Guest post by Lucy Melvin

I love this idea of the 21st century version of mixtapes, even though I am still sufficiently old-school not to subscribe to a streaming service, and I still own a casette player and possibly even have my old mixtapes stored somewhere.

I often get swept up in the nostalgia of Desert Island Discs, and like to think which music would tell my narrative were I to be on my own desert island, so here is my list and some of the reasons behind them.

Most of these choices are not classical. In my interview with The Cross-Eyed Pianist for the Meet the Artist series, I mentioned a musical memory of the Schubert Quintet performed at St Endellion; I haven’t included this piece, although the memory will always stay with me, because no recording I have heard can match up to that memory. These memories can’t always be recreated out of context – of location – different performers – different interpretations, or in a recording studio. But with all of these choices, these are the specific recordings which hold the specific memories for me.

No. 1 will always be Bob Marley. No Woman No Cry.

I think this started as a teenage thing. I bought the cassette of Bob Marley’s Legend Album when I was a teenager. Songs on that album seemed to be able to capture all the emotions needed for being a teenager. Now my own children have grown up listening to the several Bob Marley CDs we would listen to on road trips (cars don’t even have CD players anymore, so even that is a past memory), and again, they each had their favourites, but they know that No Woman No Cry is my favourite.

No. 2 is Nina Simone’s Sinnerman

An incredible pianist, and vocalist, this is such a great song. Her own history of being a classically trained musician, but was denied access to further classical training at The Curtis Institute, and so instead funded her private tuition by playing in bars – where she was asked to sing as well as play the piano, and this is how her Jazz style developed. You can hear her skill in piano playing, and love of classical music coming through this track. It was used as the soundtrack to the more recent version (1999 – I suppose is recent to me, but maybe ancient history to others.) of the Thomas Crown Affair: Also a brilliant film.

No. 3 is Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl.

As this mix-tape/playlist is meant to tell the story of our life, this is one part of my life which many people might choose to gloss over, but I think that people come into our lives for long periods, or short periods, and we all take something of that time along with us, on the journey that we then continue to travel. I was married for 12 years, and before that, we were together for 7 years. We have 2 amazing children, who we now continue to guide through this world, and even though we are no longer married, our two children are full of inspiration, and hopefully we are doing an ok job at the guiding. In our more care-free times, he used to sing this song to me at Karaoke, and we also had it on a CD listening to it in the car. It is a great song, full of love. Now it is our children who are our Brown-eyed girls.

No. 4 – Cinema Paradiso. Sung by Monica Mancini

I am totally in awe of the output of Enrico Morricone and his contribution to film music. There are so many beautiful melodies which we know and love thanks to him (early on, he used a pseudonym because he still wasn’t sure if he wanted to be a classical composer or a film composer – so there are many other films which he composed music for which went by a different name.) This piece has a very special place in my heart though. When I was in my 20s I performed in Italy quite a bit. I had a duo with a pianist called Luca Verdicchio, and we would perform in the UK and Italy. He loved film music. I already knew and loved the film Cinema Paradiso, and had it on VHS, but he would sit down at the piano and play it, and somehow, hearing it played in Italy, by someone who I could quite easily imagine once looking like the little boy in the film, growing up watching old movies (he loved all of the Chaplin films and could also improvise sound tracks to them) – and in those town squares in Italy, hearing the music, I almost felt transported to part of the movie itself.

I have, since then arranged this piece for all sorts of different ensembles – taken it on tour with my pupils, and each time I tell them that it is one of my favourite pieces, and they can’t let me down by playing it badly. I arranged it during Lockdown for violin and piano and made a montage of the signs on Cinemas which were shut during the pandemic, and other symbolic images of that time. It was recorded remotely (with my own rather embryonic recording equipment) with David Bullen on the piano, and set to the images of photos around London which I had taken….

….but the one for the playlist will be this one: the voice of Monica Mancini accompanied by orchestra to the music of Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso. As I said in the previous song selection, it is really important to appreciate all of the people who come into our lives, but there are still some who like to be kept private. This piece was introduced to me by that private person. It was a piece which had such a strong and personal story for him, combined with my own personal memories of this piece, this is the one I am choosing to keep in my playlist/mixtape.

No. 5 Velvet Underground Sunday Morning

Who doesn’t love a nice Sunday Morning? Whatever it is you choose to do with your Sunday mornings. This piece is full of twinkly sounds, and mellow vocals. It is another teenage throwback for me, but I was especially reminded of it during lockdown when I needed some more feel-good songs to get me through each week. Lockdown was a big part of everyone’s recent history, and getting through it was a big thing for everyone, so this one is on the mix-tape.

