Neo-classical composer on five essential LPs…

Celebrated composer Max Richter took a brave step earlier in 2014, “recomposing” Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons for Deutsche Grammophon. It’s a move that could have unsettled many a classical purist, but the move paid off: taking an avant-garde approach to recognisable material, Richter modernised the 1725-penned concertos in such as way as to make them distinct from the melodies that have soundtracked so many adverts over the years, to motifs heard on thousands of classical compilation albums.

The Four Seasons project followed several solo albums of significant acclaim – his most recent being the 2010-released ‘INFRA’ (review), for FatCat. He’s also worked on many a soundtrack, including Waltz With Bashir, HBO series The Leftovers and the awards-strewn Indian romance The Lunchbox. Here, Max talks us through five albums that have gone some way to shaping him as a musician, albums he couldn’t possibly do without.

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‘Spring 1’, recomposed by Max Richter

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Nick Drake – ‘Five Leaves Left’ (1969)

“I vividly remember discovering Nick Drake’s work. I had that feeling of, ‘How come nobody told me this exists?’ It was a bit like the first time I travelled along the northwest coast of Scotland – it was a revelation. Later on, when I was working with Vashti Bunyan on her album ‘Lookaftering’, I often thought about his way of telling stories with very minimal elements. Vashti herself is a minimalist – though she wouldn’t call herself that – and I think that, rather than any idea of ‘folk music’, is what links them.”

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Philip Glass – ‘Music With Changing Parts’ (1970)

“This is a trip. When I was a kid, in my early teens, learning the piano and generally drifting around the fag end of a non-place north of London, I had a stroke of luck that changed the direction of my life – and it came courtesy of the milkman. He used to hear me playing the piano and took it upon himself to give me a proper education in what was actually happening in experimental music. So in the morning, I’d find the latest experimental hardcore minimalism LP on the doorstep, propped up next to the milk and eggs. And this was one of those albums.”

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Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’ (2007)

“I’m not sure if this is my favourite Radiohead album, but I really enjoy the sense you have in it of a band breaking open its habits and opening up new spaces. The colours are cosmic and the beats are great. Weirdly, when I was recording ‘INFRA’ at Air Studios in London a few years ago, one of the rolls of allegedly new 2” tape we were using had the glockenspiel part of ‘All I Need’ on it. So, maybe new not so much. Thanks, Protape. The strings on this are the players of my quintet – nice to hear them in this context, too.”

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Henry Purcell – ‘Complete Fantasies for Viols’ (Phantasm, 1995)

“If there is a heaven then this is what they are playing there. I love Purcell’s work – I find new things to think about and new things to inspire me on every listen. I don’t think I know of any other music that combines feeling and brilliant technique as well as the Fantasias. He was barely out of his teens when he wrote them.”

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Pink Floyd – ‘Atom Heart Mother’ (1970)

“This is one crazy record. It goes in so many different places it almost feels like a map of the possibilities of the recorded medium. I love the feeling of collage and multiple languages colliding with each other. There are some beautiful simple songs here, but also spooky orchestral material that feels like it jumped out of a Dario Argento movie.”

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Photography: Wolfgang Borrs / Yulia Mahr

Max Richter is online here. If you’re in Australia, lucky you! You can see him performing his Four Seasons recomposing and ‘INFRA’ as follows:

November
23rd – Opera House, Sydney
24th – Recital Centre, Melbourne

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