Latin

Latin America’s rich but bewildering cultural mix of native, Spanish, Portuguese, African and a few other traditions has produced an astonishing variety of musics. From the dance rhythms of the Dominican Republic’s Bachata to the aerobics of the Zumba and from the Bach/Brazilian hommages of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras… w …to the Argentinian, Astor Piazzolla’s  Nuevo Tango… […]

Hungary

  To the folksong collector during the first decade of the twentieth century Hungary afforded immeasurable opportunity. It is true that the isolated mediæval pattern of life of the peasantry had slowly changed… but peasant culture remained as it always had been, although economic and political conditions were completely altered. Nevertheless, when Bartók and Kodály […]

Contraflow

It may seem that the folk song and dance traffic is only one way, with ‘classical’ composers using (mostly) popular dance rhythms and (sometimes) folk tunes as elements in their works. But there are cases where composers have decided – either out of sheer, altruistic fondness or, more grubbily, for pecuniary advantage (or, of course, an element […]

The Skočná and other dances

Near the beginning of Act 3 of Smetana’s Bartered Bride the circus comes to town. And, after a lengthy and tongue-twisting preamble by the ringmaster featuring Esmeralda, an exotic Spanish dancer; a (fake) Red Indian and a very inebriate (and consequently also fake) dancing bear; the performers show off their acrobatic skills in the fast […]

Dying to conduct?

The history of conducting is full of fascinating events and anecdotes. But, strangely – given their sometimes rather(??) fraught relationship with orchestras – not many people have died of injuries sustained while conducting; I can only think of one,  Jean-Baptiste Lully (that’s him below) In Lully’s time (he was the court musician/dancing master to the Sun King, […]

Lachrimæ

In a league table of composers who have made a career out of exquisite misery (several names come to mind!), John Dowland must, surely, come somewhere near the top. w Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! Exiled for ever, let me mourn; Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live […]