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.

Handel in The Strand

Formerly situated just off The Strand in London in front of Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece St Clement Danes church, the Crown and Anchor Tavern seems an unlikely birthplace for a revolution in choral music. Then, as now, taverns (or public houses) were colourful meeting places for eating, drinking, animated discussion and occasionally brawls. In the…

The Piano Music of Jean Sibelius

Until fairly recently, the critical reception for the piano music of Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957) has largely been dismissive and scornful. Tim Page writing in the New York Times in 1987 summed up the feelings of many when he described the music as “…for the most part, shockingly bad. And not the sort of…

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…

Lisztomania – a film review

This year sees the fortieth anniversary of the film Lisztomania, an outrageous fantasy biopic on the life of Franz Liszt, written and directed by the unashamed bad boy of British cinema, Ken Russell (1927-2011).  

Liszt in Weimar

“Do I care how fast you can play your octaves?”, Liszt remarked to a pupil in a master class, clearly unimpressed with the playing “what I wish to hear is the canter of the horses of the Polish cavalry before they gather force and destroy the enemy!”

Philip Glass and La Boulangerie

In his recently published memoirs, Words Without Music (2015), the American minimalist composer Philip Glass tells the story of a lesson in musical counterpoint he had one afternoon with the formidable Nadia Boulanger.  

Béla Bartók, Out of Doors

Budapest – a fine city. Formerly a provincial backwater made up of three small towns (Buda, Pest and Obuda), at the turn of the 20th century it was Europe’s fastest growing metropolis and a symbol of Hungarian national pride, the population ballooning from around 300,000 in 1870 to over a million in 1910.