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

Distance and intimacy: a welcome festival of new music

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

Musical Marvels: The Wigmore Lockdown Concerts

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

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

2020: A Musical Odyssey (That Challenge Thing…)

Like many confined to their homes during the coronavirus lockdown, I have been spending more time than usual on social media, and one Facebook post – by my friend and former Time Out colleague Derek Adams – that ended up taking a lot of my time and attention was his challenge that I post the … Continue reading 2020: A Musical Odyssey (That Challenge Thing…)

This Is Their Music: new notes from (or on) some jazz greats

Though I don’t keep up with new jazz releases as much as I’d like, there’s a side of me that’s sufficiently completist for me to at least try to monitor anything featuring certain long-time favourites, be they dead or alive. And for anyone who shares my tastes, there’s a wealth of riches newly available, not … Continue reading This Is Their Music: new notes from (or on) some jazz greats

Happy 50th birthday, ECM!

‘In Munich I used to frequent a record shop where the owner liked jazz, and he gave me some money to make some recordings. It was all quite accidental, and I’d no idea about business or money. I’d worked as a production assistant with Deutsche Grammophon, and I’d already met, in New York, musicians like … Continue reading Happy 50th birthday, ECM!

My best movies, music and other moments from 2019

This time last year, in introducing the lists of my favourite films, music, etc, etc of 2018, I expressed the admittedly somewhat forlorn hope that 2019 would give us less reason to have to seek solace in such things, and that peace, tolerance and reason would prevail. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, … Continue reading My best movies, music and other moments from 2019