Best of another bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2021.

For the list of my best (ie favourite) films, music, books, etc two years ago, I noted the importance of taking solace from the arts at a time when Brexit, Johnson, Trump, climate change and others were cause for such anxiety, anger and despondency. Last year, of course, with Covid having taken its toll, we’d … Continue reading Best of another bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2021.

Just in time for Christmas: great new (and old) jazz.

In the spring of last year, the very welcome appearance of two albums featuring previously unreleased performances of music by Mike Westbrook and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra prompted me to blog about them; I also ended up recommending them as possible Christmas gifts in a blog posted in December. The Westbrook album, released by … Continue reading Just in time for Christmas: great new (and old) jazz.

Further Gems from ECM: revisiting some favourites

Four years ago this month, a friend, knowing I was a big admirer of the music put out by ECM, suggested I put together a list of my all-time favourite releases on the label, in response to a New York Times list of 21 ‘essential’ ECM albums published to mark the music then newly available … Continue reading Further Gems from ECM: revisiting some favourites

Update on Igor Levit: a star takes on Shostakovich and Stevenson

Back in March 2017, I posted a piece in praise of the pianist Igor Levit. By then he had already garnered considerable acclaim in the classical music world, but since that time he has become remarkably well known… without, it must be stressed, having compromised his artistic integrity in any way. The daily filmed-at-home online … Continue reading Update on Igor Levit: a star takes on Shostakovich and Stevenson

But Is It Jazz?… (Five recent unclassifiable musical gems)

As you may have noticed from my writings here, with regard to the arts I tend to be pretty constant, even loyal, in terms of my interest in the work of certain people; if they produce one or two pieces I find unusually satisfying, I generally try to keep up with what they do next. … Continue reading But Is It Jazz?… (Five recent unclassifiable musical gems)

Brighteners for ‘Blue Monday’: a dozen sources of pleasure

Last week a friend alerted me to the imminence of ‘Blue Monday’ – the third Monday of January, believed by some to be the most depressing day of the year. With the current state of uncertainty, that’s an even more dubious superstition than it has been in the past, but since I fully accept that … Continue reading Brighteners for ‘Blue Monday’: a dozen sources of pleasure

Best of a bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2020

In the few years I’ve been posting best-of blogs in the face of worsening political circumstances, I’ve often expressed a rather forlorn hope that things might improve the following year. Well, it turns out, obviously, that the hope I expressed last year could not have been more forlorn. How terrible 2020 has been… not only … Continue reading Best of a bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2020

Mixing the old with the new: richly rewarding recent classical releases.

A confession: while I’ve always enjoyed classical music, until around 12 years ago I was generally quite wary of contemporary composers, and tended to stick to a few favourites like Arvo Pärt, Michael Nyman, Terry Riley, John Adams, Giya Kancheli and – really adventurous, this! – James MacMillan. (My interest in the last came about … Continue reading Mixing the old with the new: richly rewarding recent classical releases.

Music and movies for Christmas and beyond: a few recommendations

Sitting at home the other evening, contemplating the dismal antics of our wretched government, I found myself taking consolation from the melancholy beauty of Lawrence Power’s viola in his performance of James Macmillan’s marvellous concerto for that instrument. And, generous fellow that I am – not to mention someone who often dithers endless over what … Continue reading Music and movies for Christmas and beyond: a few recommendations

Viola, Viola (and the Wigmore): new music for troubled times

Last week was a pretty good week for me, musically – quite possibly the best I’ve had since the one that ran from Friday 28 February to Thursday 5 March, which was my last week of live concerts. (For the record, and partly to remind myself because it now feels so long ago, I squeezed … Continue reading Viola, Viola (and the Wigmore): new music for troubled times