Category Archives: music

Hector Berlioz the Libertarian

Joseph S. Diedrich

Hector Berlioz the Libertarian

About a week ago, a friend and fellow classical music aficionado posted the following on Facebook:

I’ve waited my whole life to come to realize, through some dawning revelation, why precisely I’m supposed to like the Symphonie Fantastique. Today, right now where I sit, I’m fully prepared to say what I’ve put off saying for as long as I can remember: the Symphonie Fantastique is wrongly named. Continue reading

Recital at the Guild of Musicians and Singers, 17 May 2014

Recital at the Guild of Musicians and Singers, 17 May 2014

Recital at the 41st General Meeting of the Guild of Musicians and Singers, 17 May 2014
John Kersey, piano

Audio samples:
Faure: Barcarolle no. 2
Faure: Barcarolle no. 3
Faure: Nocturne no. 6
Alkan Symphony: movt. 1; movt. 2; movt. 3; movt 4

Price: £13.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 71 minutes 15 seconds

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924):
1. Barcarolle no. 2 in G major, op. 41 (1885) (6’16”)
2. Barcarolle no. 3 in G flat major, op. 42 (1885) (8’59”)
3. Barcarolle no. 4 in A flat major, op. 44 (1886) (4’06”)
4. Barcarolle no. 5 in F sharp major, op. 66 (1894) (6’28”)
5. Nocturne no. 6 in D flat major, op. 63 (1894) (+ applause) (10’32”)

Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-88):
Symphonie for solo piano, from 12 Etudes in the minor keys, op. 39 nos. 4-7
6. Allegro moderato (10’14”)
7. Marcia funebre: Andantino (6’27”)
8. Menuet (5’56”)
9. Finale: Presto (+ applause) (5’28”)

10. (encore) Faure: Nocturne no. 3 and concluding remarks by Master of the Guild Dr. David Bell (6’59”)

Recorded at the concert on 17 May 2014 and the rehearsal concert preceding it.

Congratulations to John Kersey

Yesterday, I attended a piano recital given at All Hallows by the Tower by John Kersey, our Director of Cultural Affairs. He played six pieces by Gabriel Fauré and the Symphony for Solo Piano by Charles Alkan. This isn’t music that I would normally listen to, and so I cannot compare his performance with any of the main recordings. But I will say that he played with astonishing force and spirit. The imperfections of the instrument he was given only emphasised the magnificence of his artistry. Of the music played, I most liked the Fauré Barcarolle No.4 in A flat major, and the second movement of the Alkan. But this is a personal preference. The whole performance was a memorable event.

I hope John will soon issue a recording.

Rediscovering significant piano music of the past

Rediscovering significant piano music of the past

by johnkersey

We live in an age of mysteries. The omnipresence of today’s recordings of classical music, many of which are of little-known repertoire, might lead us to believe that there is little left of the past to discover. Yet we have only to move back in time by a little over a hundred years to find the ghosts of a forgotten Romanticism waiting to be reanimated and to present to us an aesthetic very different from that of our own age. This was the era when the piano was at the centre of musical life; at the heart of the home and at the crux of the conception of the Romantic as artist.

Romantic Discoveries Recordings seeks to present innovative world première recordings informed by extensive research into the performance history of the Romantic era, and recorded in a natural ambience evoking the acoustic of the typical Romantic salon. These are not intended to be audiophile releases; instead, they are interpretatively faithful performances that aim at an honest, direct and sympathetic portrayal of music that is being introduced to the listener for the first time.

“His catalogue represents a huge contribution to the recorded repertoire of piano music by romantic unsungs…I have several of these CDs now and I must pay tribute not only to Kersey’s advocacy but also to his pianism. He has a fine technique but isn’t showy and he lets the music speak for itself. There’s something very appealing about this self-effacing, honest approach.” Mark Thomas, The Joachim Raff Society

“A great feast for the Beethoven connoisseur” (of CD19) James Green, author, The New Hess Catalog of Beethoven’s Works

“A true and nowadays unique artist, a pianist who has discovered a quantity of really unsung and memorable piano music…In my view, it is at the moment the most remarkable serial of unsung piano music of a high level, so not “lovely pieces” from days gone by, but the ambitious search for original and lasting works.” Dr. Klaus Tischendorf,

Audio samples

Some of our CDs have short audio samples available as Mp3 files, enabling you to download a track and listen before deciding whether to purchase. To listen to the tracks, you will need an Mp3 player. Many computers already have a media player installed. If you do not already have a media player, you can download the free FLV player available here. Alternatively, you may like to listen to the two hours of online sample tracks here.

