Lockdown Listening with John Wilson

John Wilson conducting on stage

This month, John Wilson, a regular guest conductor with the Philharmonia, shares his Lockdown Listening choices.

John Wilson conducts the first of three free online concerts, the Philharmonia Sessions, on Thursday 16 July at 7pm. Click here for more information.


John Ireland - Spring Will Not Wait

At the start of lockdown I listened only to solo piano music, I didn’t have much appetite for anything else for a couple of weeks. John Ireland’s music has held a deep fascination for me - I studied at the RCM with one of Ireland’s students, Alan Rowlands. Here he plays a short, quintessentially Ireland piece, Spring Will Not Wait.

Ravel - Daphnis et Chloe

Once it became apparent that we would all be spending our days at home, I decided to embark on a project I had been putting off for years - correcting all of the many thousands of errors in Ravel’s masterpiece, Daphnis et Chloe. I soon became thoroughly absorbed in this rather epic task and ended up completing a brand new edition of the whole ballet which I will be recording next year. Here’s the peerless Charles Munch conducting the Second Suite.

Johnston / Coslow - Cocktails for Two - sung by Keely Smith

Songs - in all their guises - have always been at the centre of my musical life. The great American songwriters from the first half of the last century gave us so many treasures and I’d never want to be without them. Last week my trombonist friend, Andy Wood, reminded me just how great Keely Smith is.

Elgar - The Dream of Gerontius

I’ve been making my way through all 109 discs of the new Warner Classics Barbirolli box set - a conductor whose work I come back to time and time again. There’s a fervour and intensity to his music making that is utterly compelling and this legendary performance of Elgar’s greatest work has, for me, no equal.

Adam Walker - Wigmore Hall recital

I’ve greatly enjoyed the Wigmore Hall lunchtime broadcasts; so much inspiring music making at a time when we needed it most. Adam Walker and James Baillieu were absolutely knockout in this flute and piano recital.

McHugh / Fields - Don’t Blame Me - played by Teddy Wilson

I love, love, love Teddy Wilson’s piano playing - I’ve had his solo piano discs on a loop for days...

Walton - Partita

Last year I got the Szell / Cleveland box set and just about every track is astonishing. Every facet of his famously exacting temperament shines through on each of the discs.

Debussy - Beau Soir

This is absolutely gorgeous fiddle playing. Janine Jansen is such a great artist with a sound like no-one else. Every note is a pearl.

Brahms - Variations on a Theme by Haydn

The Philharmonia 75th anniversary CD box set contains some really thrilling performances from a dazzling array of soloists and conductors - Karajan, Giulini, Klemperer, Kletzki and Cantelli among them - but the ones I’m most fascinated by are the concerts Toscanini gave with the orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 1952 which provide a wonderful snapshot of the Philharmonia Orchestra live on stage in its first decade.