Music has been a very important part of my lockdown experience. At first there was silence: long-anticipated projects cancelled
We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, guitarist Mark Eden, introduces his picks.
Mark is a tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, one half of the Eden Stell Guitar Duo, and one quarter of the Vida Quartet. Mark studied at the Royal Academy of Music where he won the Julian Bream Prize and graduated with the highest performing achievements and the Principal’s Prize. He was awarded grants from the Worshipful Company of Musicians to continue studies in Brussels with Sergio and Odair Assad. Both of his ensembles have achieved international acclaim and continue to perform at some of the most prestigious venues, International guitar and music festivals all over the world. Mark has recorded eight CDs receiving many press reviews, including ‘Editors’ Choice’ in Gramophone and recording of the week in The Observer, and has appeared on ITV, BBC and many European networks.
“It really is too tricky to select just 8 tracks; I love too many pieces of music. To add to the complexity, my choices are just as much about the artists as they are about the composer. Rather like Saffron, I have gone for pieces which have made an impact on me when I was young. I could make a top 50 easily, but here’s my 8 – but before we get underway, I must make a special mention to Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis’ and ‘The Lark Ascending’; Nigel North (lute) playing Bach and Dowland; Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’; Steven Isserlis playing Bach cello suites; The Jam; Beethoven; Martha Argerich playing anything; Sir András Schiff playing anything; The Police; Debussy; Scarlatti; Chopin; Britten; Prince; Stephen Dodgson; and guitarists Sergio & Odair Assad, Segovia & John Williams to name just a few. Sorry… had to get those out also.”
Track 1: Simon & Garfunkel – For Emily (LIVE)
I should really just say that any of the songs from the Simon & Garfunkel Greatest Hits album (or tape in our case) is my first choice. My first truly memorable musical experience driving down to Cornwall in the mid 70’s with my parents and sisters in an old car and a tape player sitting in the foot well. We just kept playing it over and over… well Cornwall felt further away back then! We all loved the songs and I can still remember all the words and tunes. ‘For Emily’ sums up this hazy hot summer in Mawgan Porth, where our hotel was like something out of “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday”. Art Garfunkel’s voice is like an angel’s, and Simon’s guitar playing must have made something click inside me. I love the triplets strummed in the guitar part at the highest point of the song.
Track 2: The Smiths – This Charming Man
I was defiantly a closet Smiths fan. I never saw them live but I did have most of their albums and this song sums up my teenage 80’s angst. I love the way the words tell a story which your own imagination can elaborate on.
Track 3: Federico Mompou – Suburbs
This is one of Mompou’s early piano pieces which put him on the map. It also sums up his personality as someone who was a loner, who walked the streets of his beloved Barcelona taking in the atmospheres and life going on around him. “The Street, the guitar and the old horse” is particularly poignant. I guess I’m a sucker for music with a degree of melancholy and nostalgia.
Track 4: Enrique Granados – ‘Dedicatoria’ from Album for the Young (Played by Julian Bream)
This choice has more to do with Bream rather than perhaps the beautifully simple piece by Granados. Before I heard this, I was playing the guitar in a rock band and even though I was doing classical guitar grades, I had no idea what a classical guitarist was. A geography teacher at my high school gave me a tape of Bream playing Granados and Albéniz… my head went BOOM! when I first heard Bream’s tone. Almost every other guitarist I meet today admits that Bream was the reason they wanted to learn to play the guitar, and I guess it is the same for me. To sound this simple and musical is very hard but Bream makes it look easy.
Track 5: Manuel de Falla – Harpsichord Concerto (Played by Kipnis and Boulez)
This piece might be one of the most amazing and quirky piece composed in my opinion. I can’t quite put my finger on why it fascinates me. Neo-classical in style with moments of high Spanish baroque and Stravinsky-like originality. One might not associate Falla with this piece if you didn’t know it was by him; you would usually think of his ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’, or ‘El Amor Brujo’, but Falla never felt he needed to repeat himself like other composers. He was notorious for his meticulous approach to composing, which is probably why he didn’t write a huge number of pieces. Falla’s one and only original guitar piece, ‘Homenaje, pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy’, is only 3 minutes long but Benjamin Britten described it as having 15 mins worth of music. This recording is stunning as the tempos are just right (not too fast) and Boulez brings clarity to the musical detail.
Track 6: John Dowland – Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard (Played by Julian Bream)
Another Bream choice but this time on the lute, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for single handedly bringing this ancient instrument back from the annals of history. Bream is a natural contrapuntal player – you can hear the clear polyphony – but he also makes everything sing. He’s a true master and one which Dowland would have greatly admired. Dowland is also a great love of mine. He had a complicated life in troubled times, being a Catholic in England in the 1590s, and probably a spy. He was really the first musical superstar of Europe with his most famous work ‘Lachrimae’ being bootlegged as far afield as Italy. I played this piece for my final recital at the RAM.
