Friday, November 23, 2007


How delightful to be back in contact with my former colleague and friend Paul Fisher - whose life is now mostly dedicated to composing and the arts. His website is here, and includes details of various recordings - including Places and Stories, available from Priory Records, on which Kevin Bowyer plays Paul's fine organ music on the Willis organ of Glasgow University Memorial Chapel. It was recorded in April this year (2007), and the cover picture is Tintern Abbey. I've only had a brief listen, as I am involved in a writing project right now, but it was a special pleasure to hear the full The Fire and the Rose: A Suite of Six Pieces - the first time it has been available complete on disc. Paul and I share a love of T. S. Eliot's poetry, a key inspiration here, and I have only previously heard excerpts performed live, twice, by the composer himself. Once was on the organ at Southwark Cathedral. I do have the sheet music, however, which was happily made available some years ago. A longer review will follow.

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Following his recently completed US tour, which included residencies in Los Angeles and New York, Morrissey has decided to start 2008 with six concerts at London's Roundhouse. Tickets went on sale at 9am this morning and, predictably, were sold out in a few hours. So I missed out. I've always wanted to see the Mozzfather live, having inexplicably turned down a ticket to witness The Smiths in Brixton on 12 December 1986. It turned out to be their last ever gig. This is getting to be a habit, of sorts.

There are as yet unconfirmed rumours that Morrissey will play L'Olympia in Paris on 4 February. In the wake of his 2006 album Ringleader of the Tormentors, he terminated his relationship with Sanctuary Records, but says he intends to release a new CD in September 2008. He has been trailing a number of new songs in the US.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007


Good to see Andrew Clements' positive review of Steven Osborne's important recording of Sir Michael Tippett's Piano Sonatas Nos 1-4, together with the Piano Concerto and the early Fantasia On a Theme of Handel. It's fashionable to knock Tippett these days. But quixotic though some of his music is, it remains immensely powerful and will have its day again, of that I'm sure. I haven't heard this disc yet, but it's on my Christmas wish-list. I was privileged to see one of Osborne's recitals featuring the sonatas at the Wigmore Hall during the Tippett centenary celebrations in 2005.

Clements writes: "Osborne is superb at delineating the characters of the four sonatas, and underlining how, in their very different ways, they relate to the piano tradition. The First, from 1942, is the most surprising, for its florid, almost improvisatory writing sometimes seems to be modelled on the bravura style of Liszt and Rachmaninov, which Osborne projects dazzlingly, while under his fingers the Second Sonata, composed in 1962, emerges as a gritty and uncompromising masterpiece, indebted both to late Stravinsky and to Messiaen.

"But it's in the less often performed Third and Fourth Sonatas, from 1973 and 1984 respectively, that Osborne's ability to grasp overall shapes while also respecting the smallest details is most thoroughly tested, and his performances are coherent, vivid and coursing with drama."

Hyperion are to be congratulated on this two CD set, which also features Martyn Brabbins and the fine BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

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Monday, November 19, 2007


Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Oliver Sacks; Knopf, 381 pages, $25

From a review by Scott LaFee: His latest book, Musicophilia, [focusses] upon a subject that his clearly close to Sacks' own heart and mind: the relationship between music and the brain.

Here too are the expected (and yet somehow unexpected) case histories: the woman who suffers spasms whenever she hears songs that remind her of childhood; the psychoanalyst who has hallucinations of a singing rabbi and the surgeon struck by lightning who becomes obsessed with Chopin.

Sacks talks too about people for whom music offers no attraction at all, a condition called amusia in which melody, harmony and rhythm are nothing more than “plinking noises” and “an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds.”

Some of these “amusiacs” are quite well-known. Among them: Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Vladimir Nabokov, William James and Ulysses S. Grant.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007


Adey Grummet, über-soprano supreme, writes: "That glorious and magical engine, the Stoke Newington Opera Cabaret, is about to steam off into unknown territories once more. With a very starry cast of singers and the inspirational support of two stalwart pianists, this is an occasion to come and revel in the marvellous excesses of a night of opera greats. I shall compere in my usual, excitable style."

We are promised "an evening of glorious singing, fabulous frocks and operatically heightened emotions. Fight to get a ticket... Bar on site - bring your own picnic!" Sounds unmissable. Well, except that I will be elsewhere that evening, sadly. But you need not be.

Proceedings commence at 6.30 pm on 15 December 2007, at The Round Chapel, corner of Lower Clapton Road & Glenarm Road, London E5. Tickets £16 (£14 concessions) available from the redoubtable Farquhar McKay: farquharmckayATblueyonderDOTcoDOTuk, or telephone 07504 4811 849. Adey's own website is here.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007


Frighteningly enough, in transit to a quite different TV experience, I found myself catching a few minutes of BBC1's Antiques Roadshow tatfest this evening - a programme I would normally go out of my way to avoid, as one would any kind of hospice, until it is strictly necessary. What caught my attention, though, was a classic Jefferson Airplane poster from Haight Ashbury in 1967. One of Wes Wilson's psychadelic graphic creations. So this is what the post-modern retirement home looks like? There is hope. Of a kind.

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