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Listening to Amanda Röntgen-Maier

Amanda Röntgen-Maier has to be one of the most under-appreciated composers I know. Born in Landskrona, Sweden, in 1853, she was the first woman to graduate as a Director of Music from the Royal Academy in Stockholm. She was clearly exceptionally talented: this was considered the Academy’s most difficult exam, and she passed with the... Continue Reading →

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How to stage a radical Shakespeare

It’s April 1920, and we’re in Gothenburg, Sweden. We’re on our way to the Lorensberg Theatre, to see a production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Critics have been raving about it. It’s been hailed as marking a new ‘epoch in Swedish theatre history’, so we’re off to see what all the fuss is about.... Continue Reading →

Listening to Aarre Merikanto

Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958) has a hugely varied body of works, spanning a forty-year-long career. As the son of a successful composer (Oskar Merikanto) and working at the same time as Sibelius in Finland’s culturally conservative atmosphere, he struggled for a long time to find his own compositional voice. He’s often described as Finland’s first modernist,... Continue Reading →

Listening to Wilhelm Stenhammar

Listening to Wilhelm Stenhammar ‘In this time of Arnold Schoenberg’, wrote Wilhelm Stenhammar in 1911, ‘I dream of an art that is far beyond Arnold Schoenberg: clear, happy, and naïve.’ In the early years of the twentieth century, Stenhammar faced the dilemma of forging a compositional identity for himself in a musical climate increasingly dominated... Continue Reading →

Listening to Ture Rangström

On the 30th November 1944, Sweden celebrated Ture Rangström’s 60th birthday. ‘He has the right to be honoured as one of our greatest composers’, read the pamphlet produced for the day’s celebrations. ‘He has defied all difficulties and continued his work with an unbroken creative force.’  Despite enthusiasm for his music during his lifetime, Rangström’s work... Continue Reading →

Sibelius’s Shadow

Sibelius looms large over Finnish music. Particularly as far as UK performances of Finnish music go, it’s Sibelius’s name that’s front and centre. But there’s a wealth of music from both Finland and Sweden written by Sibelius’s contemporaries that deserves to be heard.  When Sibelius was alive Nordic composition was thriving. We know Sibelius as... Continue Reading →

BBC Proms 2018

This year I have the pleasure of introducing Sibelius's Fifth Symphony at the Proms. The performance is on the 13th August, in a programme with Grieg's Piano Concerto and Arvo Pärt's Third Symphony. If you'd like to join me for my introduction, the talk is free and begins at 17.45 at the Imperial College Union.... Continue Reading →

Music History Minus Beethoven?

I recently wrote a blog post for Corymbus on the possibility of writing music history without Beethoven. There's an excerpt below, and the full article can be accessed here. ‘For nearly two centuries’, musicologist Scott Burnham writes in his book Beethoven Hero, ‘a single composer has epitomized musical vitality, becoming the paradigm of Western compositional... Continue Reading →

Explore a Score: ‘Lasse liten’

‘Lasse liten’ is one of the creepiest songs Sibelius ever wrote. The piano has a sinuous, threatening chromatic line that opens with the right hand below the left, in the piano’s bass register. The piece is supposedly in G minor but this is disrupted from the right hand’s first note. Not only is it dissonant... Continue Reading →

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