Mu­sic to my ears

What the clas­si­cal world has been lis­ten­ing to this month

BBC Music Magazine - - The Full Score -

Federico Colli pi­anist

Con­duc­tor Valery Gergiev is prob­a­bly the best in­ter­preter of Rus­sian epic works. In his per­for­mance of Tchaikovsky’s Man­fred

Sym­phony with the Mari­in­sky Orches­tra, which I heard live in Ravello in Au­gust, I was able to see all the images that this mu­sic can evoke. Every in­stru­ment had its role, and all had equal im­por­tance. The des­per­a­tion that is so vi­tal in this mu­sic was al­ways noble and proud in his in­ter­pre­ta­tion, and the hope which al­ways rises from the abyss in all Tchaikovsky works was so ten­der and mov­ing here.

I’m prac­tis­ing Grieg’s Pi­ano Con­certo for the 2018/2019 sea­son, and I was ex­tremely sur­prised by the live record­ing made by Mikhail Plet­nev with the Dan­ish Na­tional Ra­dio Orches­tra. As al­ways, Plet­nev shows us some unique and un­ex­pected things in the score – but here I was amazed by the drama of his in­ter­pre­ta­tion, and by the sub­lime and ethe­real con­trasts to that drama that he cre­ated in the se­cond move­ment. Mu­sic re­ally is a never-end­ing sub­ject for re­search!

I’m par­tic­u­larly close to the art of pi­anist Boris Petrushan­sky, not just be­cause he’s my teacher, but be­cause the power of his ideas can be dev­as­tat­ing. In his record­ing of Chopin’s Pre­ludes, made live in Moscow, the works are re­vealed as some­thing to­tally new, fresh and sur­pris­ing – light and shadow, ten­der­ness and melan­choly, lone­li­ness and hu­man­ity are all there. In the ‘Rain­drop’ Pre­lude, he seems al­most phys­i­cally in­volved in Chopin’s dream that in­spired the work.

And also… I’ve been study­ing phi­los­o­phy, in or­der to find an­swers to some ques­tions that are deep inside me and to dig deeper into the con­tent of mu­sic. In his Sto­ria della filosofia, Emanuele

Sev­erino gives us an in­ter­est­ing glance into the history of the sub­ject. An artist can­not for­get that the ques­tions that in­spired the com­posers to write their mas­ter­pieces are the same ones that in­spired philoso­phers to cre­ate philo­soph­i­cal ideas. Federico Colli per­forms at Wig­more Hall on 1 Novem­ber

Ge­or­gia Mann

BBC Ra­dio 3 pre­sen­ter

A lis­tener on the Ra­dio 3 Break­fast programme re­cently rec­om­mended Agnes Baltsa’s

col­lec­tion of Greek songs, Songs My Coun­try Taught Me. It is the purest hit of sun­shine. For me, she’s the ul­ti­mate mezzo: there’s a mellow, red wine tone to her voice. Some­times ar­range­ments of na­tional songs can seem a bit sac­cha­rine, but Baltsa has such a cap­ti­vat­ing sound that it to­tally works.

Hard­core emo­tion is at the root of my lis­ten­ing at the moment. I love mu­sic that trans­ports you some­where, and an­other fe­male voice I love is Jackie Oates on her new record The Joy of Liv­ing. This is a beau­ti­fully pro­duced

al­bum, writ­ten and recorded in her kitchen. If Agnes Baltsa is a mellow red wine, Jackie Oates is a sea breeze on a fine day. It’s such an in­ti­mate record­ing, and there’s an im­me­di­acy of emo­tion, just as in Baltsa’s al­bum.

An­other deeply emo­tional al­bum I’ve been lis­ten­ing to is Calling the Muse, a col­lec­tion of works for the the­o­rbo by Bruno Hel­strof­fer. The the­o­rbo is in­cred­i­ble: it has great depth, just like the mezzo voice. Hel­strof­fer comes from an elec­tric gui­tar back­ground play­ing blues and rock, so his style has a mod­ern sen­si­bil­ity to it. It’s such a flex­i­ble in­stru­ment, and this programme is so var­ied: he plays ar­range­ments of Bach, his own com­po­si­tions and even Satie’s Gnossi­enne No. 1.

And also… I’m riv­eted by You, Me and the Big C: the pod­cast hosted by ra­dio pre­sen­ter Rachael Bland, who died re­cently, with Deb­o­rah James and Lau­ren Ma­hon. The legacy Rachael has left be­hind is un­be­liev­able. It’s a to­tally frank and hon­est dis­cus­sion about can­cer be­tween three gen­uine friends. One of the best things to have come out of pod­cast cul­ture is the abil­ity to break down taboos in a gen­tle, hu­man way.

Alexis Ffrench com­poser and pi­anist

Much of my lis­ten­ing tends to be on stream­ing plat­forms, and that’s how I came to hear Hélène Gri­maud play­ing Ravel’s G ma­jor Pi­ano Con­certo. I love that work, but it’s her in­ter­pre­ta­tion which is re­ally spe­cial. It’s a work so in­fused with jazzy id­ioms and it’s very much a hy­brid piece in that sense, but it’s one she plays with unique in­sights and sen­si­tiv­ity. There’s a re­ally

The the­o­rbo is in­cred­i­ble: it has great depth, just like the mezzo-so­prano voice

plain­tive qual­ity to it; it’s very soul­ful and there’s a deep long­ing.

Sam Fen­der is a singer and song­writer who I came upon by ac­ci­dent. I was brows­ing a page on Phar­rell Wil­liams’s site, and there was a photo of them to­gether, so I went to check out Sam’s mu­sic. He has a re­ally raw style; its’s very lyri­cal, soul­ful, highly melodic and it re­minded me of old school ’60s soul. I re­mem­ber play­ing along to my Dad’s old soul records, so when­ever I hear that sort of stuff it re­minds me of my fa­ther… who is still around, I might add.

I lis­ten to ‘Bless­ings’ by Chance the Rap­per when I run. I find it im­mensely up­lift­ing; I love to lis­ten to mu­sic that gives me a lift in the morn­ing and his songs are just so beau­ti­ful. He’s Amer­i­can, very mu­si­cal and deeply spir­i­tual – his faith is very im­por­tant to him. His mu­sic is rooted in gospel, soul and jazz, and the har­monic con­struc­tion of his songs is just so beau­ti­fully crafted. His use of words is also mas­ter­ful; he’s a poet, I think.

And also… I love to visit the Bri­tish Li­brary. I spent a lot of time there when I was in my

20s and I just found it an awein­spir­ing place. It’s mag­i­cal – myth­i­cal some­times – and such an oa­sis. I went through phases where I was re­search­ing var­i­ous things, such as the mys­ter­ies of Bach and then Bartók’s mu­sic. I spent time learn­ing Ro­ma­nian in there, and all sorts. I found it ut­terly in­spir­ing, but also it’s the majesty of the place.

Alexis Ffrench’s al­bum Evo­lu­tion is out now on Sony Clas­si­cal

Joy­ful voice:Jackie Oates in­spires Ra­dio 3’s Ge­or­gia Mann

Colli’s choice: in­sight­ful pi­anist Boris Petrushan­sky

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