Playlist – Sarah Beth Briggs

It gives us great pleasure to welcome pianist Sarah Beth Briggs as a guest curator for the Arcana playlist.

Sarah releases her new album Variations on Friday 24 March, a collection of works in the form by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms. It complements a discography for AVIE that already boasts The Austrian Connection and discs of works for piano solo by Schumann and Brahms, and piano trios by Gál and Shostakovich as part of the Briggs Piano Trio.

We asked her for a blend of her current listening and one piece inspired by the Variations album – and I think you’ll agree she has come up with something rather special in the form of Edmund Rubbra’s rare but strikingly original orchestration of BrahmsVariations on a theme of Handel. Here it is in the only available current recording, conducted by Neeme Järvi:

As to her current listening, Sarah gives us a trio of very fine chamber works from the 19th century, Beethoven and Schubert to be precise, and the music of Hans Gál, finally emerging into the public consciousness – his very fine Cello Concerto:

We end with peerless jazz, the Oscar Peterson Trio and their wonderful Night Train

Our grateful thanks to Sarah – do have a listen on the Spotify link below:

In appreciation – BBC Singers

by Ben Hogwood

Yesterday we learned of the almost incomprehensible decision by the BBC that they were planning to close the BBC Singers. The choir is one of the leading ensembles of its type in the UK – if not the leading example – and have been responsible for many important premieres and landmark concerts over their 99-year existence.

Only in 2020 they were on stage as the Proms concerts returned, with a memorable performance of Eric Whitacre‘s Sleep, while if you want proof of their versatility from this year, watch this video of an arrangement of ABBA‘s Little Things:

The Spotify playlist below celebrates just some of the recordings made by the BBC Singers, in the hope that they will somehow be able to continue their invaluable service to British music. Included are shorter works by John McCabe, Sir Michael Tippett, Elizabeth Maconchy and Diana Burrell, alongside excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem, under Jane Glover, Janáček’s The Excursions Of Mr. Brouček, in a Proms performance under Jiří Bělohlávek, and the same forces at work in Smetana’s large scale opera Dalibor.

Finally the Singers can be heard in the striking Moth Requiem by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, which they premiered at the Proms in 2013.

If you do listen, please also make sure you sign the petition calling for the BBC to reconsider their decision,

In appreciation – Paul Westcott

by Ben Hogwood

Yesterday a memorial service was held for the much-loved and much-missed Paul Westcott, who sadly left us late last year.

Paul was for many best-known as the effervescent press officer for Chandos Records, a role he made his own. I think I speak for many of his friends, colleagues and associates when I say how grateful I am for his encouragement at every turn, his enthusiasm for the music he was working with, and his friendship.

The playlist below captures all the music either played or performed at the service, including several recordings either made or appreciated by Paul’s dear friend Richard Bonynge.

One notable omission from the playlist is Roger Webb‘s Theme from Hammer House of Horror – which is posted first to highlight Paul’s mischievous character!

In appreciation – Terry Hall

by Ben Hogwood

The world of music has been shocked by the news late last night that Terry Hall had died at the age of 63. Hall was singer and songwriter with three particularly influential bands – The Specials, Fun Boy Three and The Colourfield – but he also spread his wings to collaborate with a wide variety of musical figureheads.

Arcana has put together a playlist looking to cover a number of those sources, featuring some of his biggest hits with the bands above and several songwriting credits. Listening to the music brings a new sense of just how much of a mark Hall’s bands left on our cultural outlook.

In appreciation – Angelo Badalamenti

by Ben Hogwood

Two days ago we learned of the sad news that composer Angelo Badalamenti had died, aged 85.

There is a very fine tribute to Angelo on the Guardian website from Sian Cain, but I wanted to add to that – simply – by posting the soundtrack to Twin Peaks here for everyone to listen to. Ironically Julee Cruise, the distinctive vocalist who sings three songs on the soundtrack, passed away only six months ago.

What a ground breaking piece of work this is, the standout of many collaborations with director David Lynch. Its deep romanticism is immediately striking, along with latent menace in Laura Palmer’s Theme, but also of note is the space in which the music operates. Badalamenti makes a great deal from what seems to be very little material – the sign, surely, of a great composer. Listen and enjoy: