A concerted effort

By all accounts Mendelssohn found the writing of concertos difficult. His main problem, it seems, was finding a balance between the – almost inevitable – virtuoso, show off/exhibitionist element of the concerto and the serious/profound music that he felt he should write. Despite –or maybe because of – the difficulty in reconciling these opposites(?), the composer […]

Prodigious

Not the work of your average 16 year old, but Mendelssohn’s Octet seems to capture brilliantly the feral excitement, boundless energy and sheer joie de vivre of youth. And so that’s where we’ll begin, with a work by a boy who in his mid adolescence  produced this, one of the masterpieces of a century peopled […]

À bientôt, M. Croche

Monsieur Croche? Who’s he? In 1901 Debussy – always anxious to augment his sparse income – landed the job of music critic for the Parisian arts journal, La Revue Blanche. He used his articles not just to review the concerts he’d attended but also as a soapbox from which to express his (very Debussyan!) ideas on […]

Cover story

The sonata for flute, viola and harp is the second of Debussy’s projected ‘six sonates pour divers instruments’ of which he only managed to complete three before his death. As you can see his publishers, Durand, (posthumously) respected the composer’s intentions, printing a cover describing the sonata as the second of six (despite the fact […]

Keeping up with the Haydns

There’s something frightening about the string quartet. It’s the tradition, I suppose – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert all poured some of their best and most profound music into the medium, and that makes the standard for the young, aspiring composer pretty high(!!). So, when the thirty-or-so year old Debussy came to tackle a quartet, he […]

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

 The Tempest is the opposite of a disappointment; it is a masterpiece of airy beauty and eerie power. Alex Ross on Adès’s opera, The Tempest The New Yorker, March 1, 2004. This week we complete our trawl through 20th century English music with the work of Thomas Adès. I must admit to having to cheat (slightly), […]