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…

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…

Pastoral, personal, political: Sieben before, during and beyond lockdown

Matt Howden is a Sheffield-based singer, songwriter, composer, violinist, looping/sequencing technology expert, and teacher/practitioner of sound design and production. An independent, unstoppable musical force who somehow finds enough room under the radar to soar, he is always unpredictable, always reliable. One might have thought the restrictions imposed by the pandemic would slow him down a…

Prom disposal unit

It’s not often I take up my ArtMuseLondon pen in literal anger, writing to purge myself somehow of an irritation that has been eating away at me for a day or two now. I speak – as you have no doubt guessed – of the latest BBC Proms recruitment ad, seeking candidates for roles in…

Second time, round: Kate Arnold, ‘Rota Fortunae II’ EP

For the second year running, Kate Arnold has released a set of songs that possess so much beauty, intricacy and eloquence, they are like precision hits of perfection. This is a genuinely long-awaited release: I’ve looked forward to a sequel ever since Arnold issued ‘Rota Fortunae I’ in February 2020. Understandably, the follow-up has taken…

Rank amateur

I’m writing this piece on the birth date of my favourite composer, Schubert. Here’s to you, Franz. Has Schubert always been my favourite composer? No, not at all. I first got seriously into classical music through choral works, so from the outset Byrd and Pärt were vying for my affections. I found opera through Adams,…

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? *…

Thrill of ‘La chasse’: I Fagiolini, ‘The Stag Hunt’

Harmony, hilarity – and a touch of horror – are seamlessly combined in this cunning, captivating new release from the innovative vocal ensemble I Fagiolini. Sidestepping the more conventional CD or digital audio formats, ‘The Stag Hunt’ is a nine-minute film, featuring a performance of Renaissance composer Clément Janequin’s ‘La chasse’. Following a brief opening…

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’…