Vaughan williams

A miniature rite of a very English spring: a Vaughan Williams rediscovery in Liverpool

Imagine a folk dance without music. Actually, you don’t have to: poke about on YouTube and you’ll find footage from 1912 (there’s music dubbed on, but it’s a silent film) of Vaughan Williams’s friend George Butterworth in full Morris fig, going through the moves with Cecil Sharp and a pair of pinafore-wearing gals. Note the precision of his movements, that big Kitchener moustache: how seriously Butterworth is taking it, four years before he stopped a bullet on the Somme. And they really were sincere, those folk song pioneers. The same modernising impulse drove Bartok on his song-collecting journeys at the opposite end of Europe, and in 1913 – two weeks

The joy of Franck’s Symphony in D Minor: BBCSO/Gabel, at the Proms, reviewed

In the Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes, a Broadway hoofer is forced to work at a community college, teaching classical music like some kind of square. He picks out a melody on the piano: ‘Whom was this written by?’ ‘By Caesar Frank!’ chorus the students. ‘Pronounce it Fronk,’ he corrects them; and the audience, presumably, laughed in recognition. This was 1936, and César Franck’s Symphony in D minor was a hugely popular concert hall warhorse. Now: not so much. According to the stats in the programme book for this BBC Prom, it was performed 36 times in 50 years at the Proms, before falling off a cliff in

Refined and dreamy: CBSO centenary concerts reviewed

For an orchestra to lose one anniversary concert may be regarded as unfortunate. To lose two? Welcome to 2020. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave its first ever concert on 5 September 1920. But that was only a warm-up, a sort of soft opening if you like. The big public fanfare came two months later, on 10 November 1920, when the all new ensemble descended on Birmingham Town Hall for an inaugural gala conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. The plan in Birmingham this year was to recreate both events, in lavish style. Well, life comes at you fast, doesn’t it? Go online, came the cry from 1,000 armchairs, but

Art tackles social distancing and, for once, actually wins: Philharmonia Sessions reviewed

First there were the home recitals: musicians playing solo Bach in front of their bookshelves, wonkily captured on iPhones. Next came the Zoom ensembles, and near-infinite quantities of editing time and digital processing power achieved what, for a millennium up until March this year, could be produced instantaneously by putting some musicians in the same room. In June, we had live chamber music relays from empty concert halls. And now, after what might be the longest enforced break many orchestras will ever have taken, we have socially distanced online symphonic concerts: the latest, and let’s hope final, manifestation of this godawful New Normal (you’ll know we’re back to the Old