Posts Tagged ‘Classical’

ARNOLD BAX

6 May 2011

[Pic of Arnold Bax on cover of book]Years and years ago, I went to see the White sands of Morar with a girl called Barbara. This short trip was actually a long weekend that became My Scottish Tour.

We stayed at Fort William, travelled to Oban, and returned through Perth and Balmoral.  Apart from a wee run to the Electric Brae, that has been the sum total of my Scottish travels in my half-century.  Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against Scotland — nor England, for that matter (I know little of England too), but I will not get lost in Rome, London or Paris due to the weather, the food, the history, the museums and music and art…

Anyway.

Morar.

The reason I was talked into this Scottish Trip was because of Arnold Bax.

Arnold Bax was a composer I was studying at the time.  Not very well known even today, he was pretty famous once. In 1942, Bax was appointed Master of the King’s Musick, and he composed for the Queen’s coronation.

I was actually quite impressed with Morar, albeit on a blustery day, it had white sands, greeny blue sea, and palm trees, so our photographs (on my trusty Olympus OM10, with telephoto lens and filters) made it look like we were on a south sea tropical island!

Back to Bax. I have no problem with his Irishness, nor his romanticism; I think this is because he is always nostalgic for me.  Bax is my childhood, or at least that syrupy sweet, early television version of it.  There is something of the Whisky Galore, or Ealing Studio film about Bax that takes me to “that place”.

Through my study, I discovered that he was oddly in turmoil — receiving awards from the Queen (UK) pulled against his Irishness, and his music was being slated for being “old Fashioned” and melodic. He apparently never recovered from a relationship with a Ukranian lass, and he was influenced by quite a lot of disparate, but northern European, music, and I like that; I like that he was pretty conservative, and yet somehow he was the rebel. I like that Bax succeeded in his lifetime, but that it made little difference, other than to unsettle him.

In short, I had a lot of time for Arnold Bax.  I think he is all-too-quickly dismissed and forgotten.  Maybe one day Bax will be back, and we can hear his lush, large scale music more often.

The very least I owe Bax is that he made me do a lovely sunny mini tour of Scotland, during which I took a great many superb photographs! In fact, writing this has encouraged me to both dig out some Bax, and to consider visiting places nearer to home — maybe England, or Scotland again?  I’ve heard Yorkshire is lovely, as well as the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall. Hmm. We shall see…

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JACQUES LOUSSIER

15 March 2011

I have always loved Jacques Loussier’s piano playing, his interpretation, his sheer talent and inquisitiveness. Now my wife has found him, he’s back in my life in a bigger way.

I guess it started for me when I was listening to “Weather Report” back in the day, and the rival fusion super group was “Return To Forever”.  This led me to Chic Corea, and through a few superb players, like Joe Sample or Oscar Petersen, to the great Keith Jarrett at Kóln 1975. My wife got turned on to Jarrett through this work, and it became a real staple in our musical diets.

It wasn’t much of a leap from Jarrett to the great Jacques Loussier.

I used to have his famous Bach stuff, but now I only have his Beethoven variations, the Allegretto From Symphony 7, and now that she loves it, we share the appreciation.  He is all over YouTube and Wikipedia. He was born in 1934, so he’s nearly 80 at the time of writing this, but he’s still cool. Very Cool.

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NARCISCO YEPES

30 November 2010

Rodrigo’s ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ was the first time I heard Mr Yepes play.  I still have the vinyl LP, and it is his version that I think of as the standard or benchmark.

I always found it odd that Yepes was not rated properly.  He had a very clean technique, but that doesn’t mean he was emotionless!

I have found this sort of thing a lot with guitar-players and critics over the years — they compare and compete.  The fact is that Yepes had to be compared with Segovia or Bream, which is unfair as they are so exceptional.  Yepes died in 1997, Segovia in 1987 and Bream is still around, so they were contemporaries.  Perhaps Yepes would not be accused to being detached and emotionless in another context.  I think he suffered from the comparison — and yet they did their own distinct things.

Yepes pioneered the 10-string guitar and transcribed loads of lute stuff.  The impact is clear today with the likes of  Dominic Frasca — or even with harp guitars of the likes of Andy McKee and Antoine Dufour, or more traditional work by Pasquale Taraffo, Mario Maccaferri, Luigi Mozzani, and Gian Battista Noceti.

[embedded videoclip from YouTube of Yepes playing Recuerdos de la Alhambra]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLHR8zaEsA8]

[embedded videoclip from YouTube of Dominic Frasca playing 10-string guitar]

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2BOApUvFpw]

Vai gets a lot of stick for being more technique and less emotion, yet I think that criticism is often founded on dubious contextual comparisons or personal preference.

So if you take Narscisco at face value, and listen to his playing on ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ (especially the Navarro one I grew up with), and you will hear a superb guitarist.  He has such a natural affinity with Spanish music.  When it comes to Spanish guitar music, not many can do it the justice that Narciso Yepes did.

Anyway, he deserves a mention on my blog for “sharing things I like” as he has always been around when I need him.

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