My Great Listen - Kirstin Sharpin

The soprano in the APO’s Beethoven 9 shares the music that shaped her.

ELISABETH LEONSKAJA


Chopin’s Nocturnes
My mother was a talented pianist, although life led her down other paths (I gather practise also became increasingly difficult with a small person around who always wanted to join in…). Some of my earliest memories are of waking up late in the evening to hear the piano playing down the hall. Schubert, Beethoven, Elgar all featured, but the pieces that were most reassuring and somehow fit the night-time were Chopin’s Nocturnes, especially No.1 in B-flat minor and No.5 in F-sharp minor. I’ve listened to many recordings of the Nocturnes, but Leonskaja’s evoke the feeling closest to those early memories and have become a fixture in my playlist.

CHOIR OF KING’S COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE


'Once in Royal David’s City’
It’s nearing Christmas as I write, which probably moves this one up the list a bit, but this carol, with its deceptively simple-sounding solo first verse and glorious, complex harmonies and descants is the heart of Christmas music for me. It’s not really part of the tradition in Germany, where I live now, and I miss hearing it live every Christmas, signalling that the season has begun. That first verse was also the first grown-up solo I think I ever got to sing – it’s certainly the one I remember most vividly, a terribly proud seven-year-old to have been chosen with a couple of older students to start the school carol service – so
it holds a special place in memory for that reason also. King’s College Cambridge is the classic Christmas choir, and the rich power of their sound, plus organ and brass at the height of this carol, appeals to my operatically attuned ear.

NAT KING COLE


‘Let there be Love’ 
I love jazz in all its many forms, but perhaps most of all the vocal jazz of the crooner era. Nat King Cole’s version of this 1940s classic combines delicious, warm vocals with a wry humour and underlying sincerity that, for me, captures the essence of this song better than any other. Clever lyrics contrast the sublime and the everyday, and the almost cheeky lilt of the song dilutes the romance just enough to keep things light. I’m evidently not the only person who thinks this is a winner, as this version of the song has been playing in the background totally by chance at several important moments in my life – it’s definitely part of my soundtrack!

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