The numbers factor

Triskaidekaphobia. Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Could they be ancient Greek versions of that song from Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, sounding even more atrocious than Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? No. They’re terms signifying respectively a fear of the number 13 in general, and Friday the 13th in particular. Today’s blog post, falling on such a date, will try and unearth some musical Read More …

Pulsation frustration.

I don’t watch much television, and what I tune into most are news channels that give me quick updates on the often dire state of the world, and the even direr state of the art of the news anchor. I may be a cantankerous old beezer, but I do get so irritated by announcers who Read More …

Ear trainers

I’ve been thinking about trains these past few weeks for three reasons. First, it’s the anniversary of the linkage of three important London transport facilities 111 years ago, on 22 June 1907, namely the connection of the London Underground with Charing Cross and Euston Stations; second, the surfacing of my childhood memories of the unforgettable Read More …

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942). An introduction.

This week’s blog marks the anniversary of the birth of the Jewish Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff, on 8 June 1894. His artistic abilities soon became apparent, and a musical career was decided on following a recommendation from no less a figure than Antonín Dvořák. Schulhoff studied at the Prague Conservatory from 1904, followed by piano Read More …

Viola concertos

It’s been on my conscience for a while now that in a previous blog I was ungracious enough to use a clutch of jokes at the expense of viola players to spice up the narrative. Although such witticisms will no doubt remain in the profession’s repartee for some time yet, I thought I would try Read More …

May. In names and notions.

May’s music. From Theresa May to Frederick May, the dawn of The First of May to the dusk of May Nights—we can view the month through a variety of musical optics which we’ve assembled for this week’s blog. Our earliest example comes from 16th-century England in a ballet by Thomas Morley (1557–1602), but that’s not Read More …

27 April. 4 anniversaries.

It’s worth pausing today to remember four notable musicians, the anniversaries of whose deaths all fall on 27 April. Sigismond Thalberg (1812–1871) was a virtuoso pianist considered by some of his contemporaries as a rival to Franz Liszt. Although his death in Italy on 27 April 1871 is clearly documented, details of his birth and Read More …

April playbill

We’re well into April, the name derived from the Latin word aperit which means ‘opening’. Flowers and trees in the northern hemisphere do indeed begin to bloom at this time, but April can be a most confusing, if not frustrating month: drearily wet one day, promisingly warm the next, armed with surprises and contradictions, daisies Read More …

Puerto Rico. Feeling the pulse.

The American composer Roberto Sierra was born in Vega Baja, in north central Puerto Rico, in 1953. I thought of him repeatedly in 2017, when Hurricane Maria was doing her worst as the most destructive natural disaster on record for the island. Sierra is currently the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Cornell Read More …

Ire and Fury

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak. So wrote William Congreve in 1697, as the opening lines of his poem The Mourning Bride. I’m sure we’ve all experienced music’s power to calm us down, chill us out and turn our doldrums into a more optimistic state Read More …