on the airwaves

Your insight into what CMNZ has to offer for your classical in-flight entertainment on Air New Zealand. Recently added are playlists curated around destinations: Great Britain and Ireland; France: China; South America and the United States. Curated by Anna van der Leij.

in this issue…


Discovering this recording from Ove Andsnes was such a joy, simply in that there can be such accessible, haunting and beautiful music that nobody has heard of, and from such a major composer. And beautifully played too. The Norwegian pianist has taken a selection from Sibelius’ piano works, and readily admits that some of the pieces are uneven in quality – some being slightly too short or sounding a little too much like Chopin or Liszt. That said, Andsnes says Sibelius still couldn’t hide that he was a great composer, and there are beautiful jewels here: the Vivace from his 6 Impromptus is a magical work with its rippling arpeggios, and the famous orchestral Valse Triste works wonderfully on the piano – where once were singing strings is now an atmosphere of salon music. This disc is a revelation, opening up a hidden world of neglected music.


“Good things for Good People.” Award-winning vocal group I Fagiolini (little beans) offer Amuse Bouche, a rich concoction of 20th Century choral delicacies and marking a departure from their previous recordings of Italian Renaissance music. This recording feels very warm and convivial – in a very good, and slightly dangerous way. This is the first recording of Jean Françaix’s Ode à la gastronomie, a humorous hommage to Brillat-Savarin’s famous 1825 tome, La Physiologie du goût, which encapsulated the French attitude to food and dining. The whole concept is so utterly French that it is not really a surprise that the work has rarely been attempted. Other rare 20th-century French choral delicacies here include Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur’s sensuous Le cantique des cantiques, based on the biblical Song of Songs, and Poulenc’s Un soir du neige. In between Satie’s Gnossiennes for solo piano clean the palette. (If you have twenty minutes to spare, look up I Fagiolini’s excellent video of Françaix’s Ode à la gastronomie, set in a restaurant.)


Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe juxtaposes Scottish Dances and music by James MacMillian played on a traditional acoustic instrument with contemporary
works by Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Steve Reich including a performance of the latter’s Electric Counterpoint described by its composer as “one of the best recordings ever” of the piece (and the video is excellent too). If you’ve been watching the music-world you’ll know this album has become the first winner of the newly-created Gramophone Award for Concept Album.

During his acceptance speech, Sean Shibe said: “In the age of never-ending digital noise – streaming; playlists defined by algorithm; a sea of apps that (cl)aim to make your life more convenient – I worry that the importance of long form ideas is being forgotten, and the patience required to process them lost. Today, an award like this is not only relevant, but vital.”


A nice way to introduce (or reacquaint) yourself with stars of our 2020 Season, the Doric Quartet. I’m still mustering enthusiasm for Mendelssohn (probably a personal failing), but this disc has helped in Mendelssohn’s plight. Presumably the start of a projected complete series, this disc includes his No 1 in E flat Major Op 12, No 5 in E-flat Major Op 44 No 3, and No 6 in F Minor Op 80. But it is the Op 80 – the ‘Requiem for Fanny’ which grabs my attention, written just after Fanny Mendelssohn’s death (Felix would die only 6 months later).

The Quartet are in full flight from soulfulness to distress showing this is a carefully crafted as well as fully impassioned piece. Can’t wait to hear their Mendelssohn live in Aotearoa this year.