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Lockdown listening with Michael Fuller

Our Interim Managing Director runs through some of the musical works he couldn’t live without.

Michael Fuller

It’s not exactly a desert island, since most of us have functioning internet connections, but we are certainly isolated from each other right now and it brings to mind the essential pieces you would turn to in such unusual and trying circumstances. Choosing the music is actually a really fun, and difficult thing to do! Of course the problem is that there is so much great music out there that it’s really impossible to choose just 10 pieces, so I’ve first of all bent the rules and included a number of compilations or “box sets” just so I could pile more great stuff in there. Having played so many of these pieces, the experience of having performed them makes the memories and times connected to them really strong.

I guess it’s not necessarily the music that’s your favourite, but the stuff you just couldn’t live without…

J.S. Bach Cello Suites

Bach is so fundamental to everything. At once both simple and complex, Bach always gives me the feeling of inevitability, like the notes couldn’t happen in any different order and sequence than exactly how he wrote them. If for cellists this is like climbing Everest then for Bass players it’s like going to the Moon. An endlessly rich and difficult challenge to practice and perform.


Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude

Mahler Symphonies

I really can’t narrow it down to one Mahler symphony as they are all so great, and all so different. It’s hard to beat the ending of Symphony no. 2 for a moment of spiritual affirmation…although the ending of no. 3 comes pretty darn close. And the end of Mahler 9 is transcendent in a completely different way, quietly fading into an unknown realm.


Mahler's Third Symphony | Esa-Pekka Salonen | Philharmonia Orchestra

Ravel Daphnis and Chloe, Part III, Lever du Jour

There is so much great French music that it would be criminal not to include something on my list. Rather than mention whole works or box sets there’s actually a particular moment in Daphnis and Chloe at the beginning of part 3. It depicts a sunrise and is just magical.


Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57 / Troisième partie - Lever du jour

Chopin Nocturnes

I love these moody, intimate pieces which are a world away from the big orchestral scores that populate most of the rest of this list. Personal favourites are B-flat minor, F minor, D-flat major, C-sharp minor.


Chopin: Nocturne No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 9 No. 1

Late Mozart Symphonies

There is just so much joy in Mozart. I love the 1st movement of Symphony No. 39 and the final movement of symphony 41 especially.


Mozart - Symphony n°39 - Philharmonia / Klemperer 1956

Strauss Tone Poems

The last 8 minutes of Death and Transfiguration…what else is there to say, really? It’s the “Transfiguration” bit…one of the all-time great musical moments. We’re due to play it with Santtu at the Proms this year…let’s hope it can happen.


Strauss: Death and Transfiguration (Klemperer)

Wagner Tristan und Isolde

This one is special to me because it was the first project I did as a member of the Philharmonia. Act II has some of the most sublime music ever written. There is so much great Wagner I had to pick one and playing Tristan with Esa-Pekka and the Philharmonia was an absolute career highlight.


Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Piano music of Gurdjieff/De Hartmann

This music represents a very special tradition, combining both east and west. It’s really sacred music but without being attached to any particular dogma.


The Music of Gurdjieff - de Hartmann

Schumann Kinderszenen, Träumerei

I remember Alice Sara Ott played this as an encore when my wife was pregnant with our daughter. I was just completely struck by its beauty and somehow I always associate with that period when I hear it.


Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15 - 7. Träumerei

Brahms Symphonies

They are all so wonderful but there are particular movements of these symphonies that are among the greatest music ever written, in my opinion. Personal favourites are the 1st movement of Symphony no. 1, the 4th movement of Symphony no. 2, the 2nd movement of Symphony no. 3, but everything Brahms wrote is beautifully crafted and deeply expressive.


Brahms - Symphony No.1, op.68 - Klemperer, Philharmonia