No. 6. Oh Holy Night. Sung by Aled Jones and Malakai Bayoh

I have a complex relationship with religion. It was a big part of my upbringing, and therefore has contributed to much of who I am today, but I often think that as adults we need to take much more responsibility for our own individual actions, but sometimes the rituals of religion can seem to negate that element of individual responsibility. However, I still like to believe that there is an example of something mysterious that we can’t quite name, or articulate. Music can have that power to transcend, and especially at Christmas time, the magic and mystery can come alive. Malakai has made musical history for many reasons: Not being daunted by anything else whilst singing at the ROH for example, but most of all, I hope will be remembered for this beautiful recording he made in 2022, and whatever career he has ahead of him, this piece is beautiful and full of magic.

Now for my classical selections

The 1st and most importantly is Haydn’s Quartet op 76 no 2. “The Fifths”

This is my all-time favourite string quartet. Hartmut Ometzberger (lead violinist of Callia Quartet) and I played this together in August 1995 – and I still have the photographs. We both studied with the same teacher: Emanuel Hurwitz, and his quartet (Aeolian Quartet) was the 1st to record all of Haydn’s Quartets on LP. – They were then released on CD, which I have, so unlike many other classical music memories, this is one which I have as a recording. When we 1st played together in 1995, we were probably 18 and 19 years old, and straight away, we said this was the piece we wanted to play. We next played it together after a gap of many years, in 2017. This was at a performance in the Thames Tunnel in Rotherhithe. There were many friends of mine who had never been to a classical music concert before, who said that when they heard the opening bars of this piece, they had never heard anything quite so powerful. It is in D Minor, which all my pupils know is my favourite key. I see some keys in colours. Not all, but some of the more powerful keys have a colour for me. D Minor is a deep purple, which is my favourite colour. So many wonderful pieces are composed in D Minor, it is a beautiful, and dramatic key to compose in.

My 2nd classical piece is Mendelssohn’s Octet

I don’t have a specific recording in mind, so I have selected this one performed by the Melos Ensemble (also lead by Emanuel Hurwitz) . I was too young to remember a particular sound of the performance which I heard, but I can remember a visual memory of seeing this for the 1st time, and I guess this was what struck me as the brilliance of string chamber music. I was at a concert when I was probably about 5 or 6. I think I was sitting on the floor, like children often do, and I was looking up at each of the performers, and watching the interplay between all 8 of them, and how the melodies were passed from one to another, or who was playing with whom. It is a piece of sheer joy, and brilliance, and at that age, I was very aware of the magic of it (again, that power to transcend). Whenever I teach it to pupils, I tell them this story of how I have never forgotten that memory. I hope that they will remember just as much of the magical moments created for them through music.

And finally my last selection would be Jaques Loussier playing Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major

Bach has to be on the play list. But, again so many different interpretations. What to choose? Solo violin? Solo cello? So, for something which encompasses something of all of my previous selections above, this is the one. That moment when he goes from Bach into Jazz is such fun – and then back again to Bach.

Lucy Melvin is founding Director of Chamber Players chamber music courses, which have been running since 2009. Chamber Players is quite unique in its ethos in that there are no audition requirements, and pupils are welcome from pre-grade 1 through to Diploma and above. Through experienced knowledge of the repertoire and care and attention to each pupil’s age and ability, every pupil is placed in an appropriate ensemble with their peers, according to their ability, age and previous experience, finding the most appropriate parts to suit them.

Previously a member of the Illyria Trio, with pianist Annabel Thwaite and cellist Sheida Davis, and duo with Italian pianist Luca Verdicchio, she has performed in concert halls, and intimate chamber music settings across Europe. 

Lucy’s interest in education and chamber music performance led her to coordinating Classical Collective: a diverse concert series organising exciting performances for audiences of all ages, in venues across South London, as well as managing the performance opportunities for the Callia Quartet.

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A mixtape compilation from composer Charlotte Botterill

Despite starting secondary school in the year 2000, my friends and I did actually make mixtapes for each other! At the end of each year we were told to keep our foreign language listening exercise tapes, so instead of throwing them away (because, let’s face it, we barely listened to them to do our homework, we weren’t going to listen to them for fun!), we turned them into mixtapes. I’d sit in my room, covering the top of the tape with layers of Sellotape in order to be able to record over year 8 French, and hand selecting some of my favourite new music discoveries to share with my friends.

I spent a lot of my time obsessing over my new music discoveries, researching the artists, their influences, and buying as much of their back catalogue as my pocket money allowed. I remember a friend’s parent once saying to me “But you have the Greatest Hits, all the best songs are on there.” I was so surprised by this statement because some of the most interesting songs, and some of my favourite songs, are album tracks.

