Sunday, January 12, 2003


Composer Michael Berkeley – son of Sir Lennox Berkeley, and not to be confused with the prog-ambientist of almost the same name - interviewed jazz composer, bandleader and former Berklee professor Mike Gibbs (see also MG’s discography here) in a repeat of the ‘Private Passions’ conversation on BBC Radio 3 first broadcast last year. (Listen to Gibbs’ superb album Nonsequence, Provocateur Records PVC 1027 /EFA 10270-2). You can hear the programme here.

What especially stood out was the revised version of Charles Ives’ classic ‘The Unanswered Question’ with the Chicago Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas (CBS MK 42381), where the quietness of the trumpet is absolutely compelling; and also hearing Messiaen perform (in 1956) ‘Prière du Christ montant vers son Père’ (from L'Ascension) on the organ of Saint-Trinite, Paris (EMI CZS 767400-2,Disc 1).

Gibbs also recalled Boulez conducting Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ with real calm and feeling during his 70th birthday celebrations in New York. I was privileged to see the equivalent performance at the Barbican Centre in London. As Berkeley and Gibbs observed, there is a marked contrast between Boulez’s restrained, soulful account and the wild swing of Bernstein. The version played on ‘Private Passions’ was the one the composer conducted with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1960 (‘Danse Sacrale’, Sony SM3K 46291, Disc 2).

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