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 …

Dancing to the music of their time.

During the Baroque period (c. 1600-1750) suites of instrumental music with each movement based on the characteristics of a particular dance were popular. The considerations for composers would include: how many beats in a bar? what speed? any notable rhythms? — elements that gave each dance its individual flavour. It’s difficult to imagine more recent Read More …

Hearing it in black and white.

A bifocal blog this week that steers from a lust for colour in music to a quick dig in the catalogue for works presented on a monochrome platform, either black or white. My first pick is Peter Maxwell Davies’ Black Pentecost, the catalyst for which was provided by the threat of uranium mining in the Read More …

Closing comments. Another quick quiz.

Here are the final bars of 15 well-known works. Can you name the composer and the title of the work? Scroll down the page to check your answers. Question 1   Question 2   Question 3   Question 4   Question 5   Question 6   Question 7   Question 8   Question 9   Read More …

First impressions. A quick quiz.

Here are the openings of 20 well-known works, or of movements within those works. Can you name the composer and the title of the work? Scroll down the page to check your answers. Question 1   Question 2   Question 3   Question 4   Question 5   Question 6   Question 7   Question Read More …

A podium for panache. Concertos for Orchestra.

In some respects you might say that all orchestral works – symphonies, overtures, tone poems — are showcases of collective talent displaying expertise in coordination, balance and deft execution of the notes. But the notion of a concerto for orchestra implies that the composer is shining an even more intense spotlight on rank-and-file players or Read More …

July. A summer selection.

For composers, July holds two main sources of inspiration, being both the warmest summer month in the Northern Hemisphere and that which marks the occasion of America’s Fourth of July, or Independence Day. I’ve chosen seven pieces that reflect this, a number of which may be new to many and, I hope, an interesting discovery. Read More …

Wordsworthy.

Many of us are currently gorging on recordings of Beethoven’s music, with this year marking the 250th anniversary of his birth. If you’d like a brief change in anniversary diet, however, then read on. 2020 also marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the English poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850). We’ll take a three-pronged approach Read More …

Timeless text. Evolving expression. Glory be.

Six centuries. Ten composers. One text. This week’s blog is a journey that savours the flavours of settings of Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest), the opening text of the Gloria section of music that has been written for use during the celebration of the Mass in churches down the ages. Read More …