Sunday, July 24, 2005


OK. I think that's quite enough about Wagner for a bit. My brain's getting twisted.

I'm off to Switzerland for a flying visit to the Verbier Festival tomorrow - back rather too soon. A couple of thoughts to leave you with in the meantime, including the promised Desert Island Discs in case anyone's interested!

First, though, for the literary-minded: in the wake of the bombings in London and Egypt and the continual suicide bombing insurgency in Iraq, how are we creatives to respond? I've often been annoyed by the way that much contemporary fiction seems to be an extended version of what's happened to be in the news - the result is a lot of books that date very quickly - and even my favourite books, which on the whole don't do that, can contain elements that become dated through their 'relevance to contemporary issues'. On the other hand, there's a lot of escapism too: historical novels that bury their concerns in the distant past (though I hasten to add that I love many of those!!). Is it possible for writers and, indeed, composers to handle the impact of our changing world in a creative way that doesn't become obsessed with relevance to these issues? I'm wondering how to make my new novel feel contemporary without getting too involved in such things. It's difficult.

Enough of that - here are 8 Desert Island Discs to enjoy. I've a nasty feeling I've done this before, but can't remember when - and the list has probably changed...

1. Krystian Zimerman plays the Ravel piano concertos - with LSO/Boulez (DG). Perfection.

2. Marc-Andre Hamelin's album 'Kaleidoscope'. All his recordings are brilliant, but this is the one I play most.

3. Mozart: The Magic Flute, conducted by Klemperer with fab cast including Nikolai Gedda, Gundula Janowitz and Lucia Popp. I grew up with this & may be where I am today partly because of it.

4. Tchaikovsky. Mravinsky conducts his own selection from The Nutcracker's most meaningful moments. Another world.

5. Peter Schreier and Andras Schiff in the Schubert song cycles. I was going to choose just 'Die schone Mullerin' but have now discovered that all three are available together!

6. The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto, played by Philippe Graffin in South Africa. This is meaningful to me for long, complex reasons that I've written about before.

7. Andras Schiff plays the Goldberg Variations. Definitely can't do without this.

8. Faure. It has to be Faure. I'd like to take my own compilation of Favourite Faure, but in the absence of that, This will do nicely: historical Faure, including Thibaut & Cortot in the Violin Sonata No.1 and the Calvet Quartet with Robert Casadesus in the Piano Quartet No.1. Having said that, my ultimate Faure choice has yet to appear on CD. I'm hoping that it will do so within the next couple of years.