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’…

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…

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…

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…