My Listening: Hannah Kendall

Hannah Kendall
Hannah Kendall

 The space

Where are you?

I do most of my listening at home in my living room, lounging on my sofa, feet up – with a tea or a negroni

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, depending on the time of day! I really enjoy focused listening, so that I can get fully involved, and so I set aside proper time to do this rather than listening on the go.

What are you doing?

I have to stop everything. I find that listening to music when working, reading or doing anything takes my mind off the task in hand. It’s as though no music is ‘background music’ – my ears are always pricked by what’s going on.

What are you looking at?

I’m an avid daydreamer! I’m usually staring into space or have my eyes closed, so that my imagination can truly wander.

What’s the gear?

I’m pretty much 100% digital now, listening through wireless speakers via my phone, iPod or computer. Until very recently I could only listen to CDs in the car – there not being a player in the house anymore – which I quite liked. It always felt like an occasion, but I’d have to get the digital copies for deeper listening at home. Radio 4’s pretty much always on when I’m in the kitchen, played through my first and only ever digital radio, which my lovely, late uncle bought me as a housewarming present.

The sounds

What’s cued up?

A collection of Barbara Strozzi songs performed by soprano Emanuela Galli. The album’s called Diporti di Euterpe (Stradivarius). Strozzi was an Italian composer writing in the 1600s, and I’ve always been drawn to music of that time. I love the rhythmic, energetic and dance-like drive that often comes with it. I think she was a wonderful composer of incredibly evocative music. I also like that she was such a prolific writer, composing thousands of songs at a time when it was unusual for women do be doing so.

Which recording do you always return to?

I love Daniel Barenboim’s recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Warner Classics). I listen to them quite regularly because I teach fugues as compositional devices at the RAM’s Junior Academy! However, I adore the music itself and I’m particularly drawn to the beautiful detail, intimacy and delicacy that Barenboim’s playing brings to the works.

What’s on the to-listen pile?

I have to listen to Stormzy’s latest album (Gang Signs & Prayer, #Merky). All my friends have been going on about it! The vulnerability, and spiritually that comes through his words are apparently hugely moving and powerful. I’m a lifelong Londoner and grew up listening to and going out and dancing to a lot of UK garage and grime, so I can’t wait to listen.

Also composer George Lewis’ latest releases. I’ve been a huge admirer of his work for many years. His The Will to Adorn was in the same programme as my The Great Dark with the London Philharmonic Orchestra a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to listening to the International Contemporary Ensemble’s performance on the Tundra label.

However, I haven’t got round to either yet because I’m writing a substantial orchestral work at the moment – I don’t listen to a huge amount of new music when I’m working on my own.

Name a fantasy recording (real or imagined) that you haven’t heard yet?

Well, Nina Simone and Beyoncé are two of my favourite artists of all time. If they were able to collaborate and record a new song … I have no idea what it would be or what that might sound like, but I know it would be absolutely mind-blowing!


Described as ‘intricately and skilfully wrought’ by The Sunday Times, Hannah Kendall’s music has attracted attention from some of the UK’s finest groups. Kendall’s works have also been broadcast on BBC Radio, including Composer of the Week in March 2015 and Hear and Now in October 2016. In 2015, Kendall won the Women of the Future Award for Arts and Culture. Recent projects include a one-man chamber opera, The Knife of Dawn, premièred at London’s Roundhouse in October 2016; it was described as ‘dramatically intense and atmospheric’ by The Stage, and ‘intricate and imaginative’ by the Financial Times.

The Spark Catchers, commissioned by the BBC, will receive its first performance by Chineke!, conducted by Kevin John Edusei, at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 August 2017, as part of the BBC Proms.

On the Chequer’d Field Array’d, commissioned by the Richard Thomas Foundation, will be recorded by pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen for his debut solo disc with RTF Classical, to be released in September.

 

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