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. url.ie/8jpy 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. url.ie/f1f2
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. url.ie/6c45
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.