Saturday, October 16, 2004


I came a cross a new (to me) blogospheric musical voice a couple of weeks ago, via a lively piece on the Shostakovitch controversies. "Culture means whatever Brian Micklethwait says it means", the writer reassures us. His scope is entertainingly broad -- and in addition to the main site, he's thoughtfully indexed all his classical music musings in one category archive. Nifty. Much more of a predeliction for Mozart and so-called libertarianism than me, for sure; but the writing has soul and intelligence. At least Mickelthwait's not just going through the e-motions.

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Composer: Peter Maxwell Davies
Work: Naxos Quartets Nos. 1 and 2
Media: CD
Genre: Contemporary classical
Catalogue Number: 8.557396
Label: Naxos
Released: October 2004

My current listening pleasure is the first release in a projected 5-cd series from Naxos: world premiere recordings of ten new string quartets performed by the superlative Maggini. What a creative idea it was for the high-quality budget label to commission this set.

These pieces are part of Maxwell-Davies' much-publicised turn from major orchestral works and larger scale projects towards the intimacy and challenge of small ensemble writing; congruent in many ways with the atmosphere of his beloved Orkneys.

Up-to-date information on the composer's activities is available through the MaxOpus site. You can also purchase recordings of Max's music by digital downloads and/or CD compilations of your own choice delivered by post.

As Anthony Holden economically observed in, er, The Observer: "Elegant, accessible, full of mood swings, these inventive works begin [Maxwell-Davies's] long journey in a classical Orcadian landscape, via Beethoven, Haydn, Chopin and Scottish dance music, to a powerful interim resolution with echoes of Bartok and Berg."

There are echoes in there (for me at least) of Kodaly's evocative Kreutzer Sonata.

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Friday, October 15, 2004


Though I'm not a regular viewer of Jools Holland's UK tv show 'Later', I still enjoy it as a lively presentation of near-mainstream (but slightly quirky) rock, world, nu-pop and outside-left folk. The intrigue tonight was privided by US thrashists Green Day and their election anthem, 'Idiot America'.

The song made its biggest impact after John Kerry's appearance on 'Letterman'. Commented Salon: "Playing with murderous precision, the band signaled from its first line that they weren't out to be good sports. The sound was turbulent, churning, big and tight, veering off into guitar whirlwinds and then snapping to attention in an instant. Standing in a line across the stage as if they were a firing squad, the band communicated the feeling of both being on the front line and laying out a deadly line of attack."

This from Pitchforkmedia: "Idiot's slicing power chordage reaches to Green Day's old English and Cali punk influences with tingling fingers, adds acoustic instruments without sounding forced or contrived, and lyrically grapples with the cultural predicaments and awkward shittiness of 'subliminal mind-fuck America,' circa 2004: 'Now everybody do the propaganda/ And sing along in the age of paranoia.' Armstrong delivers the title track couplet like a command at the revolution day sock-hop, and its instrumental viciousness is enough to shatter punchbowl glass."
Not my usual listening ambient. Maybe it's just that overwhelming desire to evacuate the world of GW....

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Saturday, October 09, 2004


People who hunt for classical records and CDs in the London area can hardly fail to know about Gramex, the wonderfully eccentric haunt in Lower Marsh, the market location a stone's throw away from Waterloo Station. Usually stocked with around 5-600 cds, often newly-minted from reviewers and remainders, they have come into a goldmine recently: an 11,000 strong collection. For the first time it has pushed the shop into an alphabetical system. We'll see how long that lasts! There are many treasures to be had at bargain proces. Get down there as soon as you can... Oh, and don't forget Neil's Barrow either...

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