Shostakovich’s Sev­enth Sym­phony, be­gun in 1941 in be­sieged Len­ingrad, orig­i­nally had ti­tles for its four move­ments


(War, Evo­ca­tion, Na­tive Ex­panse, Vic­tory). It was so ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated that ma­jor con­duc­tors vied to give the US pre­mière (Toscanini won), and the in­ter­na­tional rout­ing of the mi­cro­film of the score be­tween wartime al­lies was the stuff of a spy story. The work has long been more ap­pre­ci­ated in Rus­sia than abroad, where con­duc­tors are of­ten tempted into bom­bast, es­pe­cially in the long first move­ment. Valery Gergiev’s ap­proach with his play­ers from mod­ern-day St Peters­burg is ex­pan­sive – his per­for­mance runs over 82 min­utes – and is also fer­vent in a dif­fer­ent way, heart­felt, rev­er­en­tial, son­i­cally bur­nished. Chandos CHSA 5117 Prolific Joachim Raff (1822-82) wrote his Sym­phony No 2 (of 11) in 1866, and it car­ries the opus num­ber 140. He went on to com­plete nearly 300 works and was for a time one of the most fre­quently per­formed of Ger­man com­posers. Raff or­ches­trated well, and had a sure grasp of sym­phonic scale. But the eclec­ti­cism which made his style so palat­able in its time is now likely to have you won­der­ing ex­actly which mo­ments in Beethoven, Men­delssohn or Schu­mann par­tic­u­lar pas­sages were mod­elled on. Raff was still pop­u­lar enough at the end of the 19th cen­tury for Ge­orge Bernard Shaw to use him as a ref­er­ence point and call him a “cuckoo com­poser of XIX cen­tury mu­sic”. The light Sec­ond Sym­phony is more suc­cess­ful than the four Shake­speare Pre­ludes of 1879.

Nim­bus Al­liance NI 6212 Vladimir Felts­man opens his notes in the book­let with this CD by ex­plain­ing that Liszt car­ried a walking stick with carv­ings of the heads of St Fran­cis of As­sisi, Faust’s Gretchen and Mephistophe­les on it. This rep­re­sented his long­ing for the Di­vine, his crav­ing for women and worldly plea­sures, and his fas­ci­na­tion with the di­a­bol­i­cal. Felts­man’s own strong­est iden­ti­fi­ca­tion seems to be with the prophetic prob­ings of Liszt’s late mu­sic, those ru­mi­na­tive, al­most unan­chored works that fore­shadow de­vel­op­ments of the 20th cen­tury. It’s not that he can’t turn his hand as well as the next man to the Third Liebe­straum or the Con­so­la­tions, or the thun­der­ing Bal­lade No 2. But when he gets to the gloomy La lugubre gon­dola and the float­ing, flick­er­ing evanes­cence of En rêve, Felts­man comes into his own.

RCA In this David Fincher-di­rected mu­sic video, JT and Jay-Z are bud­dies hangin’ out, shootin’ the shit and pas­sive-ag­gres­sively com­pet­ing to show who has the big­ger pe­nis. Chill­ing in the home they ap­par­ently share, Jay starts out sip­ping cognac and JT eat­ing ce­real (ad­van­tage Jay). But JT ral­lies, play­ing chess with a woman in her un­der­wear (+10 points), be­fore Jay opens his tuxedo jacket to re­veal a kick­ass cum­mer­bund (+20 points). Then, in what can only be de­scribed as a Joey Bar­tonesque “moment of mad­ness”, JT pre­tends to read sheet mu­sic off an iPad and . . . oh God, the hu­man­ity! Fa­mous Class The Amer­i­can singer-song­writer’s County Line was one of the sad­dest, sweet­est tracks of 2011. Here Cass ditches the syrup to wail about the agony of lost love over a tinny key­board and a gui­tar that sounds like a mal­func­tion­ing wash­ing ma­chine.

Uni­ver­sal “How did it get to 3am?” asks Kate Nash on this sin­gle from her Girl Talk al­bum. (Some­thing to do with the lin­ear na­ture of time, I’d guess.) Quaint as it is to re­call now, there was once a time when Nash was ac­tu­ally the most ir­ri­tat­ing per­son in pop. Then Ed Sheeran came along and noth­ing was ever the same again. Man, that kid didn’t just raise the bar, he su­per­glued it to the ceil­ing.

Syco One Di­rec­tion’s Blondie/ Un­der­tones mash-up for Red Nose Day is some­thing of a trav­esty mu­si­cally. To it’s credit, though, it does come with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing video in which the boys travel to Africa and learn how £5 can pre­vent a child from join­ing One Di­rec­tion . . . sorry, dy­ing. That should have said dy­ing.

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