Archive for March, 2009

Handel’s La Resurezzione, at the Barbican tonight

March 31, 2009
Handel’s La Resurezzione, at London’s Barbican tonight, was a two hour delight: exquisite, uplifting, life-affirming.

The star was Handel himself. He wrote this masterwork, only his second oratorio, in 1708, at the age of 22. It’s a lyrical, driving, compelling work, packed with engaging leitmotifs and stunning melodic runs.

Tonight’s other star was conductress Emmanuelle Haim and her fabulous chamber orchestra, Le Concert d’Astree. They were equal to the task of interpreting such great music. But, then, they always are.

The quintet of vocalists was most commanding when singing as a choir at the end of both parts. In the arias, bass Lorenzo Regazzo (Lucifer) and soprano Kate Royal (Magdalene) were magnificent.

Tonight’s Handel was the first of a trio of sacred music gigs for Easter that I’ll be attending. To come: Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Sunday, followed by St John Passion next Wednesday. Not bad for an atheist!

Rave on those Baroque master musos!

Gerry Smith

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Free download of Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, from new Bob Dylan album

March 30, 2009
Thanks to Peter Brookes and Martin Cowan for news of the free MP3 download of Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, the opening track from the new Bob Dylan album.

It’s available for 24 hours from bobdylan.com.

Hmm… interesting – with an unusually rich musical palette, it sounds like no other recent Dylan release. The lyrics, as always, will demand careful scrutiny, but they sound, on first hearing, like an intelligent, simple pop song.

Roll on album release date!

Gerry Smith

The 20 best classical divas?

March 27, 2009
Today’s edition of The Times has an intriguing ranking list of The 20 best classical divas, by Neil Fisher.

I’m a sucker for ranking lists, so I devoured this feature article and learned a lot, especially of new names to look out for like Veronique Gens.

Fisher’s list ranges from Katherine Jenkins at number 20 to Anna Netrebko in top spot.

Such listings are always subjective. I’ve seen most of the “divas” featured, and my list would be very different. I’d have Netrebko in, but not at number 1; ditto Gheorghiu, but not at 2. I’d promote Renee Fleming from 5 to 2, and Cecilia Bartoli from an absurd 7 to number 1.

For many of the other divas, I’d concur – though I’d exclude the three Brits – Jenkins, Kate Royal and Amanda Roocroft: sadly, “diva” and “Brit” are mutually exclusive in contemporary opera.

www.timesonline.co.uk

Gerry Smith

Handel and 1959 jazz: top music for grown-ups

March 25, 2009

There’s some enticing music for grown-ups being broadcast in the next 48 hours.

BBC Radio 3 continues its Handel Opera Cycle, the inspired season of all 42 operas, with Floridante, starring Music For Grown-Ups favourite American mezzo Joyce DiDonato; Thurs 26 March @ 1400.

And on Friday 27 March BBC4 TV airs an alluring new documentary, 1959 – The Year That Changed Jazz, looking at the effect of four LPs, by Miles, Dave Brubeck, Mingus, and Ornette Coleman; it’s on at 2200, repeated at 0120.

Like many BBC radio and TV programmes, you can also catch them online via iPlayer for a short period after transmission:

www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

 

 

Gerry Smith

Top 50+ rockpop artists

March 24, 2009
Thanks to Jan Slattery for sending the results of a reader poll in stylish Americana/Dadrock monthly Paste last July to find its readers’ favourite 50+ rockpop artists.

Paste readers’ top 5 were:

1. Dylan 23%
2. Tom Waits 15%
3= Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen 13%
5. Elvis Costello 9%

I get the art of four of them, but I’ve never understood the attraction of Tom Waits. This poll suggests I try harder.

Music For Grown-Ups’ own recent survey results: coming soon.

Gerry Smith

Astral Weeks Live in LA: fan broadcasts on Australian national radio

March 23, 2009
Thanks to Andrew Robertson who travelled from Adelaide to LA for the Hollywood Bowl Astral Weeks Live and reported in loving detail here on Music For Grown-Ups:

“I have just come back from doing an interview about Astral Weeks live at the Hollywood Bowl on The Music Show on Radio National down here in Oz.

“The weird thing is, because we have a half hour time difference between Adelaide and the east coast, I went live to air in the east coast, but because I was in the Adelaide studio, I heard the segment “live” in the car when I was driving home.

“Hard to tell what it’s like when you listen to yourself, but I think it came across well.

“It was a strange experience though, sitting in a small studio all alone with headphones on talking to someone in another state and knowing it was going live to air – listening to it afterwards it sounded like quite an intimate conversation, even though I couldn’t see him or read his body language.

