Maidan: A Musical Prayer for Ukraine

In mid-March of this year, I attended a concert by the pianist Boris Giltburg. Came the time to announce his encore: a lovely Bagatelle by the great if sadly too-little known Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, who at the age of 84 had just a week earlier been whisked out of his homeland and taken, via … Continue reading Maidan: A Musical Prayer for Ukraine

Giving Voice: Heiner Goebbels’ ‘A House of Call’

There have been quite a few extremely rewarding ‘classical’ releases on CD in recent weeks, ranging from Robert Levin’s seven-disc set of the complete Mozart piano sonatas performed on the composer’s very own fortepiano (ECM), through Igor Levit’s selection of pieces by Liszt, Wagner, Mahler and Henze on Tristan (Sony) and Christian Immler and Andreas … Continue reading Giving Voice: Heiner Goebbels’ ‘A House of Call’

Back to Bach, Beethoven and others: recent classical releases

There is, of course, no such thing as a greatest piece of music, any more than there might be a greatest movie, novel, painting or whatever. But we all have our favourites – though mine, it must be said, are constantly changing – and as far as classical music goes, one of my most frequent … Continue reading Back to Bach, Beethoven and others: recent classical releases

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.

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

Piano Forte: 75 minutes with Thomas Adès (and Ludwig van…)

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…)

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