Lockdown Listening

With restrictions being lifted later this summer and performances returning to our schedules, we close our Lockdown Listening series with a selection of favourites.

Thank you to all of our contributors who joined us over these last 15 months of newsletters: Michael Fuller, Lord Mervyn King, Victoria Irish, John Wilson, Alexander van Ingen, Saul Nathan, Jakub Hrůša, Cheremie Hamilton-Miller, Matthew Hurlock, Lucy Drever, Julia Zilberman, Kira Doherty, and Byron Fulcher.


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 - Michael Fuller, April 2020

Claude Debussy: Prelude No.8: La fille aux cheveux de lin

I grew up listening to my Mother teaching the piano and also practising. My Mother is a great pianist and I remember her practicing this and it will always have a really special place in my heart and is essential to my list - Victoria Irish, June 2020

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 - John Wilson, July 2020

Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack

In the context of “Lockdown Listening” this soundtrack is one that has always stayed with me as I listened to it repeatedly while I was living in rural China in 1988-89, ultimately experiencing the chaos of the Democracy Movement there. I always enjoyed the play’s tweaking of theatrical pretences combined with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enjoyable music. This soundtrack has long been an enjoyable distraction to me! - Matthew Hurlock, December 2020

Schoenberg & Schubert

For an hour and twenty minutes, treat yourself to another world, something extraordinarily special both in the music and the performance. Schoenberg’s Verkläte Nacht and Schubert’s String Quintet, performed by a chamber ’super-group’ led by Janine Jansen. Many of us shy away from Schoenberg - his second-period reputation for atonality looms large - but not only is that period well worth exploring, his earlier works extended late German Romanticism in a wholly tonal way. This really is an extraordinary recording by some extraordinary musicians - Alexander Van Ingen, August 2020

Bach: Solo Cello Suites

I was brought up on a ‘daily diet’ by my Viola teacher, David Takeno comprising scales, exercises and studies, solo Bach, excerpts, then finally any concertos or pieces. The Bach was allowed in the middle because it is, in his wise words, ‘Food for the soul’. Much needed relief when the practice goes on for four to six hours a day! Many musicians I know have found themselves returning to similar well-learned patterns of practice for the sake of sanity over this lockdown period. Although having a family to look after does make it difficult to put in quite that many hours now, playing and listening to Bach never fails to offer soothing respite - Cheremie Hamilton-Miller, November 2020

Mahler: Symphony No. 8

I have loved Mahler from my lazy years as a teenager. What better way to while away an afternoon in the summer holidays than listening to Mahler on full blast on what we quaintly called a “hi-fi”? The closer I have got to know the workings of the Philharmonia over the last 5 years, the more I am acutely aware of the risk in putting on lavish performances. Imagine, Mahler commandeered 858 singers and 171 instrumentalists at the premier of his staggering 8th Symphony. More donations please!!! - Saul Nathan, September 2020

Mozart: Symphony No. 40

In September 1992, not long after I joined the Bank of England, speculation forced sterling to leave the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) on Black Wednesday. Two days before, Alan Budd at the Treasury and I were sent to Frankfurt to try to persuade the Bundesbank that sterling should be allowed to stay in the ERM. As we arrived, thunder and lightning of a truly Wagnerian kind crashed overhead. Our diplomatic mission was not surprisingly unsuccessful. But my meeting with Otmar Issing, then chief economist at the Bundesbank, led to a lifelong friendship and regular visits with him and his wife to the Mozart Festival in his home town of Würzburg. The Festival is held in the Residenz where the Tiepolo frescoes provide the perfect setting for Mozart - Lord King of Lothbury, May 2020

Miloslav Kabeláč: Mystery of Time

A piece which I heard on radio for the first time without knowing what it was. I couldn’t stop listening - and experience that kind of a feeling until this day. A musical description of cosmic laws and powers. A monument of abstract forms, free of any boundaries of word or plot descriptions. The composer’s positive protest against constraints of so called “social realism”, the official doctrine of the communist aesthetics. An example of that power pure music without words can have if it’s so marvellously composed. I hope it is a discovery for you - as it was for me years ago and, in a fascinating way, is to all orchestras and public listeners to which I brought the piece. It has never yet failed once - Jakub Hrůša, October 2020

Old Russian Romance: Don’t leave me, stay with me

It always fails me to be able to choose my favourite but it was Julian Milone from Philharmonia and his wife Lila who reminded me of this great piece during the first lockdown. This has truly pierced my soul, it brought me closer to those I was so missing in the lockdown and it underscored the pain of being apart - Julia Zilberman, March 2021

Solange: Losing You

I, like most, have found lockdown really hard- my job is all about people, and my job is incredibly important to me. So sometimes at the end of a stressful zoom day, I put on this song, and have a wee dance. I think Solange is one of the most creative artists out there, and I’m constantly in awe of her vision as an artist. And this song in particular makes me smile - Lucy Drever Friday, February 2021

Gladiator: Film Music

This is played in the car quite often. I played on this soundtrack and it's just huge and exciting. The film, of course is epic. Hans Zimmer is now much more famous too so it's great to have a been a small part of this - Byron Fulcher, June 2021

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 / Philharmonia Orchestra & Vladimir Ashkenazy (2018)

For my last piece, I’ve chosen something a bit closer to home. In 2015 and 2016, the Philharmonia recorded the three Rachmaninoff Symphonies live for Signum Classics conducted by another world famous pianist and conductor whose sudden retirement from the concert platform was announced last year. Vladimir Ashkenazy holds a central and distinguished place in the annals of classical music, and is much loved by the Philharmonia. His musical integrity coupled with his unique conducting style lends extra levels of energy and awareness to these performances, and for a listener, they come as close to capturing the feeling of being in the hall as you can get. In them, you can make out that unmistakable link between orchestra and audience that makes the live performances of the Philharmonia so special. They are not perfect. But they are real, and they are joyous - Kira Doherty, April 2021

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