“By the way, Andrew Ford, the presenter, was one of the authors of Speaking In Tongues, which imho is the best Van book going.

“Here’s a link to their website, where they tell me you can listen on line for the next four weeks:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/musicshow/

Third issue of MUSIC for GROWN-UPs Newsletter just circulated

March 20, 2009
The third issue of the re-launched MUSIC for GROWN-UPs Newsletter has just been circulated to subscribers. If you didn’t receive a copy and wish to ensure that you get future issues, please subscribe (free of charge) using the box in the left margin of the main website:

http://www.musicforgrown-ups.com/

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MUSIC for GROWN-UPs

celebrating great musicians:
from Sinatra to the Stones, Miles to Mozart, and Dylan to David Bowie.

Exclusive news and views, emailed free to subscribers on alternate Thursdays.
Editor: Gerry Smith (info@musicforgrown-ups.com)

MESSAGE TO SUBSCRIBERS:

Thanks to all readers who entered the competition to win a copy of Music For Grown-Ups, my new book, by nominating their Top 5 musicians. Please watch the website: the Top 5 Musicians For Grown-Ups will be revealed very soon.

Please continue to send me your news and views – of gigs you’ve enjoyed, new releases, and back catalogue discoveries – for posting on the web site for the benefit of your fellow grown-up music lovers.

Gerry Smith, Editor (email: info@musicforgrown-ups.com)

NEW on MUSIC for GROWN-UPs
to read the articles listed, please log on to http://www.musicforgrown-ups.com/

* Definitive Beethoven by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
* Buddy Holly’s great legacy
* New Bob Dylan album: revealing interview on Together Through Life
* Bach, Handel and The Smiths
* New Dylan CD – possibly Best Album Of 2009, according to MOJO

* Herbie Hancock on radio and TV next week
* Sacred music for Easter by Bach, Handel and Haydn at King’s College Cambridge
* Bryn Terfel and Anja Kampe shine brightly in Wagner’s Flying Dutchman
* Free MUSIC for GROWN-UPs Newsletter re-launched – second issue

PREVIOUSLY on MUSIC for GROWN-UPs
http://www.musicforgrownups.com/

* The new Bob Dylan album, according to Rolling Stone
* Mozart, Handel, Purcell: a classical feast on Radio 3
* Leonard Cohen Live in London – new CD and DVD
* Jim Moray last night
* Van Morrison’s new release – Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl

* John McLaughlin’s brilliant Corea
* Is Bob Dylan losing credibility? A resounding no!
* Free MUSIC for GROWN-UPs Newsletter re-launched
* New albums from Springsten, Morrison, Morrissey… : Encore #1

* New albums from Springsten, Morrison, Morrissey, and maybe Dylan and Young
* Bartok, Baaba Maal, Bob Dylan
* Your last chance to win a copy of new Music For Grown-Ups book
* A fine Buddy Holly documentary
* Jose Carreras and Roberta Flack play Adelaide

* Morrissey, Dylan, Beethoven
* Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Jeff Beck
* John Martyn RIP
* Bob Dylan, American folk, Handel
* Astral Weeks – live

MOST VIEWED RECENT ARTICLE on MUSIC for GROWN-UPs
http://www.musicforgrown-ups.com/

Buddy Holly’s great legacy

Idly browsing the supermarket CD racks to see what pap the populace is currently wasting its money on, my attention was grabbed by The Very Best Of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, a new 50 track double CD retailing at under £10.

I was probably attracted by the strikingly lovely cover artwork – red background to a pair of those geeky “library frame” spectacles which were Buddy’s trademark.

But it was also the sheer surprise of seeing a Holly disc in the top 50 racks.

Then the penny dropped – it’s the 50th anniversary of the Texan rockabilly’s death, so a prime catalogue exploitation opportunity for whichever multinational conglomerate now owns the legacy.

Along with the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, Holly created the definitive late ’50s soundscape (you can forget Elvis). The new album is a fine sampler of Buddy Holly’s great art (track list below) – this disc has his best-known work.

But there is an earlier single disc album of the same name; it has the first 37 of these tracks and is all the Holly most people will ever need. As it’s widely available – eg from play.com – at a mere £5, it’s a better choice, and highly recommended.

The Very Best Of Buddy Holly & The Crickets (2009)
Disc: 1
1. Heartbeat
2. That’ll Be The Day
3. Peggy Sue… (…continued)

(You can see the full text online at: http://www.musicforgrown-ups.com/)

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(c) Gerry Smith 2009

Definitive Beethoven by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

March 19, 2009
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony (Barbican, last Saturday) was definitive – one of those rare gigs which leave you feeling “it just doesn’t get any better than this”.

