Monday, 28 March 2016

Classical Music Hall of Fame

The Classic FM Hall of Fame is always a pleasurable listening experience over the Easter weekend, as they count down the top 300 pieces of classical music, as voted for by the public each year. However, I am starting to feel that the public are losing imagination as this year the top 6 were exactly the same as they were last year, and even in the same order, and the top 2 haven't changed (besides swapping every so often) for at least 8 years. This surprises me because over the 21 years of the chart there have been many changes and my personal choices have varied enormously as I'm made aware of new (usually old) pieces and as my tastes change. I still approve of and appreciate much of highest placed pieces but my top few would be a little different.

Here are the Top 15 from this year's Hall of Fame:

1. The Lark Ascending - Vaughan Williams
2. Piano Concerto no.2 - Rachmaninov
3. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis - Vaughan Williams
4. Enigma Variations - Elgar
5. Piano Concerto no.5 - Beethoven
6. Miserere - Allegri
7. Clarinet Concerto - Mozart
8. Symphony no.6 - Beethoven
9. Symphony no.9 - Beethoven
10. Cello Concerto in E minor - Elgar
11. Violin Concerto no.1 - Bruch
12. Adagio for Strings - Barber
13. 1812 Overture - Tchaikovsky
14. The Planets Suite - Holst
15. The Armed Man - Jenkins

By comparison here are my Top 15 classical pieces (as they currently stand)

1. Enigma Variations - Elgar
2. Violin Concerto no.1 - Bruch
3. Piano Concerto in A minor - Grieg
4. Cello Concerto in E minor - Elgar
5. Clarinet Concerto - Mozart
6. Piano Concerto no.2 - Rachmaninov
7. Spiegel im Spiegel - Arvo Part
8. 1812 Overture - Tchaikovsky
9. The Armed Man - Jenkins
10. The Planets Suite - Holst
11. Jazz Suite no.2 - Shostakovich
12. Miserere - Allegri
13. The Lord of the Rings (soundtrack) - Shore
14. Scheherazade - Rimsky-Korsakov
15. Piano Sonata no.14 (Moonlight Sonata) Beethoven

The really tricky thing is that it is so difficult to compare any two pieces of music and that is why I have voted for 13 different pieces in the past 7 years and why I expect my favourites to change regularly. My hope is that there will be at least some change on Classic FM in the future too!


Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Problems of Adventuring

The little boat crunched ashore and the three explorers congratulated each other on their successful voyage. For months they had stood on the cliffs of their native homeland and gazed across the huge expanse of water, but now they were here, the first to arrive on this foreign soil.
There was no-one around, no-one to welcome them. Clearly no-one had seen them as they approached; but then, they told each other, no-one would be expecting them, or maybe there was no-one else here at all.
They looked across the wide and flat land. It was grey and muddy and boring.
‘Bit of dump this place, isn’t it?’ Bruce said.
‘Yeah not much here,’ added Dexter.
             After a moment however Silas did spot something: a road a long way off. ‘Well’, they said, ‘it must lead somewhere. So they made towards it, the sticky silt oozing between their toes.
‘Wish I’d bought my bog boots,’ Silas said, ‘At this rate I’m going to get trench foot.’
‘Well, at least you have long legs,’ said Dexter, ‘I wouldn’t want to be in Bruce’s shoes. A case of trench armpit is more likely with him.’
The taller two watched as Bruce tried to pick his way through the mire without ending up to his knees in stagnant, sand-hopper infested sludge, his rotund midriff wobbling as he walked.
Once on the road, which was little more than dirt-compacted track, they picked a direction and set off. For more than half an hour it remained deserted and rather lacking in signposts, but finally they saw someone coming towards them. The man, who was walking at a tremendous pace, began shouting at them from a long way off and waving his arms about.
None of them could understand a word he was saying but just before they collided Bruce realised the man wanted them to move to the other side of the road. However, that split-second of deliberation was too long for Dexter and Silas as the man sent them sprawling into the ditch. He then bounced off Bruce’s belly onto the opposite side of the track, leaving Bruce clutching his knees, winded. Instead of stopping, however, the man picked up his pace again and passed them, still shouting and shaking his head.
Dexter crawled out of the ditch on his hands and knees and using Bruce as a hoist got to his feet. ‘Stupid man.’ he said picking bits of bracken out of his mouth. ‘Do you think they all walk on the wrong side of the road?’

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Mud Wars with the Scots

Old enmities awoke today as the plucky English, heavily outnumbered, sometimes by as many as 12 to 1, bravely attempted to right the many wrongs of previous skirmishes with our northern neighbours.

The battle took place in badly waterlogged ground at Winmarleigh Hall in Lancashire and the Englishman (me) successfully tied down several of the scots on many occasions (they didn't have a choice seeing as I needed them to belay for their fellow soldiers on Jacob's Ladder) in order to inflict much grubbiness to their faces. They in turn launched long range mud missiles with some success, but most were deflected by my armour (raincoat).

The battle lasted all afternoon and some of the scots became almost unrecognisable but rallying at the end their numbers proved too much and I succumbed to heavy bombardment. I did however have the final say as both sides retreated - to the showers.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Today I gazed at stars

Today I gazed at stars
and pointed out constellations to bewildered children
who became obsessed with Betelgeuse,
while their teachers tried to fall asleep
in the darkness of the planetarium.

What’s a supernova and how far is a light year again?
Is it Jupiter with the rings and which planet is blue?
Is that named after a Roman god or a Greek one?
To be honest, I haven’t got a clue.