Category Archives: Classical

Giya Kancheli – She is Here (2005)

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I stumbled across this short but touching piece of music the other day. Giya Kancheli’s ‘Is Aq Aris’ features on his 2005 release Music for Film and Theater. Due to its brevity, many have tried to elongate the Georgian composer’s work by knitting together multiple copies of the recording.

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Giuseppe Verdi – Nabucco: Va, Pensiero, Sull’ Ali Dorate (Coro) (1842)

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Giuseppe Verdi composed Nabucco in 1841 and first performed at La Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842. The opera follows the plight of the Jews as they are exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco. The best-known part/sequence/chorus is the ‘Va, Pensiero, Sull’ Ali Dorate (Coro)’ (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves); it was an instant success. Bis, bis, bis!

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Aram Khachaturian – Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia (1954)

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I will be hopping around musical genres this week. Aram Il’yich Khachaturian was a Russian Armenian composer and conductor. He moved to Moscow in 1921 following the annexation of the Caucasus and duly enrolled in the Gnessin Musical Institute, without any musical training. He is probably best known for the ‘Sabre Dance’ from his ballet Gayane (1942). But in Blighty, there is a very special place held for his subsequent ballet Spartacus (1954) and more specifically the climactic ‘Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia’. It was the theme tune to the 1970s BBC TV series The Onedin Line.

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake Op. 20, Act I No. 2, Valse (1877)

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I got back from the Alpine slopes last night. On Thursday, I found myself skiing and humming along to this well known sequence from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Specifically, this is the waltz (‘Valse’) from Act I. Pyotr composed the work in 1875-76 and it was first performed a year later at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Astonishing musicality.

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Ólafur Arnalds – Happiness Does Not Wait (2013)

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High praise indeed, but I wonder whether Max Richter was listening to the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds when he wrote the theme piece for the HBO series The Leftovers. ‘Happiness Does Not Wait’ first appeared on the contemporary classical music label Erased Tapes’ Collection V.

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Julia Kent – Overlook (2011)

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Julia Kent is a Canadian cellist and composer. In 2011, she released the gothic Green and Grey. It features the soothing, dark and epic sound of ‘Overlook’. Have a great weekend.

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Mozart – Lacrimosa (1791)

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It is a day of remembrance. On the face of it, Requiem in D minor, K. 626 is another of Mozart’s masses, but it’s very notable in its meaning. Wolfgang Amadeus died before he completed the work, and according to his widow, he came to believe that he was writing the requiem for his own funeral. Some may find the context and sound unsettling, but I find the final part, ‘Lacrimosa’ (“Weeping”), of the third section (‘Sequentia’) curiously alleviating.

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Max Richter – November (2002)

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‘Tis November folks. In 2002, Max Richter released his debut album Memoryhouse. It features the stunning ‘November’. Turn off the lights, turn up the volume and feel the season approaching.

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Camille Saint-Saëns – Marche Héroïque, Op. 34 (1870)

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It’s my middle daughter’s birthday today. This a piece that she played at her most recent national children’s orchestra concert. ‘Marche Héroïque’ preceded the first of Camille Saint-Saëns’ symphonic poems. He wrote it as a celebratory homage to his friend the composer, Henri Regnault. Regnault was killed in the Franco-Prussian war.

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Edvard Grieg – Solveig’s Song (1875)

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Composed by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg in 1875, Peer Gynt was written as the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name. In Act IV, he featured the moving ‘Solveig’s Song’ (Solveigs sang). R.I.P. Gaby.

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Hauschka – Craco (2014)

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The Lucani ghost town of Craco provides a fitting title for track 7 on Volker Bertelmann’s (aka Hauschka) 2014 album Abandoned City. It’s classical acoustic piano with a touch of post rock about it.

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Camille Saint-Saëns – The Cygne (1886)

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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.

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GoGo Penguin – Hopopono (2014)

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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.

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William Walton – Crown Imperial (1937)

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‘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.

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Philip Glass – Metamorphosis One (1989)

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Inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Philip Glass composed and performed an oeuvre of piano music in 1988 that he then pressed and released as his Solo Piano album a year later. The opening track ‘Metamorphosis One’ drifts in and out of superlatives.

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