This playlist is a nod to those teenage mixtapes. It features 10 songs, none of which were released as singles (or B sides), which I absolutely love. These songs and their albums had a huge impact on the way I thought about music and opened up my mind to new, endless possibilities.

Best listened to in order, with headphones, in a dimly lit room with your favourite drink.

Take My Breath Away – Queen

I find Freddie Mercury’s use of the sustain pedal and the backing vocals really atmospheric and beautifully crafted. The swirling vocals at the end are especially ethereal.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun – The Beatles

This song was on one of the “original” school mixtapes given to me by a friend who loved The Beatles and who is responsible for getting me into them too (thanks Diane)! I was struck by the bizarre lyrics, and that each section of the song is in a different rock ‘n’ roll style, including blues and a 50s doo-wop spoof.

Freedom Rider – Traffic

I love Traffic’s music because they mix together rock, folk and jazz to make really cool songs. This was the first time I’d heard a flute in a rock song, and the first time I’d heard jazz flute. I love the vocal panning and energy at the end, as if we are indeed on a wild ride.

Moonage Daydream – David Bowie

This opening chord progression (I III vi V) is so lifting, it’s a real favourite of mine. Exquisite arranging; the reverb-ladened guitar outro sits beautifully against the phased strings.

1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – Jimi Hendrix

I’ve always found this song very chilled but immensely interesting. The extensive use of studio effects (delay, extreme panning, reversed guitar, manipulation of microphone feedback), the inclusion of a flexatone, and the improvisatory nature of the middle section creates a really otherworldly sound.

My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion – The Flaming Lips

80s pop left me hating the majority of synth sounds, but The Flaming Lips showed me how beautiful they can now be. This song is a great example of their lush MIDI and synth orchestration. I really love the imitation birds flying around at the start.

Boys In The Band – The Libertines

The Libertines embody the spirit of punk but with some interesting chord voicing (one of the guitarists cites Django Reinhardt as an influence). I really like the rawness of their sound. It captures the energy of their live gigs and is a good antidote to some of the highly polished albums I listen to!

Pretty Green (feat. Santigold) – Mark Ronson

This reworking of The Jam’s Pretty Green is so cool. Turning the lyrics into something more akin to a playground chant and backing it with 60s and 70s influenced brassy, percussion heavy soul. The bass slides are awesome and the whole vibe just makes me want to dance.

He Can Only Hold Her – Amy Winehouse

Back To Black was the first pop album released in my teens which I actually liked. Amy’s vocals are obviously perfect, but Mark Ronson’s arrangements and studio production are what made me fall in love with this album. It has the vintage Motown sound, but at the same time it’s current and fresh. Mark Ronson is a musical genius!

Dream Brother – Jeff Buckley

Featuring a vibraphone and tablas alongside your typical band set up, this song is beautifully hypnotic, provocative, and emotionally honest. You can really hear the Indian music influence and I love pieces which blend different musical traditions so effortlessly.

Charlotte Botterill is a composer from St Albans, England. Her musical output is varied, reflecting her own eclectic taste. She enjoys exploring timbre and harmony, and her music is influenced by personal experiences and social observations.

Her debut album Isolation was released in December 2020 on Lis de la Mer records. In 2019 Charlotte won the grade 7 category of the Trinity College London Young Composers Competition, which resulted in her piece Soho being published in the 2021-2023 piano syllabus at grade 7. As an arranger, her work has been played on BBC Three Counties radio and on BBC Radio York. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Charlotte’s music has been performed by concert pianists Francesca Hurst and Maria Marchant as part of their online concert series.

If you would like to submit a mixtape to The Cross-Eyed Pianist, please get in touch

A selection of piano music that touches your soul, beyond any other….

Andrew James Johnson is a Composer and Pianist from the UK renowned for his melodically inspired and elegantly crafted solo piano works. His music speaks directly to the heart, conveying a range of emotions from the first few bars. As the music flows from his fingertips, Andrew caresses the piano with his yearning phrases alongside a natural virtuosity that takes the listener on a transcendent musical journey.




A selection of piano music that touches your soul, beyond any other….

Andrew James Johnson is a Composer and Pianist from the UK renowned for his melodically inspired and elegantly crafted solo piano works. His music speaks directly to the heart, conveying a range of emotions from the first few bars. As the music flows from his fingertips, Andrew caresses the piano with his yearning phrases alongside a natural virtuosity that takes the listener on a transcendent musical journey.




Guest post by Adrian Ainsworth

We’re coming up to the first anniversary of a slightly unusual and unexpected musical event – or to be more accurate, ‘music business event’. On 17 November 2017, the record label ECM made virtually all of its catalogue available on streaming services for the first time.

