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📖 Sunday Culture Crunch 📖
For all your weekend culture needs
Good morning all, hello to new subscribers, and welcome to the Sunday Culture Crunch — my weekend roundup of thought-provoking listening/reading, new music, upcoming events, and recommendations for general culture stuff to look out for over the next few weeks. Happy browsing, and do comment if there’s anything you’d like to see featured in the Crunch. Want more/less fiction? Non-fiction? Old recordings? Let me know!
Many, many thanks to everybody who came to the Barbican concert last Sunday! I’m next speaking in Sheffield on 8 December, for a Rebecca Clarke concert by violist Rachel Roberts — tickets are available here.
What I’m reading
Sarah Ditum, Toxic: Women Fame and the Noughties. This book looks at the media’s treatment of 9 celebrity women during the noughties. If you were paying any attention at all during this decade the majority of the book’s content is unlikely to be news, but I nontheless found it informative to have the litany of outrages committed against women across the 2000s all laid out in one place, to view with some reflection and hindsight. The chapter on Aaliyah and R. Kelly makes for particularly grim reading. What I really want to read though is a kind of sequel to Toxic that analyses what impact this media culture had not just on the celebrities it targeted, but on the generation growing up surrounded by these narratives.
The Words that Remain: an illustrated community essay on Dandelion Seeds
Grazyna Bacewicz Symphonies 3 & 4. This is my no. 1 album of the fortnight, from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo. Her music is so good and the BBCSO are on top form here. Chandos sound quality is always great, so this is really a recording to look out for.
Insects & Machines: Quartets of Vivian Fung. There’s some fabulous stuff on here, rendered beautifully by the Jasper String Quartet.
…but I love to sing. Soprano Carolyn Sampson with a thoughtfully curated programme ranging from Brahms to Saariaho, accompanied by Joseph Middleton.
Folks’ Music. A bumper crop of vocal albums this fortnight — this is a stunning album of reflective, meditative music by Linda Catlin Smith, Cassandra Miller and Laurence Crane. The Esposito Quartet and Chamber Choir of Ireland with Paul Hillier perform.
Profesion. Guitarist Sean Shibe does it again. Everything about this album is wonderful.
A Most Marvellous Party: Noël Coward and Friends. Can’t go wrong with the combo of Nicky Spence, Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton — this album is a lot of fun.
Forgotten Voices Rediscovered. The Brundibár Ensemble play Henriëtte Bosmans and Fanio Chapiro, with a particularly good rendering of the Bosmans Piano Trio.
Schubert: Die schöne Mullerin. Thomas Guthrie and Barokksolistene transform Schubert’s song cycle. A potentially divisive album this one — I suspect people will either love or hate it.
Franz Schmidt: Symphonies. If you like symphonies but don’t know Schmidt, try this. Jonathan Berman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales do the symphonies more than justice here.
Un secolo cantate: The rise of Venetian Opera. A selection from the earliest operas, captivatingly sung and with good recording quality.
Circus Dinogad. I have no clue what’s going on with the cover here, but I actually kind of love the album? Combining folk, jazz, baroque, contemporary classical, this disc has a bit of everything and every track is a surprise. Very enjoyable.
Places. A new piano album from Büşra Kayıkçı, who brings a study of architecture to her compositional approach. There are some exceptional moments here.
Christmas album of the fortnight is On Christmas Night: Carols from Merton. The choir of Merton College Oxford do Christmas with enthusiasm, and the stand-out on this for me is Dobrinka Tabakova’s ‘Of a rose sing we’.
An oldie and a goodie…
Kaleidoscope Ensemble’s album of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s chamber music was one of my favourites to come out last year, and I’ve listened to it a bit obsessively. If you don’t know his work, this is a great introduction.
Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn is screening in UK cinemas throughout November — you can see full listings here.
The London Sinfonietta present the world premiere of Nwando Ebizie’s multi-sensory work Fall and then Rise on a Soft Winter's Morning on 15th November at the Colour Factory, Hackney Wick.
Violinist Francesca Dego is soloist with the Ulster Orchestra playing Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin on 16th & 17th November.
The London Jazz Festival is in full swing (aha) — the full programme is available here. A highlight is Angélique Kidjo at the Royal Albert Hall with Chineke! Orchestra and guests on 17th November.
The London Symphony Orchestra are performing Carpenter, Barber, and Bartók with cellist Abel Selaocoe at the Barbican on the 16th November (for which yours truly wrote the programme notes).
Definitely a multimedia theme this fortnight — Matt Collishaw’s film Sky Burial plays with Fauré’s Requiem at the Barbican on 20th November. Laurence Equilbey conducts the Insula Orchestra and Accentus chorus.
Lang Lang is at the Royal Albert Hall 21st-23rd November, playing Saint-Saëns with Gina Alice, and Mark Wigglesworth conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Soundings from the Planet: NW Live Arts bring together music and storytelling on a theme of climate change at Kings Place on 23rd November.
Violinist Benjamin Beilman leads the London Chamber Orchestra playing Caroline Shaw, Stravinsky, Bach and Copland on 24th November (again with programme notes by moi).
And for something completely different…
This fortnight’s recommend is the Crick Crack Club. They are a storytelling programmer, and reliably book some of the best storytellers in the UK. I’ve loved every event I’ve booked through them. Upcoming shows include a feminist take on Celtic tales, Greek myths and legends, and a retelling of Gawain and the Green Knight.