Phil Race

Assessment, learning and teaching in higher education

Classical Music

Music blog

Further down this page is why music is so important to me. But if I were to put recent entries at the bottom of the page, who would see them? So here goes…

At the Sage, 3rd October 2013

The Royal Northern Sinfonia was conducted by Julian Rachlin in Mozart’s ‘Figaro’ Overture, then played Mendelssohn’s violin concerto better than I’ve ever heard it on record or live (or my Dad playing it when I was a kid). Definitive. He then conducted the Sinfonia in Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony – again I’ve never heard it played or interpreted so well. One of the concerts of my life.

Another side of my life!
Long before I knew anything about assessment, learning or teaching (or even science) I became passionate about classical music, and this has been a major part of my life throughout. My father played violin, and made several too, as well as teaching it. I started buying ’78s as a kit, and later collected thousands of LPs, and now have thousands of CDs. I always carry lots of music around with me on iPods, and good noise-cancelling headphones. I love the ‘shuffle’ function, as it frequently throws at me pieces I wouldn’t have picked off my CD racks, and widens my range of favourites.

My tastes are quite wide, focusing on orchestral, instrumental and chamber music, everything from Bach to modern music. I don’t go fmuch for choral music or opera, perhaps because I don’t sing! I particularly love a big orchestra playing loudly, and would like to be a timpanist next time round – or better, a conductor!
I’m delighted that my local orchestra is now the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and get to as many of their concerts as I can in the wonderful acoustic at The Sage, Gateshead. I was at their very first concert in the City Hall, Newcastle, way back.
In recent years, I’ve been sharing my passion for music in residential weekends at Madingley Hall, Cambridge, and have run programmes on 4th Symphonies (‘Augmented 4ths’), 5th Symphonies (‘Fabulous 5ths’), 1st Symphonies (‘Fantastic Firsts’), ‘Magnificent Ninths’ at Madingley.

Shostakovich: a reflection
This short download is a piece I wrote to celebrate Shostakovich’s Centenary. In fact, the first lecture I ever gave (while a PhD student in science) was to a music society on the (then completed) symphonies of Shostakovich. Shostakovich (781)

Desert Island Discs
I would cheat, and take an iPod with hundreds of recordings on it. Some I would hate to be without include:

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique: Sir Roger Norrington with the London Classical Players – the most exciting version I know of this masterpiece.

Shostakovich: Symphony No.4: Rudolph Barshai with the NDR Symphony Orchestra – there’s so much to discover in the 4th.

Beethoven: String Quartet Op.131: The Italian Quartet – I never tire of this.

Dvorak: 3rd Symphony: Vaclav Smetacek with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. I like Dvorak a lot. This is in my view by far the best performance ever of the 3rd – I’ve got most of the rest!

Stravinsky: the Rite of Spring: Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. Dorati really gets to the ‘pagan’ in this elderly recording, which still sounds great, and is better than most later ones.

Schubert: String Quintet: The Aeolian Quartet with Bruno Schrecker – possibly the one piece I just couldn’t live without.

Janacek: Sinfonietta: Sir Charles Mackerras with the Vienna Philharnonic: full of life, and optimism.

Schumann: 1st Symphony: Rafael Kubelik with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra – to put a spring in my step! Kubelik was a great interpreter of Mahler, Dvorak, Janacek and many other composers.

J. S. Bach: the Cello suites. Just sometimes, there’s nothing else which will calm one down like these do.

My piano
Sally gave me a (digital) piano for my 65th birthday, aiming to keep me at home for longer rather than wandering the country (and beyond) as I still do. I’d not had access to an instrument for decades.  I can already play all the right notes, but not yet in the correct order. I enjoy struggling through favourite bits of Beethoven, Schubert and so on, at least finding out more about how the great composers brought ideas to reality, even if never aspiring to play anything when anyone else is listening!

Written by Phil

11 September, 2008 at 2:16 pm