Track 7: Maurice Ravel – String Quartet in F major (Played by Quartetto Italiano)
When I first heard this piece I couldn’t believe that someone could compose something so beautiful. I bought this actual recording by Quartetto Italiano as a Birthday present for my father, but I think he never got much of a chance to listen to it as I played it over and over again marvelling at its originality and genius. It sparked a life long passion for Ravel’s music, especially his piano works and his genius orchestration. The pizzicato Scherzo second movement is so funky. Another great moment is the haunting second subject melody from the first movement which Ravel brings back in the recapitulation, but in the major just by changing the cello part… genius!
Track 8: Leoš Janáček – Sinfonietta
This piece was introduced to me by an English teacher at high school and is a great musical description of the current crisis, with musical feelings of struggle and victory over adversity. Janáček’s composition and orchestration is highly original. He didn’t become a serious composer until much later in his life, finding inspiration in a platonic love affair with a younger lady called Kamila Stösslová. Janáček makes me think that nothing is too late to try your hand at. Jackdaws is a great champion of inspiring amateur musicians to try and learn new instruments and music so this choice feels apt. Janáček’s swirling motives, haunting melodies, soaring brass and beating timpani really feels like you have climbed the Mount Everest of music.
We have asked our tutors while they are marooned in isolation what 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them.
First up is our Artistic Director and tutor on two of our courses for singers, Saffron van Zwanenberg. She says:
“This was really hard! I started by making a list of all of the music I couldn’t live without, but that was far too long, so I tried to narrow it down chronologically based on music that has influenced me in some way throughout my life. Unsurprisingly perhaps, there is quite a lot of opera…
Track 1: “Here’s a How De Do” from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan (D’Oyly Carte Company)
Not a very cool choice…My grandparents were huge G&S fans and my earliest musical memory is them taking me to see the Mikado, I think I was about 4, I loved it and still do. They also named all of their pets after G&S characters, so Buttercup the dog and Pish Tush the cat were a big part of my childhood.
Track 2: Trio from Norma – Bellini (Caballé, Sutherland and Pavarotti)
I grew up abroad and had limited access to music, so it was mostly through tapes (cassette tapes!) that my parents had brought with us, which included all of the Decca Pavarotti/ Sutherland recordings which I would sing along with great gusto (and very little technique!) and I have loved Joan and Pav all of my life. This was a particular favourite for all of us, so much so that my Dad made it our answerphone message for years.
Track 3: “O Soave Fanciulla” from La bohème – Puccini (Pavarotti & Freni)
When we moved back to my home town of Newcastle I was lucky enough to go to many performances by Scottish Opera who were at the time the main touring company in the North.
I saw all sorts and I remember realising that opera had the ability to move me more than anything else I had experienced. La bohème is just one of those pieces, I know it so well now, I always think it won’t get me, but at the end I am always crying.
Track 4: “Glitter and be Gay” from Candide – Bernstein (Barbara Cook)
This was another of the Scottish Opera productions, and the moment I heard this was pretty much the moment I decided to become an opera singer…not sure what that says!
Track 5: Die Junge Nonne- Schubert (Felicity Lott/ Graham Johnson)
I didn’t get as much exposure to song as I had to opera until I went to music college, and then I discovered Schubert, who had the same effect on me as Puccini, and still does.
Track 6: Final Chorus from Radamisto – Handel
This was such a difficult one to narrow down, assuming I couldn’t just put Handel and everything he wrote! I chose this in the end not because it is one of his greatest moments but because it means something to me. When I was at the RCM we were fortunate at the time to do an opera with the Handel Society every year. In my final year on the opera course we did Radamisto and I can still remember the feeling of happiness singing this chorus at the end having successfully navigated (survived!) the whole piece alongside some great friends.
Track 7: “Tutto nel mondo è burla” from Falstaff – Verdi
For being simply the best ending to an opera ever, and my favourite opera to boot.
Track 8: Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro – Mozart (Sir Colin Davis)
Had to have some Mozart, but again found almost impossible to narrow down. I chose this because it makes me feel such anticipation of exciting things yet to happen and it also marked a massive highlight in my career when I conducted it for one of Jackdaws’ projects, Song Story, involving 5 SEND schools, around 80 young people playing it on a range of things you could blow, shake and whack alongside a group of professional instrumentalists, and it was one of the best feelings I have ever had!