Monthly Archives: January 2014

Classical Clemency

Somewhat disillusioned with the state of modern popular music I seem to have drifted back into listening to classical music this year. I’ve always had a love/not-so-love relationship with classical music: it was never part of my childhood household but was always somewhat inculcated at school, where I was lucky to have some good music teachers who of course mostly tried to teach us about classical music, the use of the instruments and so on. Seems hard to believe now that Mr. B. played a different classical piece every single morning at assembly, breaking his routine only when the school orchestra had something to let us hear. Some of that must have got through into my developmental psyche, surely?

classical music

I was further exposed to classical music during the school holidays through a posh family where my Mum used to help out with household chores (they didn’t even have a telly), but we ourselves were too humble a family to be able to afford music lessons for me or my sister although to my parents’ credit we did have an old piano in the house.

My adolescence coincided to the post-punk/new wave years of the late-70s and early-80s and so classical music was definitely abandoned by the wayside. Oh follies of youth! Not completely however as I do still have some battered old cassettes of recordings by artists such as Satie and Vivaldi, and I think my love of (electronic) instrumental music are a consequence of a sub-conscious appreciation of the classics.

Clemency 1
Clemency Burton-Hill

But back to now, and indeed  and what better way to listen to and at least try and appreciate the genre than in the company of Ms. Clemency Burton-Hill, now presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast programme starting at 6.30 a.m. GMT.  Clemency is not just a pretty face (see pic.): writer, novellist, broadcaster, violin-player, blonde, intelligent, doe-eyed, and with an amazing posh-yet-friendly accent and soft tone, and of course has a massive knowledge of music – classical and other wise…what’s not to like?I

Clemency Burton-Hill’s breakfast show starts at 6.30 am every weekday on Radio 3.

*edit!! since writing this draft Clemency has read out on air an e-mail I sent to her with a request!  

*new edit: I removed the last bit. I’m a married man.


Addio Abbado

It was with some sadness that I read yesterday the news that Italian orchestra conductor Cluadio Abbado had dies in Bologna at the age of 80. Ironically i was also preparing a blogpost about classical music, my appreciation of which was also thansk to seeing Abbado both in performance and in TV interviews , where he always came across as a very modest and friendly person, not at all the musical ‘snob’ one may associate with a person of such importance and standing.

abbado shirt

I remember one story in particular where he told of his s batons, specially handcrafted in Vienna, being stolen prior to a performance in New York sometime in the 1960s. Abbado promptly went out to a music store where all he could find as replacement was a baton made of plexiglass. That baton has stayed with him ever since.

His work with younger players and youth orchestras is also reknowned, always encouraging youngsters even with little experience to play in groups .  He also spoke often of his hate of limits and boundaries especially between countries. A truly international figure who I am sure will be greatly missed.

Well done to Classic FM for getting a special tribute programme together last night, whereas Radio3 failed to defer from the usual Monday night opera spot.



Hello and welcome back. It is with no small amount of shame that I realise how long it’s been since I last posted here on this blog and for that I must apologise.  It’s a brand new year, 2014, and one that I have realised is full of quite a few special anniversaries, not least my own fiftieth birthday which is all too rapidly approaching.

One hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War is probably the one that will get the most coverage.  Its historical importance is of great significance of course: from shaping Europe and its individual countries and indeed leading them, and the world, into war once more just over twenty years later. Reading material on the events of 1914 is abundant, although I am glad to have completed Paul Ham’s excellent and succinct  1913: Eve of the War on Kindle at the end of last year.

WWI diary extract (Nat. Archives / BBC)

On the same subject I also learned from the Today programme this week that The National Archives have made availabl eon-line a series of WWI diaries which give an amazing insight into the war and the men who were involved. You can sign up for free in order to help with the mammoth task of ‘tagging’ the diray pages with names, dates, places and so on. See Operation War Diaries (in collaboration with Zooniverse).

mcww1Similarly the BBC are also producing the usual high quality specialist broadcasts regarding World War 1 under the Music and Culture of WW1 umbrella. Check out the podcasts page and in particular Radio 3’s WW1 – Music on the Brink highlights page.  (NB  it doesn’t seem to be appearing on i-tunes!)


More 2014 anniversary posts to follow!