The band, 70-odd players led by octogenarian maestro Bernard Haitink, was richly melodic, feverishly paced. They did justice to Beethoven’s great piece. The strings were manic, the horns deeply moving. You just didn’t want the teasing final movement to end – just one more tease, please…

In a recent critics’ poll for Gramophone magazine, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra topped the list – “Best orchestra in the world” – out-ranking the Berlin Phil, the Vienna Phil and the Chicago SO, among others. At the Barbican, you could see why: power, pace, subtlety. They were all into the music, performing as one.

But the first half of the concert had been a drag. Mozart’s Symphony 35 (“Haffner”) was missable, unengaging. Debussy’s La Mer was mediocre, meandering. A dispiriting experience all round.

At the interval, tempted to make a quick exit to miss the second half, I mused on my general indifference to orchestral music – my classical tastes veer strongly towards vocal, notably opera. Orchestral concerts I’ve attended have been, too often, Dullsville-on-Stilts: it’s easy to see why classical audiences can be mistaken for a WW2 vets convention.

Saturday’s Beethoven performance challenged these silly prejudices. Orchestral music this good is as life enhancing as any other genre. Like any gig for grown-ups, it just depends on the set list. And the band.

Gerry Smith

Buddy Holly’s great legacy

March 18, 2009
Idly browsing the supermarket CD racks to see what pap the populace is currently wasting its money on, my attention was grabbed by The Very Best Of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, a new 50 track double CD retailing at under £10.

I was probably attracted by the strikingly lovely cover artwork – red background to a pair of those geeky “library frame” spectacles which were Buddy’s trademark.

But it was also the sheer surprise of seeing a Holly disc in the top 50 racks.

Then the penny dropped – it’s the 50th anniversary of the Texan rockabilly’s death, so a prime catalogue exploitation opportunity for whichever multinational conglomerate now owns the legacy.

Along with the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, Holly created the definitive late ‘50s soundscape (oh, forget Elvis). The new album is a fine sampler of Buddy Holly’s great art (track list below) – it has his best-known work.

But there is an earlier, single disc, album of the same name; it has the first 36 of these tracks and is all the Holly most people will ever need. As it’s widely available – eg from play.com – at a mere £5, it’s a better choice, and highly recommended.

The Very Best Of Buddy Holly & The Crickets (2009)
Disc: 1
1. Heartbeat
2. That’ll Be The Day
3. Peggy Sue
4. Oh, Boy!
5. Rave On
6. Think It Over
7. Brown Eyed Handsome Man
8. Love’s Made A Fool Of You
9. True Love Ways – Buddy Holly
10. Raining In My Heart
11. Everyday
12. Wishing
13. It’s So Easy
14. Listen To Me
15. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
16. Words Of Love
17. I’m Gonna Love You Too
18. Well…All Right
19. Bo Diddley
20. Blue Suede Shoes
21. Shake Rattle & Roll
22. What To Do
23. Midnight Shift
24. Love Is Strange
25. Crying, Waiting, Hoping

Disc: 2
1. Peggy Sue Got Married
2. Maybe Baby
3. Early In The Morning
4. You’re So Square (Baby, I Don’t Care)
5. Reminiscing
6. Valley Of Tears
7. Learning The Game
8. Look At Me
9. Fool’s Paradise
10. Take Your Time
11. Not Fade Away
12. Blue Monday
13. Girl On My Mind
14. Love Me
15. Baby Won’t You Come Out Tonight
16. Rock-A-Bye Rock
17. Send Me Some Lovin’
18. Moondreams
19. You’ve Got Love
20. Ready Teddy
21. You’re The One
22. You Are My One Desire
23. Changing All Those Changes
24. That Makes It Tough
25. It’s Too Late

Gerry Smith

New Bob Dylan album: revealing interview on Together Through Life

March 16, 2009
Bob Dylan is very forthcoming in the first interview about his new album, Together Through Life, just posted on bobdylan.com.

He agrees with interviewer Bill Flanagan that it has a “Chess feel – mood… intensity… more of a romantic edge (than Modern Times)… I see that my audience now doesn’t particular (sic) care what period the songs are from…”

(Bill Flanagan wrote the liner notes for the DYLAN 3CD box.)

Together Through Life is released in the US on Tuesday 28 April, so presumably the day before in Europe. Amazon.com is already taking orders for “regular” cd, deluxe cd and vinyl editions (thanks to Peter Brookes for his link).

Gerry Smith