Bach fulfills a huge number of criteria that people use to judge the quality of a composer. He had extraordinary harmonic control, he wrote beautiful melodies, he had great structural control, he wrote wonderfully for voice and idiomatically across all instruments, he was equally adept at both small- and large-scale works, he had a palpable … Continue reading Why was Bach so great?
I discovered the other day that someone I have known for many years committed suicide. This is the second time I have experienced someone connected to me taking their own life; a friend of mine also committed suicide when he and I were both in our late teens. Knowing one person who took their own … Continue reading The people around us
The Musicians’ Union (MU) in the UK recently released data about pay for orchestral musicians which raised a few news stories and some comment. Most of the comments I saw bemoaned the disparity between skill level and pay, drawing comparisons between doctors and lawyers in particular. A few talked about the need for orchestras to … Continue reading Should we all pay for orchestras?
The simple answer to this question is a huge amount. I might even go so far as to say that use of the piano developed more in the 20th century than in any other period of musical history. The great period of technological development was the late 1700s into the mid 1800s when the invention … Continue reading What did the 20th century contribute to piano music?
Before answering this question, we have to unpack what ‘natural talent’ means. While there is no question that some people have more aptitude for particular tasks than others, I don’t think there is any evidence for true natural gift. Certainly if you read the work of the Swedish psychologist Anders-Ericsson, you would be hard pressed … Continue reading Is it fair to say Mozart had more natural talent than Bach?
There was an article on the BBC News website a couple of weeks ago outlining a potential new treatment for the severely depressed. The treatment is nasally-administered ketamine which, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, led to significant improvements in the symptoms of heavily depressed and suicidal patients. The effects … Continue reading Chemicals and depression
I think this is a great question. It is really a question about what the value of art is as a whole - the things that make contemporary composers important are also what make every living artist important. As with many of these questions, I think we have to define exactly what you mean by … Continue reading What makes contemporary composers so important? What do they contribute?
This is an interesting question. ‘Complete’ is often used as a synonym for ‘best’ - for me, though, I think it more properly should include a sense of how all-encompassing a composer is. Haydn, for example, could be considered one of the most complete composers because he wrote in pretty much every genre available to … Continue reading Who is considered the most complete opera composer?
I was out running on Sunday morning and it struck me that there seemed to be massively more other runners out than usual. Great to see so many people also making the effort to get themselves fit, you might think. But hold on a minute. These are all new runners – they haven’t been out … Continue reading Fairweather Fitness: or the Value of Discipline
I’ve been pondering over what to write about since just before Easter. I have a list of topics I want to write about that I drew up a few months ago when I started this blog. But nothing was leaping off the list and there were other things demanding my attention (buying a house, end … Continue reading Where has the fun gone?