Music to play while watching Downton Abbey

You love the country houses, the costumes, the makeup.

But you now the dialogue is recycled from a secondhand lexicon of platitudes.

So here’s the remedy – turn off the TV sound and play music written to accompany Downton Abbey.

It’s Lebrecht Album of the Week. Read on here or here.

The rest of the album, proficiently performed by the BBC Symphony, is filled with a pair of authentic concertos by minor composers – X  sounds like a cheerful chappie who would have been in his element scoring comedy series for the BBC and Y reminds me of a country bus shelter in the rain, a timeless passage of time, not at all unpleasant. Switch off the sound on your television and play this to accompany Downton Abbey.

green and pleasant land


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  • How about turning off the boob tube and listening to some music? Better yet, turn off the Internet and listen to some music. Do it often.

  • NL is rawther too dismissive of Finzi here, I’d say. Finzi is lovely. And better than the usual “Heritage Porn” soundtracks he no doubt influenced.

    • First, I heartily second Doug’s comment. Secondly, I very much agree with David. Indeed, I should say that NL is dangerously dismissive of Finzi. When “Twelve-Tone Lizzie” Lutyens used the term ‘cowpat music’ at Dartington in the 50s, she was referring to the entire so-called ‘Pastoral School’, and that means NL has today denigrated also the music of Vaughan Williams, Bax, Holst, and Ireland. I shall be looking out for any self-contradiction on this matter in the future.

      Slinging, well, excrement around in the manner of Lutyens is a dodgy game. Constant Lambert said that VW’s Symphony No. 5 was like looking at a cow for 45 minutes — this from a man who bestowed on us The Rio Grande! Copland made a very similar comment about the VW, and he gave us works that conjure up cowboys whooping, Shakers singing, one president, four popular songs played in Mexican saloon…it’s like attending a Wayne/Peck/Fonda film festival. And so, why is this American nativist school okay but not the (poorly named) English Pastoral School? Because the latter is English and therefore denigrated in England (an English musical tradition, that sort of denigration) and inevitably looked askance at in other countries, no composer more so than poor Elgar.

      And yet…I was reared in the 12-tone school and value Lutyens, just as I love much of VW, Bax, Finzi, et al. Better just to take each on its own terms and enjoy if you can. If it’s not your cuppa, move on.

      • Norrington has been doing the glorious VW symphonies over the last few years with the DSO, and the Berliners are loving them.

      • The ‘modernist movement’ in the UK had, like everywhere else, to ‘clear the ground’ of cow pat to demand attention and performances of their own works, which were not welcome in the central performance culture. Postwar ‘modernity’ was highly politicized and thoroughly ideological.

    • I’m afraid I can’t agree about Finzi. He has some great moments – Lo, the full, final sacrifice has some gorgeous passages; the concertos likewise – but the pieces don’t hang together. They’re chunks of nice music stuck together. He was an effective miniaturist, but nothing more.

  • All these comments make me curious about Finzi. He’s totally off the radar here in the US (unless you’re a clarinetist — which I am not, PTL).

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