Desert Island Discs with Gordon Bragg

SCO QH 14Nov Ryan Buchanan 017 GORDON

"Even though it is not possible for the SCO to share our music with you at the moment it has been a really fun exercise to think about which recordings have greatly influenced me, and which I would take to my desert island. I have tried to have some sort of variety, so a lot of Haydn and Sibelius missed out, as well as quite a few famous violinists. There are also SCO recordings which I am very proud of, but I am most definitely not going to repeat Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's Radio 4 Desert Island Discs appearance where she picked eight of her own recordings! Recordings, however, are no substitute for the real thing, and I look forward to sharing with you our joy in making music before too long. I hope you are all staying safe and well."
Gordon Bragg, Second Violin

LISTEN TO GORDON'S PLAYLIST HERE

No 1: Sibelius, Symphony No 7 | Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
Sibelius has always had a special place in my heart as a composer whose form of expression is unbelievably pure. I could take any of the symphonies but Symphony No 7, with its perfect synthesis of forms into one movement still staggers me on an emotional and intellectual level. We can too easily separate ‘form’ and ‘expression’ but in this case the form is the expression and the expression is the form.

No 2: Gesualdo, Quinto Libro di Madrigali | The Hilliard Ensemble
Gesualdo’s Madrigals are some of the most complex, intricate and hyper-emotional works ever written. His darkly violent life only contributes to his legend. As an orchestral player it is sometimes healthy to be reminded that music existed before 1750, and such sensually romantic and oddly expressionistic music at that. If I were to pick one out of the collection I would pick no.2 ’S’io non miro moro, non mirando non vivo’.

No 3: Schubert, Piano Sonata No 21 in B flat major B960 | Radu Lupu
This choice is linked to a fond memory in that one of the most powerful concerts I ever went to was Lupu playing this sonata. The piece just unfolded and Lupu ‘disappeared’. It was as if the audience was eavesdropping on him. Somehow, without any theatrical effects, Schubert conjures up a world of extraordinary emotional power encompassing anguish, loneliness, but also transcendent beauty.

No 4: Haydn, The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross | Quatuor Mosaïques
Like Sibelius Symphonies, I could take any quartet by Haydn from his Op.20 set onwards so rather than having to make that choice I will neatly sidestep the problem by taking his Seven Last Words. The ‘building blocks’ of the work are incredibly simple in that there are eight slow movements before roughly 90 seconds of earthquake music at the end. Within these confines, or rather because of them, Haydn writes music that is extremely simple in construction yet speaks directly to the heart. 

No 5: David Oistrakh: The Complete EMI recordings
I could imagine that finding a decent power source on this desert island could be tricky, but I would be very happy if I could take my LP player. Having been particular about the format of recorded sound I think that sometimes we musicians get too hung up on ‘sound’ as if sound in and of itself is an endpoint. Even though Oistrakh comes from the Soviet School of violin playing and therefore may not conform to certain ideas about historically informed performance practice, I find that his way of phrasing, the way that his playing seems to ‘breathe’ and his ‘musical spirit’ is always in total deference to the composer and touches me greatly. Even a small vignette such as Wieniawski’s Legende is imbued with pathos and beauty.

No 6: Studies for Player Piano | Conlon Nancarrow 
This collection is looking rather serious so I need something that makes me smile. Therefore I would take Conlon Nancarrow’s Player Piano studies. Made by punching holes into card and then fed through a pianola-like instrument, Nancarrow took away the human element from making music, coming up with a body of work that is completely unique, without any lineage, and sounds like something from outer space. Study number 5 always makes me laugh uncontrollably.

No 7: Jeeves and Wooster | PG Wodehouse read by Martin Jarvis (Jeeves Series on audible here)
Am I allowed to take spoken word? Perhaps I can sneak Martin Jarvis reading PG Wodehouse into my suitcase. Even though his books are seemingly out of fashion, his genius for language, the way his humour sneaks up on you unawares (rather like humour in Haydn’s music) and the fact that, reassuringly, nothing bad ever happens in the books means that in the present climate this would be a welcome addition. And, besides my position at the SCO, getting paid to do silly voices on the radio would probably be my dream job!