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.
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
The last 18 months or so have been strange and troubled for music and musicians (as well as for everyone else). Thanks to our philistine, economically irrational UK government, musicians and others whose lives depend on live performance have had it very tough indeed – but anyone who understands that the arts are crucial to … Continue reading Piano Forte: 75 minutes with Thomas Adès (and Ludwig van…)
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
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
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.
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
Even under normal circumstances – and the recent far-from-normal circumstances have only slowed me down further – I am not a fast reader; consequently, vast swathes of literature of the lengthy variety remain uncharted by yours truly. (That said, I am still, I think, the only person I personally know who has read Don Quixote … Continue reading In Search of Marcel’s Music: Isserlis and friends explore Proust’s passions
Names like Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001), Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) and Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) often sound alarms in the minds of music-lovers attuned to Mozart or Mendelssohn, Bach, Beethoven or Brahms, or, perhaps still more off-puttingly, in those who favour pop, rock, jazz, soul, hip-hop or all manner of ‘popular’ music. It’s perhaps hardly surprising if most … Continue reading Distance and intimacy: a welcome festival of new music
If by any chance you follow me on social media, you may recall that before the coronavirus took hold in the UK, I was an almost absurdly frequent visitor to London’s Wigmore Hall, one of the world’s finest venues for performances of chamber music; for some years I had been going there so often that … Continue reading Musical Marvels: The Wigmore Lockdown Concerts