Archive for the Music Category

Cricket Lovely Cricket!

Posted in Cricket, Music with tags , , on July 8, 2020 by telescoper

How great it is to see the return of Test Match cricket to England and the comforting familiarity it brings of sitting around not watching any play because of the pouring rain and Stygian gloom.

There may not have been much cricket at Southampton today (lovely or otherwise) but I couldn’t resist sharing this bit of West Indies cricketing nostalgia in calypso form, vintage 1950, by Lord Beginner..

R.I.P. Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)

Posted in Film, Music with tags , , on July 6, 2020 by telescoper

I heard the sad news this morning that legendary composer Ennio Morricone has passed away at the age of 91. Morricone will be remembered not only for the music he himself created for films but on the huge influence he had on other composers and indeed on cinema generally.

I’ve posted this piece before but I make no apology for posting it again as a tribute to the Maestro. It’s the climactic final shoot-out from Sergio Leone’s iconic Spaghetti Western* The Good The Bad And The Ugly, featuring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, respectively, together with superbly innovative (and very complex) music on the soundtrack from Morricone. It was the guitarist Alessandro Alessandroni (who also did the whistling on the soundtrack) producing that unforgettable twangy sound with a hint of scordatura. I also think this is the first time any film composer had used gunshots as part of the score…

*These films are way better than was generally appreciated at the time of their release.

Update: I just love this response to an efflux of babble…

“Like a rusty squeezebox… ” – Mozart’s Serenade No 10 for Winds III. Adagio

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on June 27, 2020 by telescoper

Although it has introduced many people to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which is a very good thing, I have to admit that I didn’t really enjoy the film Amadeus. This is partly because not much of it is actually true and partly because, even treated as a piece of fiction, the two main protagonists are depicted far too crudely.

It is probably true that Mozart was quite a strange man as an adult but I attribute that largely to the fact that he was an infant prodigy which, together with having a very pushy and ambitious father, denied him a proper childhood. You see the same phenomenon in the modern era with child stars in Hollywood and the music industry.

The film is also very hard on Antonio Salieri who is made out to be a musical incompetent, which he certainly wasn’t. Salieri actually wrote a lot of very lovely music, though he obviously wasn’t Mozart.

One thing that the play/film does get right however is in Salieri’s description of the Adagio movement from Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 (K361) for wind instruments (and string bass):

On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse, bassoons and basset horns, like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly; high above it, an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, till a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God.

I stick to my opinion that Mozart wrote a lot of music that wasn’t really all that good, but I also think you should judge artists by their best work rather than their worst and Mozart wrote enough masterpieces any one of which would confirm him as a creative genius of the highest order. This piece is one of those masterpieces. The whole Serenade – seven movements, lasting almost an hour – is beautiful but this movement stands out.

The hallmark of a genius is often simplicity, isn’t it? That goes for science as well as the arts. I don’t really know what beauty really is but the essence of it often lies in simplicity too.

Now I have to make a confession and ask for help from readers. The confession is twofold: (a) I have never heard this piece in a live performance; and (b) I don’t possess a recording of it. I’d therefore like to ask my readers for recommendations as to the best version to buy on CD or download.

In the meantime here is a taster in the form of a performance by the wind musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra. Enjoy!

The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on June 22, 2020 by telescoper

Today has been one of those frustrating days at work that ends with a to-do list longer than it started with so I’m in need of a pick-me-up. Here is Benny Goodman and his Sextet recorded on the Ed Sullivan show in 1960 playing The World is Waiting For the Sunrise. Goodman loved this tune and played many different versions of it over his long career. The audience definiely enjoyed this, and I think it’s BG himself who ends this one with a yeah to prove that he enjoyed it too! I hope you do likewise.

Over the years there have been some (indeed many) jazz critics who have written that Benny Goodman’s clarinet playing was `clinical’ and `unemotional’ and other such nonsense.  I think his playing on this is absolutely sensational (as incidentally is Red Norvo on the vibes).  Enjoy!


Songs of Comfort and Hope

Posted in Covid-19, Music with tags , , on June 12, 2020 by telescoper

I was just looking back at a post I wrote early in the New Year and saw that top of the list of things I resolved to do more of in 2020 were (1) to go to more live concerts and (2) to see more of Ireland. Unfortunately the Covid-19 Pandemic put paid to both of those (and the other things on the list too). I haven’t listened to live music since March and haven’t set foot outside Maynooth in that time either!

