Soprano Malkin takes on motherhood

With her latest recording, This is Not a Lullaby, Dutch soprano, Channa Malkin, explores motherhood. On her album photograph, she perches on a high stool, in a beige baggy sweater, leaving her legs bare. Malkin, a new mother herself, is challenging the almost unshakeable image of the idealised mother and child, which requires women to…

Piemontesi on record with Bach and Busoni

I first came across Francesco Piemontesi at the Wigmore Hall in 2016. The Swiss pianist, who was  thirty-three years old at the time, played Mozart with such precision and sensitivity that I was first in the queue to purchase his CD post-concert. The simply named, Mozart, probably gets the most play in my car. That Brendel had…

A Clarinet in America and the American sound

What is it that makes American classical music of the 1940s and 1950s so distinctive and so different from ours from that period? For one thing, it is so very upbeat. I asked myself this question this week, as I listened to Clarinet in America, which showcases music by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Miklós Rózsa. I…

Soprano Lara Martins Sings Guarnieri the Brazilian Mozart

Lara Martins sings Guarnieri, the Brazilian Mozart. During this pandemic, I have listened to many new CD releases and have marvelled at what singers have been able to produce during such difficult times. Several lockdowns have brought about much soul-searching and thinking outside the box. Some artists have been inspired to explore, indeed embrace new…

Himalayers: revisiting and revising ‘Black Narcissus’

‘Black Narcissus’ has, like the mountain palace of Mopu itself, been haunting me for some days now, after watching both the new TV adaptation and going back to the 1947 Powell & Pressburger (‘P&P’) film. What is the allure of this strange story, and why does Rumer Godden’s original novel somehow elude both versions? *…

Tracing the blues

Singer and guitar player, Skip James. Born 1902 Yazoo County, Mississippi In the 1920s and early 1930s *RACE record companies such as OKEH in America, went in search of the South’s most talented African-American blues artists. Musicians and singers were brought off the streets, where they had been performing for nickels at a time, and…

‘Owen Wingrave’. A Family at War

For its Interim Season, Grange Park Opera is offering several new filmed operas to the public. Owen Wingrave, filmed in September of this year, is a rarely performed work by Benjamin Britten and was originally conceived as a TV opera. It was broadcast on BBC2 in 1971. For this reason alone I was very curious to see it.  For…

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…