César Franck’s Cello Sonata

  After the Paris Commune came to an end in 1871 and right up to the First World War, Paris enjoyed a period of frenzied reconstruction and renewal. Paris’s renaissance is referred to today as la Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Era). Most memorable were the universal exhibitions that took place during this period of great optimism,…

20 from 2020

However badly this year has treated us – and in the UK, it has treated those working in the arts very badly indeed – we have still been lucky enough to hear an astonishing amount of great music. Before joining ArtMuseLondon, I would normally assemble a couple of ‘round-up’ posts for my own blog ‘Specs’…

Past presence: Dead Space Chamber Music and Kate Arnold

Two brilliantly-timed records that for me sum up the word ‘spirit’: both in the eerie, evocative atmospheres they conjure up, and the sheer inventive brio with which the music was created. * Dead Space Chamber Music are an intriguing collective from Bristol, UK, who seemingly belong to all genres or none. Within the first few…

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…

West Side Story Revisited and Revived

West Side Story Revisited and Revived I admit I never intended to review what I believed to be a straight orchestral revival of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, released by Orchid Classics on November 6th. I loved the musical and the film starring Natalie Wood, and having sung all the songs throughout my teenage years, I thought I…

Mystery lays: Stef Conner, ‘Riddle Songs’

This startling, life-affirming record somehow manages a feat that has otherwise eluded science so far: time travel. Stef Conner has composed a suite of songs that demonstrate how, through the arts, the past is all there, all at once, running parallel to our present. What are its secrets? A bit of background (although Conner’s liner…

Yes, surprises: Rick Simpson, ‘Everything All of the Time: Kid A Revisited’

This album is an extraordinary achievement – certainly no ordinary ‘covers project’. Rick Simpson and his ensemble wilfully tackle head-on perhaps the original writers’ most elusive set of tracks and, fittingly, bring the same sense of adventure to the material as Radiohead might recognise from recording much of their music first time around. It’s impossible…