What I'd be playing if I weren't going to Glastonbury

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As it's Glastonbury this weekend it means I don't have a radio show to do. Someone in a similar position may regard this as a good opportunity to take a break, but for me it means I have a week's worth of records I don't know what to do with.

I guess this is where having a blog comes in handy.

I would have opened the show with Electric Wire Hustle - "Again (Scratch 22 remix)" which features on K7 records' new DJ Kicks album, compiled by the Motor City Drum Ensemble. There are no two ways of putting this; it is deep house and normally the sort of thing I'd hate but it is frankly sexy as hell and it would have made for a great opener.

Electric Wire Hustle - Again (Scratch 22 Remix) by Scratch22  

To show I wasn't turning into a deep house kind of guy I would have then stuck on Maria and the Mirrors - "Travel Sex" to restore my cool. MATM are from East London and are very East London. I saw them play live a couple of years ago and they were awful, really awful; they looked interesting and weren't. Their new EP, though, is really good; noisy as hell and the kind of thing I wish British bands would make more often, a welcome escape from indie schmindie windy. Listen to it here.

At the end I would have left you with "Sabbath Moon" by MsTrS, off their new album Acid Witch Mountain, a film score to a movie that doesn't exist. It will leave you scared, while I jump into a cab to a fashionable East London venue that I won't be let into.

Sabbath Moon (mastered version) by MsTrS 

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Proms 2016: Violinist Ray Chen was the star of a varied show

The orchestra soaked up his energy in Bruch's first violin concerto to end on a triumphal note. 

Music matters, but so does its execution. This was the lesson of a BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus programme which combined both a premiere of a composition and a young violinist’s first performance at the Proms. 

The concert, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, opened with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic fantasy The Tempest, a lesser-known sibling to his Romeo and Juliet overture. The orchestra got off to a fidgety start, with some delayed entries, but fell into line in time for the frenetic chromatic runs that drive the piece. The end, a muted pizzicato, was suitably dramatic. 

Another nature-inspired piece followed – Anthony Payne’s composition for chorus and orchestra, Of Land, Sea and Sky. Payne drew on his memory of watching of white horses appearing to run across water, as well as other visual illusions. At the world premiere, the piece began promisingly. The chorus rolled back and forth slowly over scurrying strings with an eerie singing of “horses”. But the piece seemed to sink in the middle, and not even the curiosity of spoken word verse was enough to get the sinister mood back. 

No doubt much of the audience were drawn to this programme by the promise of Bruch violin concerto no. 1, but it was Ray Chen’s playing that proved to be most magnetic. The young Taiwanese-Australian soloist steered clear of melodrama in favour of a clean and animated sound. More subtle was his attention to the orchestra. The performance moved from furious cadenza to swelling sound, as if all players shared the same chain of thought. Between movements, someone coughed. I hated them. 

Ray Chen in performance. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Chen’s playing had many audience members on their feet, and only an encore appeased them. It was his first time at the Proms, but he'll be back. 

The orchestra seemed to retain some of his energy for Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region. Composed between 1904 and 1906, this is a setting of lines by the US poet Walt Whitman on death, and the idea of rebirth.

The orchestra and chorus blended beautifully in the delicate, dark opening. By the end, this had transformed into a triumphal arc of sound, in keeping with the joyful optimism of Whitman’s final verse: “We float/In Time and Space.” 

This movement from hesitancy to confident march seemed in many ways to capture the spirit of the concert. The programme had something for everyone. But it was Chen’s commanding performance that defined it.