From the London-based Philharmonia’s website, July 2020: my beloved John Wilson’s public musical choices. Audio downloads in red.
- JOHN IRELAND Spring Will Not Wait “At the start of lockdown [says my bonny John] I listened only to solo piano music, I didn’t have much appetite for anything else for a couple of weeks. John Ireland’s music has held a deep fascination for me. I studied at the RCM with one of Ireland’s students, Alan Rowlands.” / Here’s my preferred Ireland: His song setting of Emily Bronte‘s poem, “Love and Friendship”, sung by Peter Pears, accompanied on the piano by his romantic roomie, Benjamin Britten
- WILLIAM WALTON Partita “Last year I got the Szell+Cleveland box set and just about every track is astonishing. Every facet of his famously exacting temperament shines through on each of the discs.” / John’s talking about Szell’s temperament, not Walton’s, I think. Well, here’s Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra and I like it just a little better
- CLAUDE DEBUSSY Beau Soir “This is absolutely gorgeous fiddle playing. Janine Jansen is such a great artist with a sound like no-one else. Every note is a pearl.” / Here’s the song “Beau Soir” sung as a—you know, John—song by Renee Fleming
- JOHANNES BRAHMS Variations on a Theme of Josef Haydn “The Philharmonia 75th anniversary CD box set contains some really thrilling performances from a dazzling array of soloists and conductors—Karajan, Giulini, Klemperer, Kletzki and Cantelli among them—but the ones I’m most fascinated by are the concerts Toscanini gave with the orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 1952 which provide a wonderful snapshot of the Philharmonia Orchestra live on stage in its first decade.” / John’s right on this one, can’t do better than Arturo Toscanini at the RFH in ’52 with the Philharmonia
- MAURICE RAVEL Daphnis et Chloe Suite no 2 “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.” / Here’s Simon Rattle instead doing this ravishing Ravel suite with the Berlin Philharmonic
- EDWARD ELGAR The Dream of Gerontius “I’ve been making my way through all 109 discs of the new Warner Classics Barbirolli box set—a conductor whose work I come back to time and time again. There’s a fervour and intensity to his music making that is utterly compelling and this legendary performance of Elgar’s greatest work has, for me, no equal.” / Elgar, a devout Roman Catholic, was something of a religious mystic and this is evident in his much of his work, no more so than in this looong, stately but yummy setting to Cardinal Newman’s musing on death and redemption
- TEDDY WILSON Don’t Blame Me by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields “I love, love, love Teddy Wilson’s piano playing—I’ve had his solo piano discs on a loop for days…” / Nah. If you want to hear one of the greatest swing* pianists ever at his best, here he is doing “I Got Rhythm” by the Gershwin brothers
- KEELY SMITH Cocktails for Two by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow “Songs—in all their guises(!!!)**—have always been at the centre of my musical life. The great American songwriters from the first half of the last century gave us so many treasures and I’d never want to be without them. Last week my trombonist friend, Andy Wood, reminded me just how great Keely Smith is.” / When I was a little tiny teeny girl, I thought listening to Keely Smith singing this lush Charles Trenet / Albert Beach songbook standard “I Wish You Love” on the radio was like walking through an enchanted forest
PETER ACKROYD London, A Biography read by Simon Callow “Can I include an audiobook? I’m getting into them because I can study/write scores with them on in the background…” / Oh, John, oh no no no. I’ve heard of putting music on while reading prose, and that’s bad enough, but this other way around plays much more havoc on one’s powers of focus. But if you’re listening because you’re really groovin to the sound of Callow’s measured, reassuring, perfectly accented voice, that’s another thing…
*I am astonished that John actually, correctly, described Teddy Wilson as a Swing musician rather than put him into the catchall Jazz bag, which I’d have expected him to do, considering who was his teacher. His teacher was Richard Rodney Bennett. My teacher (at CUNY) was YUSEF LATEEF (download his 1957 album Jazz Mood here in full).
**John, are you conflating song with melody, or what? Only asking as a humble member of your audience.
- “The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson”
- “The Story So Far; Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits”
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