Scoring their centuries

When a composer’s work is marked as his or her Opus 100, it surely marks a milestone in their development. Some composers didn’t make it that far, of course, leaving us wondering what might have been, had they lived long enough or enjoyed circumstances that better facilitated a freedom to compose. Chopin falls into another Read More …

Mere trifles?

Labelling Beethoven’s Für Elise a mere trifle might appear insulting to such a household name and piano solo favourite. But that’s exactly what his Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor is, ’une bagatelle’ translating from the French as ’a trifling matter’. This blog examines the recipes composers have used for a selection of bagatelles over Read More …

August by name, not by nature.

Here’s a small selection of works celebrating August, not as an evocative month approaching Autumn, but as a dedicatee (August Bournonville), a composer’s name (August Baeyens, Friedrich August Belcke), a source of literary inspiration (August von Platen-Hallermünde, August Strindberg), and an arranger (August Eberhard Müller). Hans Christian Lumbye (1810–1874) began staging concerts in the manner Read More …

Warpaths

It’s maybe too convenient to restrict references to war to big anniversary dates, so this blog presents a small selection of musical works that paint the subject of conflict in tuneful reminders of how wearisome and worthless the daily pursuit is. There’s no place like home, as they say, so I’m going to start with Read More …

Don’t talk nonsense. Sing it!

With so many world events defying logic right now, I thought we might escape briefly into a space where words make no attempt to stack up, but merely divert for a while and lighten the spirit. Welcome to the literary worlds of Lewis Carroll, William Brighty Rands, Hilaire Belloc and someone called Mr Traditional. We Read More …

Visions of the past

While most people tend to seek visions of the future—especially where lottery tickets are concerned—this blog cites four works featuring musical visions from the past. Opening the programme is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1956 motet for choir and organ, A Vision of Aeroplanes, which may seem a curious title for a work that’s a setting of Read More …

Competition lore

Although they have their detractors, national and international music competitions continue to stand the test of time. The process of, and progress through the various qualifying stages, together with the recording and performance opportunities that often prostrate themselves before the ultimate winners, clearly represent an attractive mix. Despite moments of controversy in its history, the Read More …

The sound of sparklers.

The oft-adopted adage “pressure makes diamonds” stems from massive pressure and ferocious temperatures combining beneath the Earth’s crust to produce precious stones of enduring value from the single element of carbon: chemistry and physics ultimately give way to craftsmanship and art in achieving the final product. Fortunately, composers experience more pleasure than pressure in producing Read More …

Sunk in grandeur.

King Louis XIV of France, the legendary ‘Sun King’ and victim of the awful play on words in the title of this blog, was born in 1638; he ascended to the throne in 1643, four months before his fifth birthday, and died in 1715. He held court in various locations before moving his centre of Read More …

Ukraine scores.

In 1980, I sat in the Kyiv Opera House enjoying a performance of Verdi’s Il trovatore as one of a handful of British music teachers permitted entry into the USSR under an educational exchange scheme. I understand that the building now no longer exists, and that it didn’t die of natural causes. During that same Read More …