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Music

Latitude Festival 2010: Day 1

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

Music

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?

Music

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?

Music

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?

Music

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

Music

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

Music

‘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

Music

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

Coldplay's Chris Martin Photo: Getty

Has any band of the past 20 years been as consistently irritating as Coldplay?

Music

It’s a long time, a very, very long time, since I bought a Coldplay album. Has any band of the past 20 years been so consistently irritating? Oasis were aggressively annoying, which isn’t the same thing. I quite liked the… Read more

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Why it's good to remember that Bach could be a tedious old windbag

Music

When I was first learning about classical music, 50 years ago, the scene was more streamlined than it is now. Beethoven was king, with Brahms and Mozart next in line, and Haydn slowly establishing himself. Mahler was the new kid… Read more

British pianist Clifford Curzon Photo: Getty

I could be dead soon. What should I listen to?

Music

If I live as long as my father, I’ll be checking out on 9 December 2017. Since every man in my family drops dead of a heart attack at a ridiculously young age, it’s not inconceivable. I mean, obviously the… Read more

What's your guilty pleasure? Photo: Getty

One man’s guilty pleasure is another’s palpable greatness

Music

The film critic Anne Billson wrote a typically pugnacious piece recently about the phrase ‘guilty pleasures’, which has spread like Japanese knotweed beyond its origins in pop music and taken root throughout popular culture. In film a guilty pleasure would… Read more

London International A Cappella Choral Competition, held at St John’s Smith Square Photo: Matthew Andrews

British choirs can’t match up to those from abroad

Music

To curate a festival these days is to put oneself in the firing line. There is every chance that all one will earn is the charge of stirring up apathy. It is a risk; and there will be no knowing… Read more

A scene painting from Parsifal by Paul Joukovski - 1882 (Photo: Richard Wagner Museum Bayreuth/ Dagli Orti)

In the mood for Parsifal, my Passiontide fare

Music

This week, I have been mostly listening to Parsifal. Not the St Matthew Passion, which is my usual Passiontide fare. And, boy, it’s been quite an experience. You have to be in the mood for the Bach, but for the… Read more

DJ Frankie Knuckles (Photo: Claire Greenway/Getty)

Pop has become a conservative art form and an old man’s game

Music

It is coming to something when relatively young pop stars die not of drugs or misadventure but, essentially, of old age and decay. Frankie Knuckles, the house DJ and producer, breathed his last recently at the age of just 59,… Read more

W H Auden (1907 - 1973), British-born American poet and essayist Photo: Getty

The mean, bullying maestro is extinct – or should be

Music

W.H.Auden once wrote: ‘Real artists are not nice people. All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue’ — which puts those who aspire to be artists in a bit of a quandary. Is it a… Read more

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin conducting his 14 year-old son and his two sisters Photo: Getty

Menuhin is the world’s toughest violin competition. Why is it packed with Asians, and no Brits?

Music

‘The truth is,’ says Gordon Back, lowering his voice, ‘that if the violin finalists from the BBC Young Musician of the Year were to enter the Menuhin Competition, they wouldn’t make it to the first round.’ Not through the first… Read more

Pharrell Williams performs 'Happy' at the Oscars Photo: Getty

Addicted to Vole

Music

Earworm: what a wonderful word. It describes, as nothing else quite can, the effect a really invasive melody can have on your consciousness. Hear the song once and you will hear it again and again, on a loop in your… Read more

Music

Less subsidy means better music

Music

One of the unlooked-for side effects of the financial crisis has been what might be called the desocialising of music funding. Whereas once many arts organisations could expect to survive solely on public money, just recently there has been an… Read more

Choristers at Westminster Abbey, 1962 Photo: Getty

Are hymns dying? 

Music

I love a good hymn, so long as I’m not expected to sing it. Lusty declarations of faith sound ridiculous coming out of my mouth and embarrass the hell out of me, so I pretend that I’ve forgotten to pick… Read more

Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout Photo: Redferns

Prefab Sprout's comeback gives hope to the over-50s

Music

Every musical career has its own narrative, and most of them include at least one comeback. To come back, you first have to go away; then you have to stay away; and finally, when everyone has forgotten your name, you… Read more

Claudio Abbado (Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty)

How Claudio Abbado bridged old and new

Music

Not long ago the great conductors of classical music were general practitioners. They expected to give satisfactory interpretations of music written from the beginnings of symphonic composition to the present day, and audiences took it for granted that, if they… Read more

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Goodbye, Claudio Abbado. You helped us glimpse eternity

Music

Fellini’s credo ‘the visionary is the only true realist’ could also be applied to the life of Claudio Abbado, who died earlier this week in Bologna at the age of 80. It would be wrong to think of Abbado as… Read more

Sir Clifford Curzon playing at his home in Highgate Photo:  Getty

I know how to cure my music addiction

Music

About 30 years ago, not long before he died, my father bought an LP of Sir Clifford Curzon playing Schubert’s last piano sonata, in B flat D960. He was slightly defensive about the purchase. You see, he already had a… Read more

This charming man: Lang Lang rehearsing with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic

Lang Lang: You can't compare Bach and Schoenberg, or Justin Timberlake and The Beatles

Music

As Lang Lang walked from the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in November, a little girl emerged from the audience to embrace him. It was a disarming moment that seemed to symbolise the impact of the 31-year-old Chinese pianist.… Read more

Mariah Carey (Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty)

All I want next Christmas is new Christmas songs 

Music

Three months until spring. Four months until the start of the cricket season. And only nine months until the radio starts playing ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ again. Or have you heard enough of Christmas songs by now? Many of us had… Read more

Richard Strauss at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (Photo Erich Auerbach/Getty)

Could this be the year of C.P.E. Bach?

Music

Looking through the list of composers who celebrate some sort of anniversary in 2014 is a depressing business. I don’t think I have ever seen such an anonymous collection of small-time nobodies, and yet for them to appear on a… Read more

‘The Nativity’, 1470–1485, by Piero della Francesca

The splendour of the English carol

Music

The most celebrated Christmas carol, ‘Silent Night’, belongs to Austria. Father Joseph Mohr, the priest at Oberndorf, a small village near Salzburg, wrote it in 1818. Set to music by Franz Xaver Gruber, it was sung on Christmas Eve at… Read more

'Christy Moore's (above)  Motherland is a full three-course meal of melody, folk-rock with a soulful edge' Photo: Redferns via Getty

Albums of the year? Some years we can answer it, some years we can't 

Music

Albums of the year? What a good question. Some years we can answer it, some years we can’t. The essence of pop music is its newness, its absolute determination to upgrade itself and keep on upgrading itself, often beyond anyone’s… Read more