In Gratitude – David Fraser, Stewart Brown & John Bourke

by Ben Hogwood

I wanted to place on record my appreciation for three very different but fiercely passionate musical contacts we have very sadly lost in recent weeks.

My heartfelt condolences go to the family and friends of David Fraser, who until recently worked for the excellent distributor Proper Music. David headed the press and marketing facility in the UK for the prestigious ECM label, a position from which he was able to make many enlightening musical recommendations. I remember him as a generous, kind-hearted contact who was always pleased to talk and continually modest about his vast musical knowledge. Thank you, David – I shall miss our chats, and include one of our mutual loves, the music of György Kurtág – one of his Bach arrangements – below:

The world of classical music has also been paying tribute to Stewart Brown, who died earlier this month at the age of 69. Stewart founded and ran the Testament label from 1990 onwards, creating an important resource of historical recordings that were largely remastered on his watch. Many an EMI recording was enhanced at Stewart’s hand, and we will greatly miss the excellence of the projects he oversaw.

I only know a fringe of the Testament catalogue well, but the recordings I have reviewed and enjoyed include Erich Leinsdorf conducting Prokofiev, Carlo Maria Giulini’s Bruckner, Sir John Barbirolli’s Mahler, a chamber recital from David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten in recital at the Aldeburgh Festival, one of the label’s most recent releases, and a wonderful series of Clemens Krauss conducting Richard Strauss. All those recordings are testament (pun intended) to Stewart’s eye for a valuable recording, and us record collectors owe him heartfelt thanks for his achievements. Most importantly – as his close friends have confirmed – he was a lovely man.

The third of my musical musketeers is John Bourke. I never met John, but while he was running his own music PR enterprise we built up that most modern of musical friendships, a regular e-mail and social media correspondence. Whenever he had something he genuinely thought I would enjoy, John would be on the virtual blower.

That is the key element – John was never too pushy with the music he was promoting, unless he felt the listener / reviewer would appreciate it, and our friendship grew on that assumption. Several of Arcana’s interviews and playlist features are the result of John’s thoughtful prompting, while a great many more of my musical discoveries, especially the Glacial Movements label – were made possible through John’s correspondence. Thank you John – and I hope that wherever you are resting now that you have the most ambient of electronic music to keep you company.

ECM – A Stream of Consciousness

The news that ECM have returned their catalogue to streaming services is a cause for celebration…especially if you like the sort of music we at Arcana enjoy talking about.

So good is the news in fact that we’ve decided to celebrate with an ECM Spotify playlist. The only trouble with doing this is deciding what to leave out, while accepting there are corners of the label’s output that we have not yet explored.

Yet there is some amazing music in these two hours, with artists of the quality of the Hilliard Ensemble, Jan Garbarek, the cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic and Pat Metheny ready to bring it to you. Yet if there is just one musical item to take from this playlist, it’s the last one – Christopher Bowers-Broadbent raising Philip Glass‘s Dance IV to the heights. Enjoy – and tell us what you think!