135. Uplifting melancholy and passionate languor: Granados Spanish Dances

Music that seems to conjure all the tastes, smells and senses of Spain – or my expectations of them (as someone who’s hardly been there): Spanish dances for piano by Enrique Granados. Perfect music if you just want to feel warmer, but it’s also an opportunity to bask (Basque? [sorry]) in some gloriously wistful melancholy that seems to underpin all six of these pieces. Somehow it’s not a melancholy that makes one feel sad – it seems as uplifting and nourishing as the warm sun on a cold winter’s day. Listening time: podcast 12 mins; music 25′.… Listen

134. The sound of the solar system? Kepler: Harmony of the World

An extraordinary, ambitious, blend of art and science, Johanes Kepler’s Harmony of the World is a 17th century attempt to understand what the then known universe sounded like – on a planetary level! In the 1970s, using the latest technology professors Willie Ruff and John Rodgers were able to make Kepler’s Harmony into music – an extended piece of electronica, hypnotic and thought provoking. (25’+ listening time)… Listen

130. Talking about a revolution: Webern, Six Pieces for orchestra

At a time when everything seemed on the brink and the old ways no longer looked fit for purpose, Anton Webern was part of a musical revolution – giving us new ways of hearing music and seeing the world. His six pieces for large orchestra are. Whole worlds compressed into a few minutes of bleak beauty, terrifying dissonance and even more disturbing silence. It’s compelling. Listening time 22mins… Listen

125. Ain’t no mountain high enough: Strauss, Alpine Symphony

With the wonders of our imagination and some great music to help, all things are possible – so let’s enjoy the views from the top of a mountain: leaving the house (or even getting out of bed) is entirely optional. Richard Strauss takes us over the top (in every sense) in his epic, excessive, exuberant Alpine Symphony, with great views and plenty of thrills but also moments that inspire deeper contemplation on the glories of nature. It’s a trip you don’t want to miss. Listening time 62mins.… Listen

124. Heading North by Southwest with Willie Ruff: Strayhorn, Suite for The Duo

Brilliant and meaningful, North by Southwest may have been the initial name for Billy Strayhorn’s Suite for The Duo, a brilliant, late work for horn and piano: it’s a title that suggests confusion and conflicting ideas about the dying composers direction of travel. It’s a great piece: virtuosic but raw and written with a total understanding of both horn and piano and what they can do.
It’s a longer episode than normal because (amazingly) I was able to speak with Willie Ruff, the horn play for whom it was written. Willie, now in his nineties, joined me from his home in Alabama and he talked about his life and career, the Mitchell-Ruff duo, Strayhorn and how Suite for The Duo came to life. (37 mins)
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