Set free?

A couple of evenings before writing this, I had the privilege of attending the first art song recital with a live audience at London’s Wigmore Hall since it re-opened to socially-distanced audiences in line with the UK’s current ‘roadmap’ for ending lockdown. The concert was an all-Schubert progamme, performed by soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist…

Worth waiting for: Dubuffet at the Barbican

Freed at last from the Covid lockdown vault, this quirky show may be just the ticket if you’re looking to re-engage with actual, red-in-tooth-and-claw art. He may not be for all tastes, but there’s no denying that the work of Jean Dubuffet (1901-85) still packs quite a punch. Dubuffet it was who famously championed, and…

Brahms Third Symphony – a well-kept secret

Brahms wrote his Symphony no.3 in F major in 1883, at the height of his career. Though it was a great hit with nineteenth-century audiences, very little is known about the sources of this mature work today. We do know that the notoriously secretive composer wrote it in Wiesbaden, a picturesque Rhine resort, and that…

English National Opera Announces 2021/22 Season

The English National Opera (ENO) has announced its 2021/22 main stage season. It heralds the ENO’s ambitious return to the London Coliseum following the coronavirus pandemic theatre closures. In line with our founding principle, the season has been designed to delight aficionados and newcomers alike, with a range of audience favourites and bold new productions….

Misery and Hope Through Motion | Visual Musings of William Blake’s ‘The Whirlwind of Lovers’

Guest post by Justin Pennington  Simply called the Commedia, Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century magnum opus has fascinated scholars since its conception. It has produced many artistic, literary, and psycho-analytical examinations of its concern with eschatology. For those unfamiliar with the poem’s structure, it is the Inferno, with the pilgrim’s journey through Hell, and the powerful visual…

Lieder column: some recent art song releases

A slight change of pace for this piece. Blogging is a privilege that allows us – without any oppressive deadlines or word count restrictions – to immerse ourselves in individual releases when approaching each article. That said, it also makes me acutely aware of those times when there’s a run of discs I love, and…

New recording of Arne’s Eighteenth Century Hit Impresses

I sat down to Arne: Artaxerxes over the Bank Holiday and believed, at first, that I was listening to a newly discovered Mozart opera. Young Mozart may well have seen  Artaxerxes in London in the mid-1760s when he was touring. He loved opera with a capital L and Thomas Arne’s hit work must have fuelled Mozart’s boyhood passion…

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…

Street Dance Has Come of Age

In January last year, I had the great pleasure of covering POPCityUK’s international Hip Hop and Popping 2020 competition in London. Hundreds of dancers descended on Shoreditch Town Hall. The artists ranged in age from 16 -30, and the variety of styles displayed that day, showed me that Hip Hop and Popping were more than…

Role players: Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton, ‘Album für die Frau’

A great art song recital can be exactly that: top-notch performances of beautiful works. On this recording, we find Sampson in exquisite voice, Middleton’s playing as impeccable as ever, and the songs featured are a tribute to the duo’s ongoing flair for engaging, informative programming, live and on disc. However, this time round, the central…