Requiem for Mozart – part 2

Posted on by 5:4 in Drama/Documentary | Leave a comment

Part 2 of Requiem for Mozart, “I will no longer be a fiddler!”, was broadcast on 26 November 1991. It picks up the story in 1777, with Mozart’s decision to relinquish his post in Salzburg, his eye set on securing a more notable position in Paris. Thus begins a fairly tempestuous time in Mozart’s life, including the beginnings of his infatuation with singer Aloysia Weber (while in Mannheim, a visit en route that ultimately came to nothing) and the death of his mother. Leopold positively explodes with anger at his son’s over-blown assessment of Fräulein Weber, while in Paris Mozart suffers unhelpful, even obstructive treatment at the hands of a motley collection of establishment figures. We also hear Mozart’s oft-quoted account of the reaction to the last movement of his Symphony No. 31 (nicknamed “Paris”); opting for an atypically quiet opening for the finale, he recalls how “everybody said ‘hush’, and then, at the forte, everyone clapped their hands!” Read more

Tags:

Requiem for Mozart – part 1

Posted on by 5:4 in Drama/Documentary | Leave a comment

Anyone with an interest in Radio 3 can’t have failed to notice the BBC’s ongoing The Genius of Mozart season, devoting the first dozen days of 2011 to nothing but Mozart’s music, incorporating (they claim) “every note he wrote”. Not the most imaginative idea ever, but Mozart’s hardly a poor choice for a gimmick such as this, and so here’s a peripheral contribution of my own to the Beeb’s celebratory fortnight.

Broadcast over four weeks in late November/early December 1991, Requiem for Mozart was a four-part series commemorating and coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death. Subtitled “A Life in Letters and Music”, and compiled by none other than the great Stanley Sadie, the series dramatises the Mozart family correspondence, with letters from Wolfgang (played superbly by Alex Jennings) not surprisingly being featured most prominently. Accompanied by works of Mozart (and, occasionally, others) that fit the ongoing chronology, it’s a surprisingly vivid and successful venture, which makes it all the more strange that, to my knowledge, it has never been broadcast since and doesn’t appear to be included in the Genius of Mozart season. Therefore, i’ll be featuring the broadcasts on 5:4 over the next four nights. Read more

Tags:

Mix Tape #19 : Best of 2010

Posted on by 5:4 in Best of the Year, Mix Tapes | 3 Comments

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It’s 1 January, which means it’s 5:4‘s birthday, and today we’re three years old. Having spent several days looking back on last year’s most outstanding releases, what better way could there be to start the new year than with a new mix tape, featuring one track from each of my forty best albums of 2010. As you’d expect, it’s another extremely eclectic mix, and this time lasts a little over three-and-a-half hours. If you like the mix (and how could you not?!), please support the artists and buy their excellent music.

Here’s the tracklisting in full (click the image for high-resolution artwork): Read more

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Best Albums of 2010 (Part 2)

Posted on by 5:4 in Best of the Year | 5 Comments
* Please note this list has how been superseded by the one on the Best Albums of the Years page *

Bringing the year to a very happy end, here’s the second twenty of my forty Best Albums of 2010:

20 | Anders Brødsgaard – Galaxy
In terms of CD releases, precious little contemporary instrumental music has made any kind of impression this year, which i find rather worrying. Not so with Anders Brødsgaard, whose 40-minute orchestral work Galaxy, composed over 10 years ago, finally found a release on the innovative Danish Dacapo Records label. A work of that scale, composed as a single movement span, is likely to put off some people, but it’s such a relief to hear music not constrained by the kind of generic limitations that afflict so much new music. Brødsgaard lives up to his cosmic title; drawing on a plethora of compositional ideologies, and structuring them on a spiral, he’s created one of the richest orchestral works i’ve heard in a long time.

