There’s nothing wrong with getting into Thomas Tallis on the back of Fifty Shades of Grey


Great works of art may have a strange afterlife. Deracinated from the world that created them they are at the mercy of what people think is important centuries later. Nothing shows this more clearly than the contribution that Tallis’s ‘Spem… Read more

Simon Rattle with the Berlin Phil at the Barbican. Photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

Classical music's greatest political butt-kissers: Dudamel, Gergiev and Rattle


On 8 March 2013, Gustavo Dudamel stood by the coffin of the Marxist autocrat Hugo Chavez and conducted the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in the Venezuelan national anthem. He assumed, like everyone else, that the coffin contained a fresh corpse:… Read more

James Blunt Photo: Getty

James Blunt's sense of entitlement is so palpable you could wear it as a hat


Only a fool would mess with James Blunt. As his Twitter followers know, he has a sharp wit, and, as befits a former officer in the Life Guards, he is always ready for a fight. Indeed, the grievous suffering around… Read more


Spotify: saint or sinner?


We have all read about the current woeful state of the CD industry — how it is 28 per cent down on last year, which was 25 per cent down on the previous year, and so on — but do… Read more


Confessions of an illegal downloader


I’ve never been into shoplifting, though I once had a friend who was. And, no, before you ask, I’m not using that old ‘friend’ device to hide my own identity. She was a girl I met at university. Bookshops were… Read more

2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 1

His lyrics are hopeless, his covers are catastrophic, yet I still love Bryan Ferry


There were two new albums I wanted for Christmas — the Bryan Ferry and the Pink Floyd — and to my delight I got both. Others may prefer the unknown and the experimental as presents, but at this time of… Read more

A pair of iron "castratori" are held in front of a painting of Italian Castrati singer Gaetano Guadagni Photo: Getty

Does anyone have the balls to bring back castrati?


One of the most complete bars to the authentic performance of both baroque opera and some renaissance polyphony is the current unavailability of castrati. There isn’t much to be done about it of course, but we might regret that we… Read more

"Andrew Mueller hates The Doors more than any band in the world" Photo: Getty

Why we love hating the music we hate as much as we love loving the music we love


With seconds to spare, I think I have chanced upon my music book of the year. Such choices are always frighteningly subjective, relying as they do on the narrow musical tastes of the chooser, his or her sex, age, education… Read more

Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Photo: Redferns/Getty

Why Church music is back in vogue - and squeaky-gate music has had its day


One of the growth areas of contemporary music is in setting sacred texts. It might be thought that I had a special interest in claiming this, but in fact what I am about to describe represents a sea change in… Read more

Christian Blackshaw Photo: Herbie Knott

Is this 65-year-old British pianist the next big thing in classical music?


Earlier this month the Wigmore Hall was sold out for a Schubert recital by a concert pianist whose only solo recordings consist of two volumes of the Mozart piano sonatas. That would be understandable if he were 23 years old… Read more

Tim Burgess of the Charlatans Photo: Getty

Is there anything a gospel choir can't cheer up?


‘I’m starting to think that all of the world’s major problems can be solved with either oyster sauce or backing vocals.’ That was Brian Eno writing in his diary one evening, after a long day’s thinking and maybe a glass… Read more

The Shanghai Jiao Tong University Student Choir: one of several choirs springing up in China dedicated to the Western classical tradition

Peter Phillips is mugged by a gang of Praetorius-loving six-year-old girls in China


We have read about the remarkable opening up of China in recent years: how many people live there and how good they are at business, perhaps finding the prospect of them rushing into our world rather daunting. However, a part… Read more

Composer Alexander Glazunov Photo: Getty

The drunk conductor who ruined Rachmaninov’s career


Would musical history have turned out differently if Alexander Glazunov hadn’t been smashed out of his wits when he conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor? The best of Glazunov’s own neatly carpentered symphonies hover… Read more

Steve Howe of Yes Photo: Redferns via Getty

Why Yes are still the funniest rock band in the world (although Radiohead are catching up)


My favourite comment about the Scottish referendum came from the eminent comedian and novelist David Baddiel. ‘What if Yes wins, but due to a typographical error, the prog-rock band gets in and Jon Anderson becomes First Minister?’ You probably had… Read more