Two new CDs published

Note: I’d never heard of Gernsheim before this morning, or heard any of his music. But, if his Fantasie op.81 is any indication of his talent, he is unjustly unknown. Many thanks to John Kersey, one of our regular contributors, for having brought his music back to life – and all praise for such fine playing.

I recommend John’s recordings to all our readers. The first reason shouldn’t need spelling out, but does. We are a movement of outsiders. Sometimes, we are odd in ourselves. More often, we have, by holding unfashionable ideas, placed ourselves at best on the margins. Some of us have artistic or other talents that, displayed without the accompanying libertarianism, might have made us moderately rich and famous. We have a duty to praise and generally support those libertarians who have such talents.

Indeed, there is occasional criticism on this Blog of the Jews. Whether or not any of this is justified does not concern me here. What does matter is how the Jews have, without losing themselves in the wider population, risen to considerable wealth and influence by consistent ethnic nepotism. The lefties have done the same. So have the Freemasons. We should learn from this. And the first lesson to be learned is that we should praise and support the talents of our fellow libertarians, no matter how apparently tangential they may appear to the core libertarian case.

The second reason is unpolitical. The German musical tradition between about 1750 and 1900 is one of the greatest of all human achievements. But those of us who are not musical scholars are unable to appreciate it in full. We can listen to the music of Beethoven and Schubert and Schumann and Mendelssohn and Brahms. We can listen to the alternative approaches, after Beethoven, of Liszt and Wagner. But we are not aware of the context in which these giants worked. They worked within, or reacted against, a large community of other musicians. If we do not know these other musicians, our appreciation of the great composers is defective. Imagine that we only knew of what was achieved in Hollywood between 1930 and 1950 by watching “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Maltese Falcon.” These are great works that stand by themselves. Of course, though, they are best appreciated by knowing what else was coming out of the main studios at the time.

Regardless of whether he was any good – and he seems to have been a man of solid ability – we should listen to the music of Friedrich Gernsheim.

For these reasons, and perhaps for others, I do most earnestly urge our readers to buy this CD. SIG

John Kersey

Two new CDs have been issued by Romantic Discoveries Recordings:

Piano Music of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), volume 2
John Kersey, piano

Audio sample: Fantasie, op. 81 (from vol. 1)

Total time: 76 minutes 13 seconds

Sonata in F minor, op. 1
1. Langsam, getragen (7’49”) 2. Lebhaft (3’31”) 3. Leidenschaftlich bewegt (10’06”)
Zwei Klavierstücke, op. 39
4. Lied (4’34”) 5. Gavotte (4’40”)
Tondichtung, op. 72
6. Hymnus (3’11”) 7. Romanze (5’45”) 8. Intermezzo (6’25”) 9. Jubilate (5’18”)
10. Waltz, op. 70 (4’50”)
Symbole, op. 59
11. Nachtstück (5’13”) 12. Elegie (5’11”) 13. Im Schilf (3’36”) 14. Romanze (3’00”) 15. Aeolus (2’55”)

Piano Music of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), volume 1
John Kersey, piano

Total time: 72 minutes 16 seconds

1. Fantasie, op. 27 (21’04”)
Ins Stammbuch, op. 26
2. Andantino (1’49”) 3. Allegretto grazioso (1’40”) 4. Andante (3’39”) 5. Allegro con brio e giocoso (2’27”) 6…

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RIP Colin Davis, 25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013

I never had the good fortune to see him in a live performance. Also, I have never been a fan of the English composers he did much to champion. However, we have lost one of the outstanding conductors of the past half century.

Here is his recording of the Berlioz Requiem. Something goes wrong with this in the Tuba Mirum – possibly a fault of the sound engineers when all four military bands come in to join an already vast orchestra and choir. Even so, it is the grandest and most moving performance of the work I have heard. No other performance I know comes close to it. I first heard it in in 1976 – indeed, I was carrying a recording of it when I was nearly killed in a road accident. It astonished me then. It still does. The hairs still prick up on the back of my neck when it reaches Te decet hymnus Deus in Sion at 4:15. Nor is it dismissive of the rest if I describe the Offertorium as astonishingly beautiful.

RIP, Colin Davis – our greatest loss of the year so far.

The Late Kim Jong-Il: A Man of many Talents