Anyway, someone at the National Concert Hall in Dublin hit on the idea of putting on live concerts without an audience. I wasn’t sure it would work but based on this concert, broadcast a couple of weeks ago, and now available as a recording on Youtube I think it does. This recital features wonderful Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and pianist Dearbhla Collins in a programme of songs by Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Aaron Copeland and Richard Strauss followed by some Irish folk songs. I think it’s a lovely performance, and I found the setting of an empty hall unexpectedly moving.

Cristo Redentor – Donald Byrd

Posted in Jazz with tags , on June 2, 2020 by telescoper

Duke Pearson was inspired by the famous statue that looks down over Rio de Janeiro to write this tune, of which this is the very first version, put on record in 1963 and released a year later in 1964 to become an instant classic. It’s a wonderful fusion of jazz, blues and gospel music but above all it’s a gentle hymn to peace and respect.I don’t think I have to explain why I think it’s apt to put it up today.

Front and centre is Donald Byrd on trumpet, but the rest of the band includes Hank Mobley (tenor), Herbie Hancock (piano), Donald Best (vibes), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Butch Warren (bass) and Lex Humphries (drums). The choir consists of 8 voices (4 male, four female) but sadly they are not named on the liner notes.


Predictive Blogging

Posted in Covid-19, Cricket, Opera, Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on May 27, 2020 by telescoper

News has emerged that on 14th April 2020 Dominic Cummings doctored an old blog post to make it look like he had predicted a coronavirus outbreak. Given the indisputable fact that Mr Cummings is a career liar this should not in itself come as a surprise. What might surprise a few people is that this episode reveals that this self-styled genius is must in reality be rather stupid if he thought he could get away with hiding such a blatant attempt at self-promotion. Still, the truth obviously no longer matters in post-Brexit Britain so he probably won’t face any serious consequences.

I, of course would, never add things to old blog posts to make myself look clever.

I would, however, like to point out just a few of the various uncannily accurate predictions I have made in the course of my almost twelve years of blogging.

For example, in this September 2009 review of a performance of La Traviata by Welsh National Opera I wrote:

My love of Italian opera makes me regret even more that the UK will be be leaving the European Union in 2020.

And in this account of the May 2015 England versus New Zealand Test Match at Lord’s you will find:

… it was still quite gloomy and dark. My mood was sombre, thinking about Donald Trump’s forthcoming victory in the 2016 United States Presidential Elections.

My prescience is not only limited to politics, however. In my 2013 post about the Queen’s Birthday Honours List you will read:

The name that stood out for me in this year’s list is Professor Jim Hough, who gets an OBE. Jim is Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Glasgow, and his speciality is in the detection of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves haven’t actually been detected yet, of course, but the experimental techniques designed to find them have increased their sensitivity by many orders of magnitude in recent years, Jim having played a large part in those improvements. I imagine he will be absolutely thrilled in February 2016, when gravitational waves are finally detected.

You see now that Niels Bohr wasn’t quite right when he said “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”. Sometimes it’s the past that’s hardest to predict.


A Century of Peggy Lee

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on May 26, 2020 by telescoper

The great Jazz singer Peggy Lee (real name Norma Deloris Egstrom) was born a hundred years ago today, on 26th March 1920.

I couldn’t resist marking the occasion sharing this short clip of her famous live performance at Basin Street East, a nightclub in New York City, in 1961. I picked this not only because it is the tune of which I posted the original version last week but also because it’s a fine example of her vocal artistry and sizzling stage presence. I love the way she slides the notes as she drapes the melody languidly over the sounds from the band.

See See Rider Blues

Posted in History, Jazz with tags , , on May 23, 2020 by telescoper

There have been dozens of versions of the old song See See Rider and its origins are lost in the mists of time, but I’m pretty sure that the first ever recording was this one, made in October 1924 by the fabulous Gertrude `Ma’ Rainey (vocals) together with a stellar backing group including Louis Armstrong on cornet, Buster Bailey on clarinet and Fletcher Henderson on piano.

Remembering Johnny Hodges – Jeep’s Blues (Live at Newport, 1956)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on May 11, 2020 by telescoper

The great alto saxophonist and long-term mainstay of the Duke Ellington Orchestra Johnny Hodges passed away 50 years ago today, on 11th May 1970.

Here’s the piece that was his signature tune, Jeep’s Blues – played during a very famous live concert by the Ellington band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956.

Feast your ears on that huge soulful sound that was perfect for playing the blues!