Playlist – Simon Livesey
Parish Playlist #7
Parish Playlist #7 – Simon Livesey
1. Cantata No 1, Movt 1 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How lovely shines the morning star) – Bach
I have put my playlist in alphabetical order, but Bach would be at the top anyway, as I’ve been a big fan since my days singing and learning the organ at school. Why not start right at the beginning of the catalogue, with the first movement of BWV 1 – it’s a knockout! Can’t understand why it isn’t better known. My favourite recording is John Eliot Gardner’s – I would need the whole cycle of cantatas on my desert island, though. Click here.
2. The Ballad of The King of Thule (Autrefois un Roi de Thulé) from La Damnation de Faust – Berlioz
I read Berlioz’ Memoirs in my student days, a really extraordinary book. This movement from La Damnation has always stuck with me – it’s a really special moment in Part III where Marguerita sings this ballad about the King of Thule, who always remained sadly faithful to his lost love. Apart from being a real tear-jerker, if you read the lyrics, it’s very memorable because of its rather weird scoring (even for Berlioz) and the modal inflections in the melody which give it an other-worldly character, perhaps emphasising the fact that it’s a sort of diagetic interlude within the work. I’m very fond of Sir Colin Davis’s recording with the LSO. Click here.
3. Geistliches Lied – Brahms
I first came across this piece when I heard it at a service in Westminster Cathedral years ago now. If you were asked to write a double canon at the ninth, one might think that sounds rather dry and academic, but Brahms came up with this stunning motet in his young twenties. And it finishes with one of the most luscious Amens around.
The tempo direction in the score is Langsam (slowly) but I think it’s a bit too slow in a lot of the recordings I have heard, and for me this can risk losing the forward momentum a bit too much. One recording I like, though, is a YouTube video by La Maîtrise de l’Académie Vocale de Paris. The conductor is Iain Simcock who, coincidentally, used to be on the music staff at Westminster Cathedral. Click here.
And as to happy memories, suffice to say we had this motet sung at our wedding!
4. Prelude & Fugue in B Major – Dupré
For my money this is one of the most perfectly constructed and exhilarating pieces of organ music ever (leaving Bach out of it, as he’s had his turn), and B major is an exciting, shiny key. There are quite a few good recordings but my current favourite is a YouTube video of Yves Castagnet playing it on the great organ in Notre Dame in Paris, although it’s sickening how easy he makes it look! No chance of being able to play it myself, sadly, but it brings back great memories of working with my organ teacher at school, who introduced me to the piece. Click here.
5. All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
I enjoy a lot of jazz, rock and pop but 8 choices just isn’t enough. So my choice to represent the Fab Four is this George Harrison song which didn’t make it on to any Beatles album (as with so many of his songs) but it became the title track of one of his solo albums. I first heard it sitting on a friend’s terrace overlooking the sea in northern Italy, so it brings back happy memories, and the sentiment seems appropriate for this difficult period we’re going through now. Favourite recording? Only George’s original will do for me, I’m afraid. Click here.
6. Justorum Animae – Lassus
I love 16th century music and have been lucky enough to experience quite a lot of music from that period where I currently sing most Sundays. There are many, many highlights to choose from but I think this is a good one, and deserves to be better known.
We usually sing this at Remembrance time, or at funerals, for which the text is particularly suitable (The souls of the just are in the hand of God from the Book of Wisdom). It’s also particularly memorable for me because it was featured at the end of an episode of Inspector Morse (I think it was The Infernal Serpent, series 4 episode 1) so I can’t help hearing Barrington Pheloung’s famous Morse theme fading in in my head when we get to the words “visi sunt oculis insipientium mori…”! Click here.
7. Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso from La Rondine – Puccini
I wasn’t always an opera lover but I’ve become a huge Puccini fan over the years, and this is a real but perhaps not so well known highlight. La rondine has had a checkered history, for various reasons, but has really come into its own in the last twenty years or so – quite rightly as it contains some of his loveliest music. This number is based on a charming little lullaby which he published in a magazine a few years earlier. He obviously realised he was on to a good thing, so he recycles the tune and turns it into a great ensemble number.
For me, Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna’s recording, conducted by Antonio Pappano, can’t be beaten. I was lucky enough to see Angela Gheorghiu herself do it at Covent Garden. It also brings back happy memories of visiting Puccini’s house at Torre del Lago, in Tuscany.Click here.
8. Fool to Cry – Rolling Stones
I was never the Stones’s biggest fan but I think some of what they did was brilliant and this is Jagger and Richards at their bluesiest best. This single, from the album Black and Blue, came out in the summer of 1976 when I was doing my A levels. It was played a great deal on the radio (although it only reached number 6 in the charts) while I was revising during that hot and memorable summer – happy days! Click here.
If I was allowed a bonus choice I would definitely include some Pink Floyd. In fact, I’d want all of their albums on my desert island! Click here.