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Jessica Duchen
Thursday 7th January 2010
Anti-Desert Island Discs?

Over at his blog Entartete Musik, my pal Gavin Plumley links to Alan Bennett's piece in the London Review of Books in which our playwright muses that it's much easier to choose the eight records he wouldn't want on a desert island than those he would. Both he and Gavin are ready to chuck out, among other things, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and a spot of Mozart. (By the way, Minette Marrin has an interesting review of Bennett's The Habit of Art here at Standpoint which makes some interesting points about Britten that a lot of people are too reverential ever to voice, but that's another matter.)

My anti-desert island list would include:

Bob Dylan's Christmas album

Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

Orff Carmina Burana

Everything by Bruckner

That silly old recording of the Brandenburg Concertos on early instruments by the English Concert, made before they could play the objects properly.

Britten Death in Venice

Stravinsky Pulcinella

Elgar The Dream of Gerontius

On a totally different tack, thanks to everyone for the brilliant response on Twitter to Zimerman's Chopin Ballade yesterday! Glad you all loved it as much as I did, so we'll have some more very soon.

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ricardo moraes
February 9th, 2010
5:02 PM
Sorry ,Jessica , but I must disagree about Britten's Death in Venice. Tadzio playing on the beach, the percussion, it is beautiful !

January 18th, 2010
12:01 PM
Sort of agree about the Dream of Gerontius. It has its uses though - the fact that the only decent bit is the chorus of demons is proof positive that devil does (sometimes at least) have the best tunes!

January 12th, 2010
5:01 PM
In the case of the desert island question, I've always thought more sensible to sink with the ship.

Jessica Duchen
January 10th, 2010
11:01 AM
I'm surprised nobody has deigned to remark that there is nothing by Handel on my list...the truth is that I prefer him to all of these, and greatly so. In case anyone *does* fancy being my fan on Facebook, here's the link:

Jeffrey H. Mulvey
January 9th, 2010
5:01 PM
I was going to become your fan on Facebook until I saw "everything by Bruckner" on your list.

Jessica Duchen
January 7th, 2010
3:01 PM
Come to think of it, I have a problem with most choral works in English. I wouldn't like to be stuck on a desert island with a single one, thanks. I think this is because the language seems to me poorly suited to singing. Recite Shakespeare, Keats, Dylan Thomas and it's glorious, but add music and... well, take the RVW 'Sea Symphony' as an example: can you imagine more unwieldy words to sing than 'the sea itself' and 'ships'? Whereas with German, it's the opposite problem: I find the spoken language relatively unattractive, but when sung it can sound incredibly beautiful. Something to do with the nature of the vowels: our clipped, closed, earthbound words like 'his', 'mewsic', 'God' just don't work - contrast with 'sein', 'musik', 'Gott'...anyway, I digress...

January 7th, 2010
12:01 PM
"Elgar The Dream of Gerontius" Oh, no! I find it deeply moving though some would say it is sentimental. The only part I dislike is the Demons' Chorus. The only Gerontius I hate is Jon Vickers.

Gavin Plumley
January 7th, 2010
11:01 AM
Marvellous game this, isn't it? Though I was sad to see the Elgar on your list. Although I personally love the Orff, I totally understand its inclusion. But 'Softly and Gently' from the Dream might even make it onto my Desert Island. Couldn't disagree more about THE HABIT OF ART, however...

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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