A cultured, calming start to the week… Le Carnaval Des Animaux is a suite of fourteen movements by the composer Camille Saint-Saëns. When I was young, it was the accessible side of classical for family listening, like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and the pervasive compilation series, Hooked on Classics. It was a toss up between the string quartet of the 7th movement ‘Aquarium’ and the cellos of the 13th, ‘The Cygne’. The Swan wins, of course. Have a great week.
Hailing from Manchester, Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka and Rob Turner are GoGo Penguin. They create an ambient sound that is full of infectious piano melodies and rhythmic break beats. ‘Hopopono’ is the last track on their critically-acclaimed sophomore album, v2.0. Have a great weekend.
‘Crown Imperial’ is an orchestral march by the English composer William Walton. This weekend, my daughter played it along with the rest of the National Children’s Orchestra in the wonderful setting of Hever Castle. The piece was was first performed at the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and is forever associated with the Crown. It’s clearly got the Pomp and Circumstance. Happy Birthday Ma’am.
Ennio Morricone was awarded an Oscar for The Hateful Eight last month. Perhaps the lack of competition warranted it, but the 6,000 voting members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences get their selections wrong so regularly that they have their own built-in save face – the Honorary Oscar. Before he received his in 2006 for “magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music”, Morricone had been obscenely overlooked for 1984’s Once Upon a Time in America and 1986’s The Mission. I select the latter’s ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ as a glimpse of what heaven must sound like.
Piano player, composer and producer, Nils Frahm is based in Berlin. Like any self respecting Berliner, he is known for experimenting with electronic music. Frahm’s take is to combine classical and synthesised keyboard sounds. In 2011, his unconventional approach took a turn for the different due to a run-in with a bunk bed. That nocturnal event gave him a broken thumb and the time to practice with 9 fingers and less keys. The stripped back sound is what you hear on his 2012 long player Screws. ‘Re’ is the third track on the album and provides us with today’s Wednesday interlude.
Perhaps the strings interlude used by Roy Harper; perhaps the change of the seasons; perhaps because the clocks have fallen back. I’m not sure, but I’m in the mood for some nocturnal classical. Chopin’s ‘Notturno In Mi Bemolle Maggiore Op. 9 n. 2’ is a dreamy melody that inspires the mind to wander. For example, I’ve just thought that many things sound better in Italian (and in E flat major). Frédéric Chopin wrote this piece in his early twenties. Where possible, I have included renditions by Artur Rubinstein, who was universally acknowledged as one of the great Chopin interpreters. Enjoy.
Written and played on bandoneon by an Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla, ‘Libertango’ is tango classic. But I didn’t know that when I first heard the tune as the backdrop to Grace Jones’s ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ – her spoken journey through a Parisian nightlife. It was the mid 1980s and Jones’ 1981 album Nightclubbing remained an art-dance-pop template. That was many moons ago and I am now more drawn to the source. Those familiar with my blog will know that I am quite taken with the sound of the accordion – my ignorance means that I should really include the concertina, bayan and bandoneon in my broad definition. The latter provides a wonderful accompaniment to Yo-Yo Ma’s cello from his 1997 homage to Ástor Piazzolla.
I notice that I get all too keen to assign a song as being progrock of sorts – the last post’s a case in point. Today’s feature might be a stretch, although Vaughan William’s most English of English pieces plays it part in the progressive canon. ‘The Lark Ascending’ inspired some of the violin parts in the latter half of the track King Crimson’s ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic’. You can tell that Robert Fripp was brought up well.
It struck me that the spate of festive numbers I’ve posted recently crowded out the usual classical numbers so apt at Christmas. I go back to work today and so something as soothing and ethereal as Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ is timely indeed. Gounod’s homage to Bach’s First Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier collection was written as a school assignment. Gounod added the melody and words while he was a student at the Paris Conservatory. I feature the soprano vocals of the beloved Italian opera singer, Renata Tebaldi, but unsurprisingly, Maria Callas and Anna Moffo have also recorded superlative versions.
I listen to ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ and I hear Miklos Rozsa’s music for the movie El Cid; I hear the Ennio Morricone’s oboe composition for The Mission. The ethereal Adagio movement of the concerto is cinematic, emotive and so familiar. Near-blind since the age of three, Joaquín Rodrigo had managed to create a piece of music that is so timeless, it sounds as if it’s always been.
I went to a talk by Lars Ulrich last week as part of the Metallica’s publicity around their new movie Metallica: Through the Never. It was on the invite of a good friend and so I took the opportunity to remind myself of their heyday sounds. I continue to be more interested in their show than their music and so was happily surprised to hear ‘L’Estasi dell’Oro’ at the start of a Moscow production of ‘Enter Sandman’ in 1991. Written by Ennio Morricone for the Sergio Leone film The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, the original and unparalleled ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ features the vocals of Edda Dell’Orso. Metallica have covered it many times themselves. No comment.
I watched Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ last night. It ends with Frédéric Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. It is the longest of his 24 preludes written between 1835-1839. Known for its repeating raindrops, the main melody turns into something much darker in the middle. It is a suitable backdrop to Prometheus, but it’s also the piece that Drax plays on the grand piano to a visiting James Bond. Moonraker – now we’re talking classic movies in space.