A centenary’s outs and ins

Following the 2020 global Beethoven birthday bash, I’m going to run the risk of anniversary fatigue by dwelling on what comes in its wake: 2021 and a collection of milestones marking the centenaries of either the births or deaths of a number of composers and artists. In true Naxos style, the survey will include both Read More …

Podcast: The art and craft of John Adams.

Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of orchestral music by the Pulitzer and Erasmus Prize-winning American composer John Adams. The two works on this new album from the Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero demonstrate why Adams is one of today’s most widely performed and recorded composers. Adams describes My Father Knew Charles Ives as “an homage Read More …

Podcast: Bruckner’s Latin motets. Devotions of distinction.

Choral music formed an important part of Anton Bruckner’s output throughout his career, even though the genre was widely underappreciated by a public more inclined to large-scale symphonic and operatic works. Although the big-boned structure of such music also made its presence felt in Church masses and oratorios, there was always a need for smaller Read More …

Podcast: Vítězslav Novák. Orchestral Works Vol. 1

Czech composer Vitězslav Novák (1870-1949), who was one of Dvořák’s composition students, rose to prominence with a series of increasingly ambitious orchestral works that fused elements of folk music, impressionism and late-Romanticism. Raymond Bisha introduces Vol. 1 of his orchestral works performed by Marek Štilec and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme pairs the heady Read More …

Cherry Christmas

One Christmas carol that has always been on my list of favourites is the Cherry Tree Carol. Apart from the attractive melody, the words give a glimpse of the real human relationship between Joseph and Mary, the former harbouring a touch of tetchiness over the miracle of her immaculate conception. As the couple make their Read More …

Podcast: Bernard Herrmann in the round

Raymond Bisha discusses a release of music by the American composer Bernard Herrmann with Joseph Horowitz, co-founder of PostClassical Ensemble, a group dedicated to stepping across normal repertoire boundaries. The album’s programme showcases Herrmann’s talents not only as a composer of film scores, but also as a consummate provider of music for the forgotten genre Read More …

Scene-shifting

It will soon be the season of Christmas carol services, managed somehow or other this year by technical wizardry in defiance of Covid-19. It set me thinking not only about the traditional carols I grew up with, but also the plentiful variety of alternative music that has been written over the centuries to mark the Read More …

Podcast: Handled with care

George Frideric Handel: impresario, performer, composer. The Great Bear, as he was referred to in his time, remains an Ursa Major of the musical firmament to this day. Raymond Bisha illustrates Handel’s creative genius with Vol. 2 in pianist Philip Edward Fisher’s recordings of his Keyboard Suites, released in April 2015. View album details Catalogue Read More …

Premieres with problems

This week we take a look at four works that were all premiered on 20 November, the same date as the posting of this blog, respectively in 1889, 1911, 1945 and 1964. Usually an occasion of great positivity, the first performances of these particular compositions all carried some heavy baggage. I refer to Mahler’s First Read More …

Podcast: Simply unmissable

Once in a while you hear such incredibly beautiful music for the first time that you just can’t understand why it has remained under wraps for so long. The Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 by the Italian-born composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco are a case in point. Originally championed in the 1920s and 30s by no less Read More …