14 June 2013
My playlist: Pavlo Beznosiuk, AAM leader
This week we begin a tour of South Korea and China, performing Vivaldi's The Four Seasons alongside arias by Handel and Purcell.
Long-standing AAM leader Pavlo Beznosiuk will direct the concerts from the violin. Ahead of the tour, he talked to us about his musical inspirations.
This article was first published in the Friends of the AAM journal. To find out more about the Friends, click here.
'Progressive' rock of the late '60's and '70's
In this category the groups I keep coming back to are Genesis (up until Peter Gabriel's departure in 1975), The Mahavishnu Orchestra (featuring the amazing guitarist John Mclaughlin), Yes, and King Crimson. This was the music of my teenage years and its intellectual aspirations (some might say pretensions), sophistication (sometimes only apparent) and frequent virtuosity were eagerly devoured by my callow mind. I still love lots of this stuff for its sheer ambition, although it sometimes slipped into hubris.
Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream
These are here for their sheer brilliance; Led Zeppelin for being the nearest that rock music ever gets to a finely honed string quartet and for having a truly great vocalist in the shape of Robert Plant, Cream for their wild improvisations and Hendrix for his soul.
An impossibly wide field this, and one which takes up most of the space on my iPod. Ever since somebody explained to me, aged 9 or 10, just what was going on while I listened open-mouthed to Stephane Grappelli I have been in awe of improvising musicians of all kinds. I developed a love and fascination for avant-garde jazz from quite early on, particularly the saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and this world was initially opened up to me by a wonderful book by the musical photo-chronicler Valerie Wilmer called As serious as your Life which detailed the lives of Coleman, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler among others. In a less challenging vein I have nearly every recording by the guitarist Mike Stern, someone who I've heard live many times (I once went four nights in a row in London) but never tire of. The one person I come back to again and again is the tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, hailed by just about everyone who cares as a true genius. I find him a complete inspiration and would single out one double CD called A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note Records B2 - 46517), recorded in 1957 over a Sunday afternoon and evening at the iconic New York jazz club. The tunes are all standards of the time but here he performs in a piano-less trio (tenor sax, bass and drums), a favourite format of his despite its challenges. The lack of a chordal instrument in the rhythm section allows him more freedom than usual in his improvisations and the whole two and a half hour's worth of music is a masterclass of imagination, technique, poetry, rhetoric, everything. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Indian classical music
The burning, heartfelt intensity of the Indian masters has often reduced me to tears, the combination of encyclopaedic knowledge of their craft, intellectual rigour and overpowering sincerity is so moving. I return often to the violinists N. Rajam and Sisirkona Dharchoudhury and the legendary Sarangi master Ram Narayan (I was one of a Purcell Room audience who literally swooned en masse at his playing one memorable night). He made quite a few recordings for the Nimbus label and they're all amazing.
Great (often dead) violinists
I rarely go more than a few days without listening to Jascha Heifetz and never, ever, get bored. I revel in the multi-layered tone, razor-sharp conviction and commitment of his performances. Heifetz used plain, uncovered gut A and D strings right to the end of his career, stating that the plain gut was important for developing a characterful sound; that's something that AAM players and friends know all about of course! I would single out his recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concerti as favourites. Other fiddlers that appear regularly on my iPod are Nathan Milstein (particularly for his Glazunov concerto), Ida Haendl, Oscar Shumsky and David Nadien.
On most days I'm involved in 'Early' music in one form or another so I tend not to listen to anything really historical on the iPod. There's one exception, a truly extraordinary composer named Emilio de' Cavalieri whom Paula, my partner, introduced to me while working on research into falsobordone in 17th Century Italy. The recording I play over and over is his Lamentations' performed by Le Poème Harmonique (director Vincent Dumestre), Alpha 011. The music is full of unexpected and ravishing dissonances and the performers here really go to town with the ornamentation, I feel purified listening to this music, very uplifting stuff.