Music by Recommendation

In this time of enforced separation many of us are missing the weekly uplift of spirits that we get from a rehearsal. Apart from the well-documented physiological benefits of singing and its proven benefits to well-being, we are, of course, missing one another’s company and a chance to catch up with people whom we may only see through choir.

In the hope of generating a little online social contact we thought we might invite choir members to recommend music that they think others might enjoy and Paul and John are kicking things off for you with a few suggestions.

Here are the rules:

  • Recommend some music (of any classical genre) that you think SCC members will like. It could be a piece, a set of pieces, or just a particular performance.
  • Tell us why you are recommending it – this bit’s really important!
  • Links to (preferably free) streamed audio or video would be ideal, even if only to a short excerpt.
  • Feel free to comment on the suggestions of others.
  • The conversation thread will be publicly readable but SCC members will need to log in in order to contribute.

Paul recommends…

I do not apologise for being a longtime fan of the Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink, universally acknowledged to be of the greatest conductors of the ‘older’ generation. He was for many years principal conductor of the Concertgebouw orchestra, also musical director of both Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House, as well as guest conductor for orchestras such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic. In recent years he also formed a strong relationship with the Chamber Orchestra if Europe.

I was fortunate enough to get tickets for some his last concerts in 2019 – he retired last summer at the relatively young age of 90 – all of which were memorable, but none more so than his performance of Mahler’s 3rd symphony at the 2016 Proms. Sadly, the complete performance appears to be no longer available on Youtube, only the first movement at a running time of about 37 minutes!

The music, typically for Mahler, covers a wide range of emotions, the LSO playing their socks off, always under the calm authority of Haitink.

For future viewing, I am really into a series of woodworking projects and techniques by Paul Sellers. He is in his early 70s and speaks with authority, some humour and a real passion for his trade. I also like the music which introduces the programme! Here’s a taster:

John recommends…

Having acquired a baroque guitar last year (not long after our Latin-American Baroque concert), I have been obsessing over the amazing repertoire and recordings by some brilliant players, and getting my head around the mysteries of various tablature systems (see below).

An excerpt from Guerau’s Poema Harmonica

One of my most thrilling discoveries has been this video of Norwegian early music legend Rolf Lislevand playing one of only five extant Stradivari guitars (and the only one in playable condition). To me it’s thrilling for two reasons: the fact that the guitar dates from 1679 and is playable is the first; the second is that Rolf Lislevand’s playing and improvisation is so effortlessly wonderful! Enjoy!

I’d also remind you to visit SCC’s YouTube Channel where you will find a playlist of wonderful choral and vocal performances from all over the world that we have been curating for several years.

Rachel recommends…

Two recommendations from me to add to the list, though no woodworking I’m afraid! I’ve been looking at the YouTube channel for St Jacobs Vokalensemble. They are one of several first-rate choirs based at Stockholm Cathedral, the youth choir. As some of you know, I have the slightly dubious honour of organising an annual convention for the Association of British Choral Directors, held every August Bank Holiday (yes, really…) and we always have international guest choirs to perform. St Jacobs were one of this year’s guest choirs, but sadly of course we have had to cancel the convention this year. Like the rest of Scandinavia and the Baltic, the standard of choral singing in Sweden is very high and everyone sings. There are plenty of videos on their channel, mostly live recordings, but you might like to look at works by Urmas Sisask, Ol Gjeilo and Ēriks Ešenvalds. The Sisask is below.

Stravinsky is an acquired taste, but I acquired it as a teenager and I was really blown away hearing his early ballets for the first time. Give them a go! You might be surprised. At least you should marvel at Rattle conducting, as he does so often, without a score in The Rite of Spring. And also that its premiere caused a riot back in 1913!