Not Just the Band: Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground

You may think you know all you need to know about The Velvet Underground: the encounter of New York songwriter Lou Reed and Welsh classical violist John Cale, the bringing in of drummer Maureen Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison, the ‘sponsorship’ of the band by Andy Warhol, the temporary addition of Nico to the outfit, … Continue reading Not Just the Band: Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground

Of Whales and Men: Navigating The North Water

Call me curious. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely, but it must have been back in the ’70s or early ’80s – I embarked on what might have been a major odyssey: reading Moby-Dick. I didn’t get very far. But now I’m giving it another try. That’s why you can call me … Continue reading Of Whales and Men: Navigating The North Water

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…)

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)

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

In Search of Marcel’s Music: Isserlis and friends explore Proust’s passions

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

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