Podcast: Jean Sibelius – a journey beyond the symphonies

Raymond Bisha dips into a Naxos recording of works by Jean Sibelius that have been obscured by the popularity of his symphonies and the violin concerto, including many pieces he wrote to complement stage works. Although these might be termed incidental and occasional, they belie such labels by constituting an extraordinary treasure house of the Read More …

Skylights

One of the items on my bucket list that I’d like to tick off before the great light-switch of life gets flicked is to experience the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. The natural display can be seen best while gazing up at dark, cloudless skies in northernmost communities, optimally from late August 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 …

When in Rome…

I live in the city of Canterbury, in the south east of England. It attracts many visitors, principally for its magnificent cathedral and plentiful other reminders of mediaeval life, from its city walls and towers to 14th-century pubs and Dane John, a strategic defence mound cited in the Bayeux tapestry. Step inside the 15th-century Three Read More …

Podcast: A fascination with sound – Ravel’s spellbinding works for the stage.

Fantasy, fairy tales and Maurice Ravel’s flair for orchestral colour are all to the fore in this album featuring two examples of the composer’s music for the stage — the scores for his opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges and his ballet Ma mère l’Oye. This highly imaginative music, projected through a childlike lens, is instantly Read More …

A star is born

The beginning of a new calendar year also marks the Christian Feast of the Epiphany as embodied in the journey of the Three Wise Men seeking the new-born Jesus, led by a star. Star attractions aren’t confined to this context, however; they have provided inspiration for composers on a number of levels, appearing in numerous Read More …

Sounds Interesting: Oxymoron for Orchestra

This podcast from the Naxos Sounds Interesting series focuses on a selection of concertos written not for household-name soloists, but for the collective virtuosity of an orchestra’s serried ranks.           Links to the music featured in this podcast: Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra (8.571201) Malipiero, Concerto for Orchestra (8.573291) Joan Tower, Concerto Read More …

Podcast: Weinberg’s comprehensive keyboard catalogue

In this week’s podcast, Raymond Bisha introduces the 4-CD collection of the complete piano works of Mieczysław Weinberg — from teenage mazurkas written in his native Poland through to his last works for the instrument composed in Moscow. En route, Tashkent, Shostakovich and the Head of the post-Stalin KGB all play a part in the Read More …

Counter-tenorism.

The human voice, Nature’s ‘instrument’, is a flexible piece of equipment. Men singing in the female sex’s natural register or ‘modal voice’ is usually referred to as a counter-tenor, sometimes a male soprano. They take advantage of the fact that the male voice can slip a gear into a female-like falsetto tone. And not just Read More …

December’s in the ayre.

Although city centres and shopping complexes have for some weeks been ringing with the sound of musical Christmas jollies, this blog presents the reverse side of the coin, with a small selection of works that reflect a less traditional side of the month of December. I’m going to start with what is undoubtedly one of Read More …