Archive for the Music Category

Daniel Barenboim’s Proms Speech

Posted in Music, Politics with tags , , , on July 19, 2017 by telescoper

Daniel Barenboim made this wonderful speech at the BBC Proms at the weekend. It seems to have annoyed some people who get annoyed when someone expresses something that doesn’t fit in their own narrow minds, and does it with grace, eloquence and great dignity. I’m posting it here to annoy such people still further. It’s no more than they deserve.

And here is the encore that followed the speech – Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance  March No. 1 – in full. It’s a piece I usually hate. This was the first time in my whole life that I’ve actually enjoyed it.


Rondo alla Trad

Posted in Film, Jazz with tags , , , , on July 17, 2017 by telescoper

I think this will probably alienate serious jazz fans and serious classical music fans in equal measure, but I stumbled across this while searching for something else and couldn’t resit posting it here. It’s from the 1963 film Live it Up and it features Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen playing their arrangement of the famous Rondo alla Turca from the third movement Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 (K331). It’s not as far fetched as you might think to perform this with a band led by a trumpet player because Mozart’s composition deliberately imitated the music of the Janissary marching bands which were much in vogue in Austria in the latter part of the 18th Century.

Anyway, when I clicked on this I thought I was going to hate it, but you know what? I rather like it!

The Versatile Four

Posted in Jazz, History with tags , , , , , on July 14, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve posted a few examples of Jazz drummers recently, so I thought you might be interested in this, a rare recording of performance from the (pre-Jazz) Ragtime era that provides a good example of where  Jazz drumming came from. This track was recorded in London way back in 1916 and it’s remarkable for the clarity with which you can hear the drums, which in those days usually proved very difficult to capture.  The tune, Down Home Rag (written by Wilbur C. Sweatman) was a big hit at the time and remains in the traditional jazz repertoire to this day. It’s played by The Versatile Four an almost legendary ragtime band that I know very little about other than the personnel: Tony Tuck (banjo; born 1879 Virginia); Charles W. Mills (piano; born 1883 Illinois); Gus Haston (banjo, vocals; born 1880 Missouri); and  Charlie Johnson (drums; born 1885 Kentucky). I’m not sure who it is who blows the whistle, but it may well be the drummer.

Charlie Johnson’s playing of the drums may sound very old-fashioned and a bit staff to ears accustomed to the swinging style of the jazz era, and he no doubt used a very crude kit, but this recording shows what an absolutely superb musician he was. You can also clearly hear the influence of the sort of drum patterns used by military marching bands. As well being an interesting piece from the point of view of music history, the drummer suffuses this high-energy performance with a sense of knockabout fun that is guaranteed to bring a smile to even the most crabbed face!



Der Doppelgänger

Posted in Mental Health, Music with tags , , on July 12, 2017 by telescoper

Writing yesterday about depersonalisation for some reason brought this song by Franz Schubert to mind. I heard it on the radio recently and found it profoundly moving. Der Doppelgänger is a setting of a poem by Heinrich Heine that Schubert composed in 1828 near the end of his life; it was published posthumously in 1929 as part of Schwanengesang.t’s relevance to the topic of depersonalisation lies in the middle verse, in which the poet describes seeing a tormented figure only to realise that the figure is he (the last line says `The Moon shows me my own form’):

Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe,
Und ringt die Hände, vor Schmerzensgewalt;
Mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe –
Der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.

It’s a very bleak piece, its desolate atmosphere underlined by the inexorable piano accompaniment which consists mostly of block chords. I think you can tell that this is written by a man who knows his days are numbered, but the simplicity and beauty of the composition and pervading sense of loneliness and desolation mark it as a work of genius, which Schubert undoubtedly was.

The singer is the late great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

The Shrinking Seasons at WNO

Posted in Opera with tags , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2017 by telescoper

I was excited to receive the brochure shown above for the 2017/18 season at Welsh National Opera, but although it contains some very exciting things there are also many signs that times are getting very tough at WNO.

This October sees the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution so it’s no surprise that the Autumn season has a distinctive Russian flavour. There’s Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Mussorgky’s Khovanschina and Janáček’s From the House of the Dead. Yes, I know Janáček wasn’t Russian – but `From the House of the Dead’ is based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who was…

That looks like an interesting season, but there are only two performances of From the House of the Dead in Cardiff (both of which I think I’ll have to miss) and only three each of Eugene Onegin and Khovanschina. There’s also an additional performance of Johan Strauss’s light operetta Die Fledermaus, which is one of this year’s productions.

Spring 2018 sees performances of Puccini’s Tosca, Verdi’s La Forza del Destino and Mozart’s Don Giovanni which again looks like a nice season. I’ve seen the productions of Tosca and Don Giovanni before, but won’t mind seeing them again.

But the real disappointment is that there’s no Summer season at all. Austerity has clearly bitten very hard. For year’s I’ve been celebrating my birthday (which falls in June) by going to a WNO performance in Cardiff but I guess next year I’ll just have to do something else….

The Original Tainted Love

Posted in Music with tags , on July 11, 2017 by telescoper

Following on from last week’s post of the 1981 Soft Cell version of Tainted Love, I thought I’d post the original version of this song (for those of you who didn’t realise that the Soft Cell version was a cover). Here it is, as performed by Gloria Jones in 1964. It’s a quite different take, with a definitive Northern Soul sound, but it has the same backing riff as in the Soft Cell.

Incidentally, Gloria Jones later became the girlfriend of Marc Bolan, and it was she who was driving the car in 1977 that crashed into a tree killing Marc Bolan who was in the passenger seat. I didn’t make that connection until a chance conversation at the cricket on Saturday!

Tainted Love

Posted in LGBT, Music with tags , , on July 7, 2017 by telescoper

And now for something completely different…

A little bird told me that it was exactly 36 years ago today, on 7th July 1981, that the single Tainted Love was released in the UK by Soft Cell. The record climbed rapidly to Number 1 and was the biggest-selling record of the year. Here it is being performed on Top of the Pops..

I was still at school in July 1981, having finished my A-levels; I would return to school after the summer break to take the Cambridge entrance examination.

Here’s a scary fact for those of you who, like me, remember this record from the time of its release: July 7th 1981 is closer to the end of the Second World War (August 1945) than it is to the present day (July 7th 2017).

And on that note I wish you happy weekend!