For most people, the David Bowie story starts with 1969's "Space Oddity". But he'd been releasing records since 1964, and had a long series of flops before his first hit. Early on he made R'n'B singles that were just that bit less memorable than the Yardbirds, the Who, etc. By 1967 he was a bizarre mix of cheeky music-hall entertainer, hippy visionary, and doomy cabaret singer à la Jacques Brel or Scott Walker. We find this mix on his first album, now re-released by Universal in a 2-CD set featuring mono and stereo mixes and a generous helping of other tracks from around the same time. A fair few of these (including the stereo mix of the album) have already appeared on The Deram… Read more
This book surveys 'classical' (a term I will not attempt to define!) composers from Mahler and R. Strauss up to the present. One of the things I really liked about it was the way he pretty much doesn't care about the distinction between who's 'progressive' and who's 'conservative' - Shostakovich and Copland get as much coverage as Messiaen and Boulez. (You can contrast it with Paul Griffiths' Modern Music, which very much takes the orthodox modernist line, devoting tons of space to Stockhausen, Maderna, Nono etc. and being utterly patronising about Shost and Britten.) Also, he does a very good job of placing the music in its broader cultural and political contexts without that ever… Read more
I approached this CD with a certain amount of scepticism. Perlman is one of the world's greatest violinists but - I thought - his playing would be too romantic, too damn *beautiful* for Shostakovich, whose music often demands a harsh, even ugly sound.
The Shostakovich Violin Concerto no. 1 is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music. If you don't know it I strongly urge you to try it. It is Shostakovich in his most emotionally naked mode. There is no Soviet-style (or satirical, depending on your point of view on Shostakovich) 'epic' bombast here. Instead, there are two heartbreaking slow movements that move from being relatively conventionally beautiful to a sourer sound in a… Read more