Playlists – June 2016

Gramophone Wed 1st June 2016

Every month Gramophone's playlists explore particular themes and take you on a musical journey

Musical friends 

John Rutter picks tracks linked to his longstanding friends and colleagues

One of the greatest rewards of a musician’s life is the variety of friends you pick up along the way, and I love to be reminded of them in music. There are the composers I’ve met: my school friend John Tavener, and Herbert Howells, Benjamin Britten, George Shearing (I premiered his Songs and Sonnets), Bob Chilcott, and Tarik O’Regan – who wrote a wonderfully consoling Nunc dimittis in memory of my son, Christopher.

Among my mentors I remember Edward Chapman who encouraged my early compositional efforts at school (John Tavener’s Funeral Ikos was written for his memorial service); then at Cambridge, David Willcocks, Director of King’s College Choir, who first got me into print. Among performers, my treasured friends include pianist Howard Shelley whom I taught to drive when we were schoolboys; Elin Manahan Thomas and Melanie Marshall, who both soared into the solo world after singing in professional choirs, including my own Cambridge Singers; and whole groups I’m associated with – the RPO, The Bach Choir, and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. I am proud to have known them all.

Painting in music 

James Jolly explores the intersection between music and the visual arts

Employing one art form to reflect another has its dangers – the quip, credited to Martin Mull, that suggests that ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’ is a salutary warning. But musicians have long been fascinated by other art forms, the plastic arts among them, and numerous great works have resulted. Painters (like Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca or Mathis in Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler) and sculptors (like Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini) have provided key characters in opera, and, in less physical form, given the impetus for instrumental and orchestral works – think of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (heard in Ravel’s orchestration more frequently these days than Mussorgsky’s piano original), Vladimir Jurovski’s Russian Painters (individual portraits of seven artists), Petr Eben’s haunting Chagall Windows for trumpet and organ or Paul Veress’s Hommage à Paul Klee. Francis Poulenc wrote a powerful song-cycle called Le travail du peintre, a work that engages with some of the most cutting-edge painters of his day (Picasso, Chagall, Braque, Juan Gris, Klee, Miró and Jacques Villon) using poems by Eluard. And for a more musical-theatre approach to painterly creativity, how about Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George – George being the pointilliste Georges Seurat. 

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