NADFAS briefing day


I’m delighted to be joining NADFAS in 2017 as an accredited lecturer at an exciting time in the organisation’s history.  More details to follow…

Discovery Day at Kinnordy Chamber Music


Excited to be invited to host a Discovery Day at Kinnordy Chamber Music, a brand new festival up near Kirriemuir in Angus, Scotland.  The Saturday of the Festival concentrates on Music of the Great War, and the lineup of performers is superb – details here.

Aldeburgh Festival 2015


A return visit to the Aldeburgh Festival as tour director with ACE Cultural Tours, working alongside my distinguished colleague Humphrey Burton.

Crash Course in Classical Music at Union Club, Soho


Another outing for my popular Crash Course in Classical Music, this time at the Union Club in London’s Soho. It’s a fun and informative single-evening event in partnership with the Idler Academy. I’ll be tackling four key areas of classical music:– Baroque, Classical, Romantic and twentieth-century – in the course of the evening, and focussing on a major work from each. And I’ve had fun picking these!

JS Bach: Prelude & Fugue in C major (Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1)

Mozart: B flat String Quartet K458, “the Hunt”

Mahler: Symphony no 1

Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps/Rite of Spring

I’ll analyse the music, illustrate some important moments, provide a glossary of key terms, and put each piece in context. All part of my Classic Discovery series.

Putney Music playlist

Tonight I’ve been invited down to Putney Music to talk about music and my take on it.  I can’t wait to play some great recordings and special moments – here are the ten pieces on my playlist:

1.) Dmitri Shostakovitch: Symphony no 5, finale

WDR Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Barshai

2.) Thomas Tallis: O Nata Lux

BBC Singers, Bo Holten

3.) Jeremy Sams: Train Music, Restaurant Wander, Hotel Escape

(Le week-end, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

4.) Edward Elgar: Symphony no 2, Larghetto OR Rondo: Presto

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Richard Hickox

5.) Kurt Masur interviewed by Sandy Burnett, BBC Radio 3, 250902

6.) Richard Strauss: Daphne, Mondlichtmusik

Renee Fleming, WDR Symphony Orchestra/Bychkov

7.) Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 1 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, opening movt

English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, John Eliot Gardiner

8.) Johann Sebastian Bach: Matthew Passion BWV 244, Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand

Clare Wilkinson (alto), Dunedin Consort and Players, John Butt

9.) Wes Montgomery: Mister Walker

(The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, 1960)

10.) Gene Harris Quartet: The Song is Ended

(Listen Here, 1989)

Burton Bradstock Festival


Playing jazz and classical music at this festival run by the brilliant David Juritz.  I’m also being interviewed, which should be interesting.

interviewing John Bridcut


On the subject of British twentieth-century composers, John Bridcut is one of the most perceptive writers and programme-makers around. I’m interviewing him about Britten, and making a podcast out of the end result for the Barbican’s successful classical music podcast series.

Classical music crash course – postlude

To everyone who squeezed into the Idler Academy for the Classical music crash course last night, it was good to meet you and thanks for your rapt attention and interesting questions … Scroll down on this blog for a closer look at the glossary of terms relevant to each era. Since many of you expressed interest, I’m hatching a plan for a full-blown Classical music lecture series at the Idler Academy, each of them examining a musical era in much more detail than last night, which was a mere taster. This might get going as soon as the next few weeks, but I’ll keep you posted with a post here as the plan crystallises. In the meantime, if you have any feedback or queries, or if you’d to put your email address on the mailing list, do drop me a line here. And here’s a reminder of what it was all about.


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Huntsman’s Funeral

Often talked about but rarely seen: the woodcut that apparently inspired the 3rd movement of Mahler’s First Symphony. Double-click on it for a closer look.  Eerie/unheimlich

Classical music crash course – glossary

For my Classical music crash course at the Idler Academy I”ve prepared a
quick glossary of the four key periods I”m covering, with a brief overview
and definitions of five key terms that are relevant to each. Enjoy!

Baroque music: c1607 to 1750

Essential elements? Dance-like feel behind much of the music; rhythmic drive; often still a polyphonic approach to composing; some extremely expressive music, with flamboyant vocal writing and extraordinary poetry; craftsmanship rather than self-expression.


Tonic, dominant and relative minor:– the tonic is the home key, and the
dominant its closest relative, on the fifth of the scale. Relative minor is
the closest minor key to a major-key tonic, starting on the sixth of the
Pedal point: a device used towards the end of a piece when a note is held
to anchor the harmony; usually in the bass, and usually on the dominant.
Fugue: From the Latin fuga, its name describes how one voice chases another
in an imitative way, in this musical form based on imitation.
Polyphony:– music in many parts which act independently.
Stretto:– in a fugue, when a theme enters before the previous one has
finished in another part.

Classical era: c1750 to 1820

Essential elements? Balance and beauty; clear, elegant discussion of musical
ideas, avoiding extremes; plenty of conventions, often subtly contravened.


Chamber music:– music with one instrument per part.
Compound duple time:– 6/8. Two beats in a bar, subdivided into three within
each beat.
Cadence:– two closing chords, like an Amen.
Sonata form:– the arrangement of an opening movement into three sections of
a musical argument: exposition, development and recapitulation.
Codetta:– a short passage that rounds a section off.

Romantic era: c1820-1910

Essential elements? The rise of the artist; combining music with other
arts; celebrating nature and individual nationhood; pushing the sound world
of opera and orchestra to the limit, and doing the same with the tonal


Programme music: music that’s designed to tell a story or paint a picture
(as opposed to absolute music).
Gesamtkunstwerk: Wagner”s idea of bringing several disciplines together to
make a perfect, all-embracing art form.
Thematic transformation: transmogrifying a musical theme during the course
of a musical drama.
Leitmotiv: in a dramatic context, a recurring musical theme that’s always
associated with a particular character or idea; aka idée fixe.
Tone poem or symphonic poem: a piece of narrative programme music painted on an orchestral canvas.

C20th era:

Essential elements? Music being pushed to the brink and a whole variety of
approaches emerging, some radical and others conservative: expressionism,
neo-classicism, serialism, electronic composition, modernism,
post-modernism, minimalism, post-minimalism ……


Timbre: – the quality of a note produced by a musical instrument.
Bitonal:– having more than one tonal centre.
Ostinato: – a repeated rhythmic figure.
Diatonic: – based round a tonal centre.
Serialism: – a procedure that orders the 12 notes of a chromatic scale as the
basis for a piece of music; also known as twelve-tone composition.


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