Divine Debussy and Messiaen

Photograph by Jasper Grijpink Regards Sur L’Infini was recorded by soprano, Katharine Dain, and pianist, Sam Armstrong, during the first lockdown of this year and is a remarkable tribute to Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. In many respects this musical project is a quite a feat for Dain. Both Debussy’s and Messiaen’s vocal work is…

Transatlantic Sounds from the Past and Present

Transatlantic is violinist Callum Smart’s tribute to British and American composers. Recorded during the first lockdown, his intention was to focus on the music he was “deeply in love with”, and this passion certainly translates to Edward Elgar’s lyrical Violin Sonata in E minor which Elgar wrote in 1918.  Smart plays the opening movement with great…

Spired and emotional: the Oxford Lieder Festival 2020

On paper, the Oxford Lieder festival (wholly online this year, for contagious reasons) ended about a month ago. But not for me. Right up to the last minute, I’ve been extracting the maximum value I possibly can from my catch-up pass, viewing as many concerts as possible before the on-demand video archive finally vanishes from…

Vladimir Horowitz’s secret life revealed in quirky novel by Lea Singer

Vladimir Horowitz is probably the most famous concert pianist of all time. Wherever he performed, he drew legions of fans right up to his death in 1989. Audiences flocked to see the supernatural energy he brought to Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and other favourites from the romantic repertoire. There is no doubt, he was both virtuoso artist…

Striking a harpsichord: Mahan Esfahani, ‘Musique?’

It’s impossible to resist writing about this tour-de-force of an album, a CD I’ve lived with now for a few weeks and keep feeling drawn back to, certain in the knowledge there’s always more to hear, more to appreciate. I would be happy to recommend any of Mahan Esfahani’s recordings, but my true favourites are…

Blistering Performance by Stuart Jackson on ‘Flax and Fire’

  On Flax and Fire, operatic tenor Stuart Jackson offers a recording of love songs from the romantic repertoire of Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Hugo Wolf, with more contemporary works by William Denis Browne and Benjamin Britten. Britten opens the album with homages to Purcell but I really started to listen from track three. Um Mitternacht…

Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge and Irish composer Sir Hamilton Harty

Sir Hamilton Harty, composer of many songs of the Edwardian era, has the sort of name you would associate with the character from a Woodhouse novel. He was however a serious musician of Irish extraction from County Down. In 1901 he left Dublin, where he was church organist, and headed to London. Though virtually unknown…