Saturday, September 09, 2006

A musical interlude

Tonight is the Last Night of the Proms and I love all the pomp and circumstance and eccentricity that goes with this most wonderful celebration of Britain and the British character. It is one of the few occasions I feel when we can celebrate our Britishness without fear or shame, which sadly so often seems to be the case today. Somehow we have moved from this proud nation of Elgar's rousing Pomp & Circumstance Marches to one, which is constantly afraid of celebrating its identity, fearful of political correctness. To hell with it, lets have some fun and celebrate what it means to be British!

I had my last visit to the Proms on Wednesday night this week and another wonderful performance. This time it was Mahler's monumental Symphony No.2 'Resurrection.' The symphony begins with a funeral march and ends with the orchestra in an unrestrained exultation of joy, of resurrection and eternal life. I found the finale incredibly uplifting and soul inspiring with the orchestra joined by off-stage musicians, a double chorus, two soloists and the Royal Albert Hall organ, which is a magnificent instrument in its own right. Wow, I was enraptured and thrilled to have heard such a wonderful piece and all the better for being performed live.

I've been on a bit of classical shopping spree recently as well. Purchases have included a CD of Vaughan Williams' music and today Carl Nielsen's Fourth & Fifth Symphony. Nielsen is a Danish composer that I've hardly heard of although I was interested in his work after reading in the Classic FM magazine that his Fourth Symphony is something of a showcase for the timpani, perhaps my favourite instrument of the symphony orchestra.

On a completely different musical tack, delivered yesterday was a DVD of David Gray Live in Concert. I saw this originally a few months ago and love every one of the songs. What I like about Gray and his music, is that it is heartfelt and difficult to categorise. It is different to most of the rubbish I hear these days and it seems to me, important. Each song is special and means something. Sometimes they're sad and melancholic like Flame Turns Blue, others are upbeat and fun but Gray invests his heart equally into each track and that above all else this is what attracts me to his music. I almost regret now not having discovered David Gray before his White Ladder album as I's subsequently found some of his best material predates this period. Still, I am beginning to catch up and as his earlier albums are available at bargain prices, it won't be long before I've completed the collection. There isn't one album of Gray's that I have where I haven't enjoyed every one of the tracks and to me it is a rare and vital talent that can make every song that good.


carla said...

I ordered a CD of Barber's Adagio for Strings after reading your previous post about classical music. It has 8 different versions of the piece and we enjoyed listening to them all yesterday. My favourite version was the one recorded by the Smithsonian chamber players in 1957. Next time you visit, we can have a listen, if you like.

Mark said...

Wow, eight versions! Does the CD have the Angus Dei, which is the vocal arrnagement Barber did of the Adagio? That's a sublime and beautiful piece.

I am really surprised that my comments inspired you to buy the CD in the first place. I didn't realise my idle mutterings had that much influence!

jamie said...

if music is the food of love...
what constantly bugs me is when i discover some great new music at the same time as it's being plastered all over the media as being the greatest thing since...whatever.
case in point being richard hawleys new album coles corner... the singles from this album are brilliant. i have a soft spot for the 'crooners'-tom jones-tony christie-mike flowers pops-and scott walker,to name but a few... i found out that richard hawley was in the band pulp when they recorded 'we love life'-my favourite album of thiers. now i know why.

carla said...

You never know who's reading and being inspired. That's part of the beauty of the blogosphere. For every comment, there are hundreds of silent readers.

I love Barber's Adagio and have always intended to get a CD but never remembered to do it. Since I was at the computer anyway, I went straight to amazon and ordered it for £5.00.

The Agnus Dei is on this one and it is sublime. That's the perfect word for it!