous examples of these towering formations reflected in heights of creativity by composers the world over. I’ve chosen six for this blog: a couple of them you might Read More …

Podcast: Jazz idioms, classical structures. Symphonic works by Nikolai Kapustin (1937–2020).

Significantly influenced by his experience of playing in some of the earliest Soviet jazz bands, Nikolai Kapustin trained as a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory but subsequently devoted himself to composition. His output includes many works for piano, two of which are featured on this new album — the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Concerto Read More …

F sharp major, of all keys!

Western composers uniformly embraced the system of tonality for some two centuries, until it found itself challenged by a radical alternative system called atonality around the year 1900. The more abrasive sounds thrown up by atonality certainly gave the status quo a run for its money, while never actually totally replacing it. Tonality allowed composers Read More …

Podcast: Music of Brazil. The Villa-Lobos violin sonatas.

Raymond Bisha prefaces his latest podcast with this introduction: “Heitor Villa-Lobos, the prolific Brazilian composer of some 2,000 works, conductor, cellist, guitarist and music educationalist, wrote his three violin sonatas between 1912 and 1920. When he wrote the first sonata, he was still a struggling young composer trying to make a name for himself, while Read More …

Podcast: Camille Saint-Saëns. A symphonic collection.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is remembered as someone who could spin melodies as easily as he breathed. Naxos is marking the centenary of his death with a 3-CD box set that comprises all his symphonies and a sequence of atmospheric and dramatic symphonic poems, including Phaéton and the ever-popular Danse macabre. Raymond Bisha presents Read More …