Category Archives: Now Hear This!

Music you should hear at least once…

Sanford Sylvan: a legend

Sad to hear of the passing of the great American baritone, Sanford Sylvan, who has died at the age of 65.

I grew up listening to his recording of John Adams’ moving The Wound-Dresser, a meditative reflection on the First World War based on Walt Whitman’s recollections of serving as a hospital volunteer, in which Sylvan is a commanding presence, yet also an intimate one; the recording was nominated for a Grammy.

Sylvan also created the role of Chou En-lai in Adams’ opera, Nixon in China; there is a wonderful moment in the final act, where Sylvan’s elegant craft at the phrase ‘The taste is still in my mouth’ as Chou En-lai and Pat Nixon recall the taste of apricots, which is a joy to year.

I had the great fortune to hear Sylvan live in 2002, in a concert performance of Adams’ controversial opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, in an electrifying delivery of the title role. His warm, communicative and expressive singing will be sorely missed.

A legend.

A carol for Epiphany: the University Chamber Choir

Just in time for Epiphany, a film of the University Chamber Choir performing Star of the East by composer Russell Hepplewhite; the Choir sang the piece live on BBC Radio 4 last month, here’s the complete piece in a recording in made in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.

With grateful thanks to the composer and to Banks Music Publishing for permission to make the recording.

Commemmorating the 150th anniversary of Amy Beach

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the American composer, concert-pianist and educator, Amy Beach. She achieved widespread recognition not only for her compositions but also for her career as a concert-pianist, performing in both America and Europe. Known as the ‘Dean of American Composers’ after the premiere of her Gaelic Symphony in 1896, she became a major figure representing women working in the arts at a time when – as still – it was dominated by men, and establishing an identity for herself was a struggle. On concert-stages throughout Europe, she flourished as a performer of both her own works as well as the usual bastions of piano repertoire. Her legacy includes a wealth of choral and orchestral music, songs, a piano concerto (written to demonstrate her own capabilities) and chamber music.

To celebrate her anniversary, here are two pieces from her delightful Children’s Album, Op.36 – a collection which displays her lyrical creativity, a boisterous sense of fun matched with a highly expressive harmonic ear, and also, in the ‘Waltz,’ a wonderful melodic sense tinged ever so slightly with a hint of melancholy. Both pieces are played in the concert-hall by Your Loyal Correspondent.

Amy Beach: Waltz

Amy Beach: March

And here is the charming Columbine from her Op.25 set, Children’s Carnival.

Echoes and waves: #Reverberate exhibition at the Dockyard in May

Have you ever seen someone dance to Funkin’ for Jamaica in a library ? Well, now you can…

Bringing the disco vibe to unexpected public spaces is the work of Yasmeena Goosani, one of the students taking part in Reverberate, the end-of-year exhibition Fine Art Degree Show given by students in the School of Music and Fine Art at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, which also includes work by third-year Music Scholar and clarinettist, Megan Boyle. The exhibition opens in May, and promises an exploration of society, culture and interaction with space, as well as an inflatable banana, some broken meringues and a fridge.

Intrigued ? Find out more on the exhibition’s website here, or catch up on their Facebook Page here. It all starts in a few weeks’ time…

Cecilian Choir featured on BBC Radio 3

The University Cecilian Choir, together with the String Sinfonia, was featured on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir on Easter Sunday.

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Image credit: Matt Wilson

The weekly programme dedicated to all things choral has a regular feature, ‘Meet My Choir,’ and last Sunday, Dr Michael Hughes – lecturer in linguistics in the School of English and a member of the Cecilian Choir – introduced the Choir, its ethos and its place within the University community. The musicians can be heard during the episode performing Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir.

The feature is permanently on the Radio 3 website here: click here to listen.

Bach solo Partita in D minor: Alina Ibragimova at the 2015 Proms

This was quite extraordinary; transcending time and space, intimate music speaking on a global scale, part of a complete survey of the Bach solo Partitas over the course of two concerts at this year’s BBC Proms. Lithe, effortless music, played with breath-taking skill, total commitment and a profound connection to the piece by Alina Ibragimova, Bach draws the outline of humanity in filigree violin arabesques; reaching beyond the intimate nature of the solo instrument to touch every listener.

I shamelessly admit to weeping openly during the performance of the D minor Partita when it was broadcast on BBC4 recently; be careful, you might too…

Listen here: Handel’s ‘Silete Venti’

Ahead of CantiaQuorum‘s concert next week, listen to Handel’s Silete Venti which will appear in the ensemble’s programme next Friday.

HandelThe wonderfully bustling fugato opening, depicting the wind scurrying through the branches, is interrupted at two and a half minutes into the opening sinfonia by the soprano, as she bids them ‘be silent.’

Just before the six-minute mark, the wonderful aria Dulcis amor shows Handel in sublime melodic form, as does Date serta, date flores (Give garlands, give flowers), starting at 13′ 09”, which later becomes dramatic and highy flamboyant for both soloist and ensemble alike, before the piece concludes with a sprightly Alleluia.

Soprano Susanna Hurrell (currently to be heard in the Royal Opera’s production of L’Ormindo) will be the soloist with CantiaQuorum next week; it promises to be wonderful opportunity to hear this astonishing piece performed live. Tickets and details here.