For anyone unfamiliar, ECM is a Munich record label, founded almost 50 years ago – and still run – by producer extraordinaire Manfred Eicher. Initially the focus was on modern jazz music, but in the mid-eighties Eicher established the parallel ‘ECM New Series’ imprint to cover classical music.

It may be because the boss is a producer that ECM Is famed for exceptional recording quality and detail. It’s tempting to think that the New Series seemed at once boldly contemporary (featuring composers linked to minimalism, like Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich) and wilfully archaeological (the exquisite early choral recordings of Trio Mediaeval or the Hilliard Ensemble), because these ‘extremes’ of classical music particularly benefited from such finely-wrought clarity.

This wide variety means that while there isn’t an ‘ECM sound’ as such, there’s definitely an ECM aesthetic. As well as making the records sound gorgeous, the label’s sleeve design – even into the CD era – has a largely abstract austerity that totally fits its musical output: enigmatic yet welcoming, arty, classy, attractive, open to wide interpretation.

This strong identity is arguably what kept ECM away from streaming platforms for as long as possible: the physical object, played on the best equipment you can muster, is part of their ideal. However, the fact that Eicher and co have now given in means you can at least explore a remarkable range of beautifully documented music at great leisure (and little or no cost) – hopefully on a ‘try before you buy’ basis, as a shelfful or so of ECM releases is a truly joyful sight.

Perhaps treating all of its artists with the same sonic respect, whatever the genre, is the engine behind another distinctive feature of ECM’s output: inspired collaborations. Eicher seems to delight in bringing musicians on the label from both jazz and classical camps together, resulting in highly rewarding joint releases, without compromising the spirit of their individual recordings.

This is a key theme in my very personal ECM playlist. There’s a run of three tracks where Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek first plays with a group of Pakistani musicians, followed by a selection from his celebrated partnership with the Hilliard Ensemble – then we hear the Hilliards on their own performing a striking contemporary piece in contrast to their original ‘early music’ idiom.

Latterly, the Trio Mediaeval have recorded an album with trumpeter Arve Henriksen – a record that, while very different, seems to rejoice in a similar spirit, and a choice from this starts the whole playlist off. Bringing proceedings to a close is John Surman – another versatile saxophonist who can career from furious hard bop to drones/electronica and all points in between. However, his two albums with a string quartet are real jewels in ECM’s crown, as I hope ‘At Dusk’ proves.

Along the way, I’ve tried to bring in some of ECM’s most arresting characters. There’s Stephan Micus, who seems to learn and compose on a different array of instruments from all over the globe on each release, yet here foregrounds his own voice. Or Nik Bartsch, a Swiss pianist who describes his work as ‘ritual groove music’ (about four minutes into the playlist track, you’ll hear why). He records mainly with two bands, Ronin – who feature here – and Mobile, depending on the configuration of musicians the material needs. The distinctive, unhurried and wonderfully delicate piano of Marilyn Crispell, followed by the atmospheric vocalising from Susanne Abbuehl.

And much more… I could have carried on and on but thought I had better stop at 20 tracks (and 2 hours)! As you will find if you explore ECM further for yourself, I could have gone off at so many tangents: used Ralph Towner as a springboard to fellow guitarists John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny or Terje Ryphal; or followed Alexei Lubimov into the label’s roster of esteemed classical pianists (including Sir Andras Schiff). Keith Jarrett’s recordings alone must provide more than 100 hours of listening (some 90 recordings, including a few multi-disc sets).

I hope you enjoy this rather focused selection, then, and feel inspired to find ‘your ECM’ among the label’s near-limitless riches.

Adrian’s ECM playlist


Adrian Ainsworth writes for a living, but mostly about things like finance, tax and benefits. For light relief, then, he covers his obsessions – overwhelmingly music, but with sprinklings of photography and art – on the ‘Specs’ blog, which you can find at

Twitter: @adrian_specs

Adrian is a regular guest writer for The Cross-Eyed Pianist


This playlist contains a selection of recordings from up-and-coming colleagues of mine, really well known artists in the Classical world as well as some original compositions by some of the artists.  This playlist includes Fabiana and Paula Chavez, the Piano duo twin sisters from Argentina (currently studying at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire in London), who have overcome a major physical disability of blindness to record their album and I feature a couple of tracks from that. One of the highlights is British pianist Stephen Hough’s ‘Broken Branches’ Piano Sonata: I attended the world premiere performance of this work in 2011 at London’s Wigmore Hall.  Hope you enjoy it!

Daniel Roberts is a graduate of Leeds College of Music, where he studied with Helen Reid and Natalia Strelchenko. A former student of the later Peter Feuchtwanger, Daniel has performed around the UK, Europe, South America, and USA. He lives in Brazil.