Patrick Malahide appeared on the June 4, 2006 edition of BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions. The program is hosted by composer Michael Berkeley who speaks with notable personalities about their favorite pieces of music.
Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be an archive of past episodes available, so we can’t hear Mr. Malahide’s thoughts on each piece, but his selections are noted on an archived page from the BBC.
And here they are (note: the pieces we listen too are not necessarily performed by the musicians mentioned):
Anon: Veni Creator Spiritus
Monks of Downside Abbey
Admin: I like this piece. It is very soothing and the Gregorian chanting style is lovely. It is the first time I’ve heard it as I’m not at all familiar with church music. I mostly know of the Gregorian monks songs from their pop covers which are really good. But, this one is purely hymnal. It is so meditative. There is no music, but the blending of voices and acoustics make instruments unnecessary.
RF: Agreed, very soothing and relaxing. I like the acoustical echoing effect; you can almost imagine yourself sitting in a vaulted cathedral. I’m also far more familiar with Gregorian chant through the musical group “Enigma“, but the two formats are so vastly different that there really isn’t any comparison. I also liked that we got some female voices for contrast (in the version I listened to) at around the 5:23 mark. Side note: I originally read “Downside Abbey” as “Downton Abbey”, which was a wee bit amusing. 😉
Admin: Downton Abbey. 🙂 I hear Mr. Carson can carry a nice tune. 🙂
Bach: Toccata in D minor, BWV 565
Fernando Germani (organ of the Royal Festival Hall)
Admin: I think almost everyone has heard this piece of music, especially the opening which is now something of a gothic horror soundtrack. As the piece continues, however, it is amazing how delicate and precise the sounds become. It is a very intricate piece of music and is energetically surprising with all its twists and turns when listened to in its entirety.
RF: I’ve only heard this performed live once, on a full-sized pipe organ, and it was absolutely spine-tingling. You could almost feel the bass notes rumbling through the floor into your feet and vibrating your clothing. The opening bars are the most familiar, but you’re right that it becomes extremely intricate and complex with a lot of contrast between the higher and lower registers as they trade and build up the melody between them.
Liam O’Flynn: An Droichead
Liam O’Flynn (Uileann pipes)
RF: This track strongly reminds me of Mark Knopfler’s latest album, “Privateering” (I swear this is not a plug!), which is an extremely good thing. Both “Privateering” and this track – and indeed a lot of Knopfler’s work, including when he was still with Dire Straits – have a strong Celtic influence, where he either reworks existing Irish folk melodies or incorporates them into his own music while adding his own distinct touch, giving them just a wee bit of an edge. Love the blending of Knopfler’s guitar with the distinct sound of the uilleann pipes. Knopfler’s one of my favourites (does it show? 😉 ) and I think I may just have to go out and get the rest of the album this track came from.
Admin: For those interested it is from Liam O’Flynn’s album The Piper’s Call.
RF: Thanks! 🙂
Kyung-Wha Chung (violin)/LPO/Klaus Tennstedt
Admin: There is a lot of energy and power here. It gets slower and more swoony and romantic (I’m sure there are more technical terms) about 2 1/2 and five minutes in, and I really like those parts a lot. But the combination of powerful strong music and the more flowing sound work together beautifully. The version I listened to on YouTube featured Pinchas Zukerman and he was fun to watch in and of himself. 🙂
RF: I’d heard this piece before but never in its entirety, so this was really interesting. The violin soloist carries and improves on the melody, while the orchestra backs him or her up, building the theme behind him or her. I like your description of the more swoony and romantic interludes, too. 😉 I listened to a version featuring a very animated József Lendvay as soloist.
Mozart: Dies Irae (from Requiem in D minor, K.626)
Swedish Radio Choir/Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
Admin: This one is hugely dramatic. It isn’t as much to liking as the others have been as I personally find the singing to be too powerful.
RF: Well, “Dies Irae” translates as “Day of Wrath” and if I recall correctly, Mozart wrote this as a commission piece, though it was ultimately unfinished when he died and finished later by others. Wikipedia says that it was written to commemorate the passing of a Count von Walsegg’s wife, and I think its forceful, somewhat apocalyptic tone is meant to invoke the awe and dread of souls at the Day of Judgement. So, uhm… not the most cheerful work, no.
Chopin: Ballade No.1 in G minor, Op.23
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano)
Admin: This is more like it. 🙂 This is a very soothing piano piece. It ebbs and flows and then picks up speed in a sprightly way without losing one bit of delicacy.
RF: Definitely more abstract and soothing than the previous “Dies Irae”. 😉 There are filigrees of delicacy and sprightliness mixed in with a supporting strong bass line that seem to intertwine, separate, and intertwine again into a coordinated harmony. The effect of the whole is light, airy, and enjoyable with a big, flourishing finish.
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No.1, Op.107 (1st mvt – Allegretto)
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)/Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Admin: This one sounds like Halloween itself. I love the drum and french horn enhancements. It is very energetic and even frentic, but the main refrain holds it all together and prevents it from being too chaotic. I like it a lot.
RF: I started enjoying this more once I began thinking of it in Halloween terms, so thanks for that, Admin. 🙂 It does seem to have something of the “Danse Macabre” about it, although without the orderliness and waltz rhythms of that piece. You can almost imagine cavorting spirits and spooky creatures under a moonlit sky. It has a humorous tone as well, despite the minor key.
Trad. arr. O’Flynn: The Drunken Landlady, McKenna’s Reels
Liam O’Flynn (Uileann pipes)
Admin: This is a proper reel and I love the name. It is extremely jaunty. I get the feeling the drunken lady would be a lot of fun. As they would say on American Bandstand: “It has a great beat and I can dance to it.” 😉
RF: This strikes me as one of those dances you do at a party (or a cèilidh) when everyone’s well into their cups, stomping their feet and having a great time. Agreed, very jaunty and sprightly with a compelling, fun dance rhythm. Lots of versions of it out there, but I think the uilleann pipes do it the most justice.
And the Winner is:
Admin: For me the strongest are The Drunken Landlady, Cello Concerto No. 1. and An Droichead. All three are great, but I think the way An Droichead blends so beautifully makes it extra special, so it is my favorite.
RF: I also liked “The Drunken Landlady”, but Mark Knopfler and Liam O’Flynn teaming up for “An Droichead” completely won me over, because (1) Mark Knopfler, and (2) I really do want to go find the rest of that album. Honourable mentions go to Bach’s “Toccata in D minor” and Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” for me.