Ernesto Nazareth: the incarnation of the Brazilian soul

One of the singular pleasures of sitting in the many street cafes and restaurants in Rio de Janeiro is to hear live instrumental music played by a small group of street musicians. Comprising a guitar (played with some mesmerising finger work), a flute, sometimes a clarinet and a cavaquinho (a small four-stringed guitar), with drums…

Review: Saint-Saëns – Cello Concertos etc.

Who could possibly resist this collection? With cellist Truls Mørk’s commanding account of the Cello Concertos, a scintillating The Carnival of the Animals and Louis Lortie’s scene-stealing turn in the fantasy Africa, this album is a sure-fire winner.

Half-monk, half-rascal

Writing to a friend in 1942, Poulenc admitted “I am well aware that I am not the kind of musician who makes harmonic inventions, like Igor [Stravinsky], Ravel or Debussy, but I think there is a place for new music which is content with using other people’s chords. Was that not the case with Mozart…

The Carnival of the Animals

The attitude of the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw towards Saint-Saëns’ music was fairly typical for the time. He accused him of plagiarism, saying that if Bach, Meyerbeer and Gounod were taken out of the scores, all that would remain would be “nothing but graceful knick-knacks, barcarolles, serenades, ballets and the like”.

Dreams and the Shock of the New: The Genesis of The Rite of Spring

The ballet The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) is one of the most famous and influential pieces in twentieth century music. It sparked a furore on its first performance in Paris in 1913, owing its startling, coruscating score and the controversial theme of a pagan sacrificial rite. It has nevertheless become…