The greatest female composer you’ve never heard of

One of the most intriguing piano concertos of the late 19th century is unknown to the public – and no wonder: so far as I can work out, it has only been recorded once, on a speciality label devoted to neglected French repertoire. As I write this, there are only 11 copies available from Amazon and I recommend that you grab one quickly, because the Second Piano Concerto of Marie Jaëll (1846-1925) demands repeated listening. If you want proof women of the era could move beyond well-carpentered clichés, listen to Marie Jaëll The concerto’s harmonic language is superficially conventional: sweeping tunes decorated by arm-swinging arpeggios. But the melodies are lopsided

Alan Rusbridger on the joys of four-hand piano

One of the few social activities not yet prohibited under lockdown laws is four-handed piano playing. I don’t mean sitting side-by-side at one keyboard. That would risk infection and, if snitched on, the possibility of sharing a prison cell with Piers Corbyn. No, the four hands must be divided equally across two pianos, and the instruments must be end-to-end. Safely isolated in this manner — perhaps three or four metres apart — the ivories can be tickled for as long as you want. I’ve been a devoted four-hand piano player all my life — due entirely to the limitations of the two I was born with. On one keyboard I

Why we love requiems

At some point during the 20th century death disappeared. The dying were discreetly removed from our communities and homes, taken to hospitals with short memories and wipe-clean walls. Mourning blacks faded before vanishing altogether; the elaborate funeral monuments of the 19th century shrugged off curlicues and cherubs and arranged themselves into unobtrusive, apologetic sobriety. Coffins — gauchely literal — gave way to the more tasteful euphemism of the ash-filled urn. Only concert halls bucked the trend. Suppressed from everyday life and language, death found a different outlet. How many choral societies or symphony choruses today go a year without performing a requiem mass? How often do Classic FM or Radio