David Fray, Jacques Rouvier (piano)(Warner Classics)
Barbican; Coliseum, LondonSimon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic gave a Sibelius masterclass, while beleaguered ENO have a hit on their hands
It is no overstatement to say that Simon Rattle has had a greater direct impact on the arts worldwide than any other living Brit. No other citizen of this country has climbed the peak of the world’s greatest orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, while bringing young musicians from the destitute barrios of Latin America to play for it. No British city has undergone quite such a resurgence of music as did Birmingham during Rattle’s time there.
For the music writer Norman Lebrecht to call Rattle “the Tony Blair of music” completely misses the point: behind the usual cliches about Rattle’s mop of hair, good looks and geniality lies an intensity with music that last week astounded London audiences hoping he might soon return to take over the London Symphony Orchestra.
With an acclaimed new album, and a MoMA exhibition due next month, the Icelandic star is back. Award-winning music writer Alex Ross traces her musical journey from child prodigy to genre-defying queen of the avant garde
A few years ago, for a feature on a music blog, I asked Björk to make a selection of her favourite records. Her list included Mahler’s 10th Symphony; Alban Berg’s Lulu; Steve Reich’s Tehillim; a collection of Thai pop, entitled Siamese Soul, Volume 2; Alim Qasimov’s Azerbaijan: The Art of the Mugham; Joni Mitchell’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter; Kate Bush’s The Dreaming; Nico’s Desertshore; Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back; Aphex Twin’s Drukqs; the Ranges’ Panasonic EP; Black Dog Productions’ Bytes and James Blake’s debut album, James Blake.
What’s striking about the list is not just the breadth of Björk’s taste – this is no surprise, given her obsessive curiosity about every corner of the musical world – but also the animated map of genres that materialises in the background. It is as though, in a reversal of tectonic drift, isolated land masses of taste were re-forming as a supercontinent. A grandiose howl of late Romantic agony; a juggernaut of 12-tone modernism; a cool minimalist dance through Hebrew psalms; off-kilter pop from south Asia; a virtuoso survey of Azerbaijani mugham; three defiantly idiosyncratic albums by female singer-songwriters; three pathbreaking electronic records; a raging tour-de-force of political hip-hop; a collection of dubstep ballads: Björk’s list circumnavigates the globe and, at the same time, it overruns the boundaries separating art from pop, mainstream from underground, primeval past from hi-tech present.
Related: Björk: Vulnicura review – heavy yet compelling
Simon Rattle and his Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra have thrilled us with their UK residency, which ends tonight after sellout concerts and a project for 100 mixed-ability young musicians from every Greater London borough. The rumour that Rattle is considering the post of chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra when he leaves Berlin in 2018 merely contributed to the heady excitement.
London is regarded as a cultural centre of the world. For many, it has come as a rude shock to hear Rattle call for a new concert hall for the capital. The Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican, to name existing major venues, have their strengths and characters. They are symbols of their era: mid-Victorian enlightenment, 1951 Festival of Britain optimism and late 20th-century philanthropy and ambition.
The gifted English composer and pianist John McCabe, who has died aged 75, was a remarkably rounded musician who was responsible for more than 200 compositions and pursued a busy solo career over several decades.
As a pianist of international standing, he inspired many composers, including John Casken, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and George Benjamin, to write solos and concertos for him. He relished accompanying, and formed partnerships with Julian Lloyd Webber (cello), Erich Gruenberg (violin), Ifor James (horn) and the singer Jane Manning.
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