I love music. Here are some bletherings.
To begin with, some prejudices:
- I don't understand how anyone could not love music.
- The best composers who ever lived were Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, and whoever wrote the piece of music I'm listening to when you ask me.
- Why on earth is Mozart regarded as a greater composer than Haydn?
OK, enough fooling. I'm not really interested in music other than what's broadly called classical, in the sense that includes Prokofiev as well as Mozart. (That's not to say there's no other good music -- that would be crazy.)
I'm a sucker for a good fugue. A lot of people don't like densely contrapuntal music; to me, there's something very exciting about the way fugal pieces build up gradually, with voices entering one by one. This is probably something to do with the fact that I'm a mathematician.
Beethoven had a few composition lessons with Haydn, and claimed that Haydn hadn't taught him anything. This seems to me to be clearly false: Haydn has a lot more of the distinctively Beethovenian qualities than Mozart, to my ear.
There's a programme on BBC radio called "Desert Island Discs", in which more-or-less famous people are asked (among other things) to say what 8 records (compact discs these days, I suppose) they would want washed ashore with them when they get shipwrecked on a desert island with nothing but a hi-fi system. Here's my current best guess as to what I'd take.
- The Well-Tempered Clavier, by Bach. Both books if I can have them as one item; otherwise just the first. Glenn Gould's recording; he does some things I don't like, but it's all worth it for the magnificent clarity of his fugue playing. Richter is very, very good, too.
- Beethoven's string quartet, op. 131. If I can have all the late quartets, so much the better.
- Schubert's song cycle "Die Winterreise". Possibly not very healthy desert-island listening, but a must none the less.
- Mozart's Requiem. Mmmmmm.
- Schubert's unfinished symphony. Possibly the best thing Schubert ever wrote. I wish he had finished it.
- Brahms's fourth symphony.
- Prokofiev's 3rd piano concerto. Delightfully spiky.
- Sibelius's violin concerto. I have to have at least one violin concerto, and having this one keeps up some measure of stylistic diversity in the list.
I sing (second tenor) in the New Cambridge Singers, a chamber choir conducted by Christopher Brown. I took the Associated Board Grade 7 singing exam in late 2004 and passed with merit but without distinction. My singing teacher claims I'm really a first tenor with weak high notes, rather than a second tenor with weak low notes, but I find that singing second strains my voice less.
I sort of play the piano. I'm startlingly bad at it. Many years ago I reached the dizzying heights of the Associated Board's Grade 2 (with distinction), and I have stayed there ever since. (For those who don't know: the grades go up to Grade 8, which is a long way from the pinnacle of perfection. Plenty of people have Grade 8 by the time they leave school. Grade 1 is typically taken by primary-school pupils; Grade 2 is maybe a little beyond that.)
Actually, I'm not quite as bad as that would suggest. I can make it through some of Bach's two-part inventions without too many disasters, for instance; that's pretty close to the limit of my abilities. My sight-reading is really astonishingly bad.