19 | Get Well Soon – Vexations
Neil Hannon pissed away his credentials as a pop sophisticate long ago, and the mantle has fallen to Konstantin Gropper, whose Get Well Soon project has been gradually making a name for itself over the last few years. His unique brand of instrumental pop, akin to Belle and Sebastian but more bullish, is brilliantly displayed on Vexations, the lyrics of which are worthy of a lengthy discussion in their own right. i wrote at length about this album back in March, and my views have, if anything, intensified; ever serious but always accessible, Gropper’s melodies are utterly exquisite, augmented by the deftest of instrumental accompaniments. Read more

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Best Albums of 2010 (Part 1)

Posted on by 5:4 in Best of the Year | Leave a comment
* Please note this list has how been superseded by the one on the Best Albums of the Years page *

Continuing the 5:4 retrospective, and after probably far too much deliberation, here are the first twenty of my forty Best Albums of 2010 (to be concluded tomorrow):

40 | Jenks Miller and Nicholas Szczepanik – American Gothic
Barely suppressed abrasion is the undercurrent throughout this fruitful collaboration. The context for it couldn’t be more gentle; “Sin Killers”, for example, suspends the rough edges as in a viscous liquid. But when the noise senses freedom, it’s like a bull at a gate; at first, in “White Light”, it emerges in fits and starts, but ultimately runs amok in final track “Cranberry Sauce”, turning its exquisitely beautiful stasis into an overwhelming torrent of effluvial overdrive.

39 | Supersilent – 10
Last year’s 9 proved conclusively that there was life for Supersilent after Jarle Vespestad’s departure, and its successor goes even farther. It’s Arve Henriksen’s astonishing trumpet-work that dominates this album, by turns evanescent (“10.1”), claustrophobic (“10.6”), and lyrical (“10.8” – one of this year’s most beautiful tracks), but at no point sounding remotely like a conventional trumpet. The evocative use of organ and electronics takes turns in both background and foreground; restraint is the watchword, though, only very occasionally protruding more forcefully, as in the bass thuds of the penultimate track. Read more

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Best EPs of 2010

Posted on by 5:4 in Best of the Year | Leave a comment

And so it finally begins, the lengthy annual retrospective of all that was best in 2010. As usual, let’s start with my run-down of the 10 Best EPs of the year:

10 | dB Soundworks – Steambirds (iOS) Soundtrack
Something of an oddity in this list, perhaps, but Danny Baranowsky’s synthetic score for the splendid iPhone game Steambirds is incredibly effective. He’s managed to capture perfectly the atmosphere and mannerisms suitable for the game’s airborne antics, bringing to mind the soundtracks of any number of British WWII films. The four-minute “Main Theme”, in particular, is full of variety, never composing by numbers, while the additional “Boss Track” takes the invention even further, supplemented by two splendid miniatures, corresponding to success or failure in the game. It’s available free (or not, if you’re feeling generous) via the dB Soundworks Bandcamp page. While you’re there, check out Baranowsky’s music for Canabalt, also stirring stuff.

9 | David Lynch – Good Day Today/I Know
Okay, hands up anyone who predicted David Lynch would bring out a single this year? Keep your hand up if you also knew it would be a delicate electronic dance number. No-one? Defying expectations with his typical enthusiasm and flair, Lynch’s twin A-side took everyone by surprise, maybe even Lynch himself. Über-processed vocals, autotuned to the nth degree, laid over a brisk, unimposing disco beat, it could all have been horribly cheesy. But Lynch somehow pulls off experiments like this, not only sounding like no-one else, but actually making it kind of cool. The more laid-back “I Know” is even better, more obviously Lynchian, ominous and rather unnerving. Read more

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols (King’s College, Cambridge): Jan Sandström, June Nixon, Judith Weir, Einojuhani Rautavaara – Christmas Carol (World Première) & Marcel Dupré

Posted on by 5:4 in Advent & Christmas, Premières | 3 Comments

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!

As is the custom on 5:4, here are highlights from yesterday’s broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, which took place on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Day broadcast is always preferable, as it includes the final organ voluntaries.

In a delicious repeat from last year, is Jan Sandström‘s gorgeously dreamy rendering of Det är en ros utsprungen; Praetorius’ original music is practically unrecognisable, but when the result is as rapturously beautiful as this, who cares? Pieces like this prove best how good the King’s College choir really is, negotiating their way through the dense shifting clouds of notes apparently effortlessly.

The occasion continues to be staunchly male-dominated, so it’s refreshing and badly-needed to hear an arrangement by June Nixon (a name probably unfamiliar to many; she is in fact a well-known organist in her native Australia). Her setting of The holly and the ivy, which turns it into a joyous dancing romp, is so much better than its traditional version that it deserves to be heard much, much more often. Read more

Tags: , , , ,