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Guest Picks: Roderick Williams

Roderick Williams standing against wall
2 May 2018
3 min read

Ahead of his 2019 concerts, we invite our Milton Court Artist-in-Residence to share some of his favourite tracks in our latest Guest Picks.

Benjamin BrittenVariations on a theme by Frank Bridge
‘This is the first piece of music that I can really remember awakening me to classical music. It accompanied a short film before the main feature about glass blowing at a cinema in North London when I was a boy and it had a profound effect on me.’

Sergei RachmaninovVocalise
‘I used to play this on the cello when I was a schoolboy and I’ve been a sucker for Rachmaninov ever since. My mother used to play his second symphony in an old Andre Previn recording and I love that too.’

Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On?
‘I love his free singing on this, multi-tracking the lead vocals, and also the wonderful string arrangement in the background. Again, one of my mother’s records.’

Anton WebernConcerto for Nine Instruments
‘I studied this as a set work for A level and it blew my mind. We played it in a school concert and, for some reason, I played the piano for it. I don’t think I played very well at all!’

Gustav MahlerSymphony No 2 (The Resurrection)
‘I used to play this record obsessively when I was a music student. It fitted my late-teenage temperament exactly.’

Take 6, So Much 2 Say
‘This is another album that blew me away when I first heard it. I used to have an a cappella vocal group when I was a student but this jazz writing was something else!’

Giacomo Puccini, La Bohème
La Bohème is one of the first operas I performed in, before I even went to opera school. It was also one of my mother’s favourites, which she used to play of a Sunday morning as she cooked lunch. My parents are both into Wagner now.’

Leonard BernsteinPrelude, Fugue and Riffs
‘This was a piece he wrote for Benny Goodman and his orchestra and a student friend introduced me to Simon Rattle’s recording. I love the energy of this piece.’

Nina Simone, I Put A Spell On You
‘Another record my mother introduced me to. I love the way she copies the sax solo when the vocals return.’

J S BachGoldberg Variations
‘This has become one of my go-to pieces when I need to destress. I am particularly fond of the famous Glenn Gould recording, and I love his articulation and voice leading and, of course, when he hums along.’

Oscar Peterson, Limehouse Blues
‘Such an incredible display of virtuosity between pianist and guitarist.’

Benjamin BrittenBilly Budd
‘It’s a toss-up between Peter Grimes or Billy Budd; ideally I’d have both on this list. They are both just the most magnificent evocations of a life on or near water, both so moving.’

Henry Purcell, Dido & Aeneas
‘This is another of my first opera roles and one that I could perform anywhere, anytime, at the drop of a hat. Some people find the role of Aeneas weak and under-written but I really enjoy playing him.’

Jacob CollierFlintstones
‘It turns out that I sang with this amazing performer when he was a boy treble onstage at English National Opera. I don’t think there’s an instrument he can’t play and his arrangements are insane.’

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartDon Giovanni
‘One of my favourite Mozart operas, not just because the title role is a gift to play, but because the music for all the characters is so wonderful.’

Olivier Messiaen, Vingt Regards de l’Enfant Jésus; Le baiser de l’enfant Jésus
‘My older brother used to play the opening of this on our old upright piano at home. The harmony painted magical colours in my mind.’

‘I loved the wealth of songs on this album – three albums in one in fact. His song writing was so diverse – he could do anything.’

Richard StraussMetamorphosen for 23 solo string instruments
‘This was another student favourite of mine and has remained with me ever since. My mother recently discovered it as well and really got into it.’


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