I guess people from all walks of life get asked “what are you listening to?”, as a conductor, its one of the most frequent questions people ask me. They’re often surprised by my answers. So here’s a short list and discussion.
Like most musicians I can’t stand music playing in the background. If its playing I listen to it.
My memory is the most important tool I have, and as I rely on it daily in my professional life, I look after it outside work. That in practice means I don’t listen to works I know well unless its for a specific reason. I don’t just turn on a recording of a well-known Symphony for the hell of it. So much music sits in the memory banks that I need to keep in a “workable state”. Half-listening to something, without full attention, degrades my memory of it.
Mostly, I listen to things I don’t know, or don’t know as well as I should. Discovering new pieces makes me happier than just about anything else in life. Here’s a list of some composers that have been new for me over the past decade, and who I recommend for your own playlist…
Torsten Rasch Mein Herz Brennt
This is the most important new piece in my life in the last 10 years. Torsten’s orchestration, his sound world and the raw power of the piece constantly amaze me. Rene Pape, Katharina Thalbach and conductor John Carewe are astonishing.
Einojuhani Rautavaara House of the Sun
Some of Rautavaara’s music is relatively well-known. If you’ve never heard his name then I recommend Cantus Arcticus, Angels and Vistitations, and Symphony no.7 as great pieces to start with. House of the Sun is an opera, and thoroughly rewarding to listen to as a recording. The plot and structure are surprising and original, and the lyricism is heart-stopping.
Giya Kancheli Wingless
Kancheli’s music is well-known in Europe and there are many pieces, like his viola concerto Styx that are frequently performed. Wingless is rarely played, and is a masterpiece of drama and Kancheli’s characteristic contrast between incredibly soft sections and passages of pulsating power and volume.
Guillaume Connesson The Shining One – Piano Concerto
I love Connesson’s music, and this short piano concerto (less than 10 minutes) is a great place to start getting to know his repertoire. Its distinctly French, reminiscent of Ravel in particular, but the sound world is completely fresh and new.