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…

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…

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…

Mezzo soprano Paula Murrihy takes a walk on the wild side

On her new recording I Will Walk With Love, Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy demonstrates a natural talent for singing German lieder, having honed her linguistic skills at the Frankfurt Opera house. She also sensibly combines Brahms, Mahler and Grieg songs with some Debussy. Les chansons de Bilitis  adds a welcome French frisson to the Germanic…

Promentum..!

Many of you reading this will be aware that the pandemically-adjusted 2020 Proms season has just shifted up a gear. Since mid-July, the BBC has raided its archives and broadcast selected performances from past years. Now, however, there is an all-too-brief fortnight of live performances from an audience-free Royal Albert Hall, available on various platforms…

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…