Features

Percy Grainger, around 1920 (Photo: ‘The Percy Grainger Estate’)
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Percy Grainger (1882-1961) - the composer, 50 years on

Everyone knows Country Gardens (based on an English Morris dance) and probably Molly on the Shore , Shepherd’s Hey , Mock Morris and Handel in the Strand . Their popularity has tended to overshadow the rest of Grainger’s prolific and varied output and though he would never be put on a pedestal to join the pantheon of immortals, he is unorthodox, original and deserves better than to be dismissed by the more snooty arbiters of musical taste. There is a tendency to overlook real craftsmanship when it is put to (sometimes) frivolous use.

Is John Tilbury's Cage disc a recording, or an objectified view of a recording?
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'Music they heard within themselves'

Considering they had recently been duped into thinking that a Martian landing was underway by an Orson Welles radio play, you wonder quite what Americans made of Leopold Stokowski’s alternative future for sound recording, as mapped out in his 1943 book Music for All of Us . “The first step is to make music [sound] exactly like the original,” he wrote. Nothing controversial there.

Eric Whitacre recording his recent Decca disc in London (photo: Alex MacNaughton
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The world's greatest choirs

Gramophone's January issue asked an international jury to name the world's leading choirs, and then invited American composer Eric Whitacre to reflect on why the list is dominated by British ensembles .

Bruno Maderna (Photo: Whitestone Photo, Heinz Weissenstein, New York)
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Bruno Maderna on record

The January issue of Gramophone magazine contains a profile by Philip Clark about the composer, who would have been 90 this year. Here he recommends some recordings of Maderna's music – and of Maderna's recordings of the music of others.

A soprano celebrated: Jennifer Vyvyan
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Jennifer Vyvyan celebrated with new website

A new web-site has been set up by the singer’s son, Jonathan Crown, and edited by the music-critic Michael White. And there she is: Jennifer Vyvyan, dates, career, photographs, voice. It’s a rather attenuated version of the voice that comes from the computer screen, but it’s unmistakably hers. She’s there all right, and I, to whom this is still all something of a miracle, can report the wonder of it.

Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne: exploring Schubert together
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Session report: Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne record Schubert duets

There’s something compelling about hidden places, and of all the recording venues in the UK, Potton Hall in Suffolk has to be one of the more difficult venues to find. As you head east and the countryside flattens out, the sky expands, its colours taking on a more dramatic hue – an apocalyptic pre-snowfall red and bronze on this particular February afternoon.

New College - hear their Evensong online (photo: Phil Sayer)
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Logging on for E-vensong

On the one hand, the growing practise of broadcasting choral services on the internet feels like a quantum leap – an unlikely marriage of technology and tradition. On the other, it can look like a return to basics, a short-circuiting of the 20th-century recording phenomenon: cathedral and collegiate choirs were never designed to make edited records – they were designed to sing services.

Henry Wood (Photo: Tully Potter Collection)
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Henry Wood, new music trailblazer

When I read this year’s Proms Guide and noticed that an ‘extra’ Last Night of The Proms had been laid on in tribute to Henry Wood – essentially a re-run of the 1910 Last Night with a few trimmings – I thought, thanks Auntie, but who exactly was Henry Wood?

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