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Ludwig Van
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Howard Skempton Offers A Different Angle Of Contemplation For Times Of Isolation

By Norman Lebrecht on April 17, 2020

Lebrecht_Listens_-William_Howard_

Howard Skempton: 24 Preludes and Fugues (Orchid)

★★★☆☆

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

First there was J S Bach. Then came Dmitri Shostakovich. The form is open for others to play with. I was unaware of Skempton’s contribution until this CD landed. A northern Englishman in his early 70s, Skempton is a minimalist in the absolute literal sense that he uses the fewest number of notes to make his point. Not a minim more or less.

In prelude-and-fugue form this yields a string of aphorisms connected by a tonal centre and a gentle, rocking, bucolic mood. Some of the pieces last no longer than 40 seconds. The effect can be hypnotic if you want it to be, but pay closer attention and you’ll find a musical mind working with the simplest of materials to achieve a particular atmosphere. The pauses between each of the 24 pieces are as telling as the sound. William Howard plays with breathless poise.

At a time when radio stations are playing familiar stuff from a crisis playlist, I try to reach out for something off the beaten track, something to take me to a different angle of contemplation. Skempton took me there, and I’m glad of it. In these weeks of isolation, we need our ears to get us out of the house.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

CRITIC'S PICKS | Virtual Concerts You Absolutely Need To See This Week (Streaming Edition)

By Joseph So on May 25, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of May 25 – 31.
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GUIDE | A Musical Reading List For The Victoria Day Long Weekend

By Robin Roger on May 14, 2020

Prior to the Victoria Day Weekend and every other long weekend for the rest of the summer, we’ll recommend a few of our favourite books on music.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Peak-Period Berio Before He Lost His Mojo

By Norman Lebrecht on May 29, 2020

Wonderfully challenging and frequently beautiful beyond words, Norman Lebrecht reviews this recording of peak-period Berio.
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