Consummately psychotic: Mark E. Smith of The Fall

If the idea of disturbing kraut-punk sung by a troll appeals, you'll love The Fall


I had a fair idea of what I was in for when I went to see The Fall at Brixton’s Electric last Friday. They’re a middle-aged band from Manchester, just like the Stone Roses, or the various incarnations of New… Read more

Christopher Hogwood Photo: DPA/PA Images

Christopher Hogwood: the absolutist of early music


The death of Christopher Hogwood has deprived the world of the most successful exponent of early music there has ever been, or is ever likely to be. It has also reduced by one the quartet of conductors who have been… Read more


Wedding music lives or dies at the hands of the organist


A few weeks ago I was at the perfect wedding. My young friend Will Heaven, a comment editor at the Telegraph, married the beautiful Lida Mirzaii, his girlfriend since university. The service was in Wardour Chapel in Wiltshire, a neoclassical… Read more

Kate Bush at her family home, 1978 Photo: Getty

The secret to a long and happy pop career? Don’t die


As everybody in the world except me seems to have seen Kate Bush’s live shows — against all apparent arithmetical sense — these have been gloomy weeks in the primary Berkmann residence. Even the mother of my children managed to… Read more

Jonathan Mills gives way next year for Fergus Linehan Photo: Getty

Enough ‘themes’ at festivals


One might have expected the streets of Edinburgh, especially at festival time, to bear some evidence of the political struggle currently engulfing our nation, but in fact there was none at all. Apparently, the arguments for and against independence have… Read more

Second coming: Kate Bush is now regarded with almost universal awe

Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo review: Still crazy after all these years


It says something about Kate Bush’s standing in the music world that, perhaps uniquely in the history of long-awaited live comebacks, nobody has suggested — or possibly even thought — that her motives might be financial. After all, this is… Read more

'Ashtray' Annie, 1956 Photo: Getty

‘Ashtray’ Annie Fischer was a piano giant. Why didn’t more people realise this?


This year marks the centenary of a pianist whom London orchestral players nicknamed ‘Ashtray Annie’. Only at the keyboard did she have a cigarette out of her mouth. Annie Fischer (1914–1995) was one of those female pianists who, despite their… Read more

Latitude Festival 2010: Day 1

My daughter wants to know why you haven't heard of the Jayhawks


One of the many delightful aspects of having children is that you can get them to do things you are too old, lazy or important to do yourself. My disinclination to attend any sort of music festival, owing to a… Read more

First night of The Proms, Royal Albert Hall Photo: Redferns/Getty

Was Elgar’s The Kingdom an attempt to write a religious Ring Cycle?


To go from the second day of the England v. India Test match at Lord’s to the Albert Hall for the opening night of the Proms was to make a journey that a chosen few might find enviable. Nonetheless, different… Read more

Handel's statue in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Photo: Getty

Is Handel’s Messiah anti-Semitic?


The Hallelujah Chorus crops up in the most unexpected places, says Michael Marissen in his new book about Handel’s Messiah. For example, it’s used in a TV ad ‘depicting frantic bears’ ecstatic relief in chancing upon Charmin toilet paper in… Read more

Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of US metal band Metallica perform at Glastonbury Photo: Getty

How do you like your pop: clean, dirty or downright soap-shy?


I am still listening to the new Coldplay album, and liking it more and more, and not just because everyone keeps telling me how terrible it is. There is perversity in all enthusiasm, for sure, but the unanimity of critical… Read more

Roger Wright

Roger Wright's legacy at Radio Three – and his one big mistake


Roger Wright’s precipitate departure from both Radio Three and the Proms came as a surprise. At first the news was that he would go at the end of the season, but then it became apparent he was leaving at the… Read more

Atmosphere - Glastonbury Festival

A Glastonbury adventure with Led Zeppelin, Lana del Rey, drug dealers – and my son


‘Charlie. E. Powder,’ said the friendly, helpful man working his way through the crowd during the mindblowing Friday-night headline set by the American dubstep DJ Skrillex. I looked wistfully at his man-bag of chemical  enhancers. Skrillex was good. Maybe the… Read more

Francesco Piemontesi Photo: Felix Broede

I think I've found the new Alfred Brendel


Can you tell how intelligent a musician is by listening to him play? Last year I discovered a recording of Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, a sprawling and spidery work that can fall apart even under the… Read more