- GENERAL MUSIC RESOURCES
- PAST LISTENING
A selection from
James Kinsley (Administrator, NORCA & Sistema in Norwich)
James has been Administrator for NORCA & Sistema since 2020. He is also a published author and believes in the importance of Art for our quality of life.
Concerto for Turntables No. 1 - Gabriel Prokofiev
A wonderful contemporary (2006) piece performed here at the Proms in 2011. Highly enjoyable in purely musical terms, I think, but also a fine example of how classical music isn’t a thing of the past and doesn’t have to lead you down one path. Classical music can be just as much about the fresh and the new as it is about the revered and traditional. Being part of an orchestra can lead to new, exciting and unpredictable opportunities.
Quartet for the End of Time - Olivier Messiaen
This piece received its premiere at Stalag VIII-A, the same German prisoner-of-war camp in which it was written. Olivier Messiaen was a medical auxiliary with the French Army and wrote the piece with pencil and paper provided by a sympathetic guard. Messiaen later recalled that he had never been listened to “with such rapt attention and comprehension” as he was by that audience of 400 prisoners and guards. Written under extreme conditions, inspired by a passage in the Book of Revelations, this haunting and atmospheric piece of music is recognised as one of Messiaen’s most important works. (Clarinet fans, look out for the playing at 14:20)
Symphony No.3 in C Minor - Florence Price
St. James Infirmary Blues - Silk Road Ensemble & Rhiannon Giddens
When we think of classical composers, let’s be honest, we tend to think almost exclusively of white males. Florence Price was the first African-American woman to have a composition performed by a major orchestra (her Symphony in E Minor, by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933). She was a real groundbreaker, but like most POC and female composers, she remains so far from being a household name. I haven’t, however, included this piece for diversity reasons - it’s here simply because I adore this symphony. I find there is something uniquely American about it - at thirteen minutes into this recording I can almost see the Great Plains spread out before me like the opening panoramic shot of a Western. It’s an incredibly evocative piece of music, and an absolute delight.
The origins of St. James Infirmary Blues are shrouded in mystery. The song first became famous when Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1928, but had already cropped under different guises by then. The Silk Road Ensemble’s beginnings are more concretely documented, in that cellist Yo-Yo Ma initiated the project in 1998. Named for the route between Europe and Asia, symbolic for the exchange and flow of ideas, the project unites musicians, composers and artists from around the world, from many different traditions. With no fixed line-up, but rather a loose collective of over 50 collaborators, the ensemble is a fascinating demonstration of the power of music and sharing traditions (if you can, seek out the documentary The Music of Strangers, it’s well worth your time). The multiple flavours cooked up in this performance are a prime example of what can happen when we come together to make music.