Arts and Entertainment

Avi Avital "Between Worlds" (Deutsche Grammophon)

Album review: Chris Thile, Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 (Nonesuch)

Once again, the protean malleability of J.S. Bach's genius is demonstrated by the unusual transcription of his work - in this case, the Violin Sonatas and Partitas - to another instrument, the mandolin. The Punch Brothers' mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile was first drawn to Bach by the rhythmic “groove” of Glenn Gould's 1981 re-recording of The Goldberg Variations. Thile's country and improv roots lend more rubato accents than some might prefer, but he liberates the pieces from their conservatoire corsets. The dazzling deftness of his fingering in the Presto and Double Presto sections evokes a kind of giddy delirium and his feathery technique wrests the tenderest of emotions from the second Sonata's Andante.

Album: Luke Haines, Rock and Roll Animals (Cherry Red)

After alternate English histories and wrestlers' inner monologues, the insanely prolific and prolifically insane Auteur turns to children's fables.

Video: The National

Watch the videos below to take in tracks from The National's latest album ‘Trouble Will Find Me’.

No journeyman: Yes keyboardist Wakeman, in his 1970s pomp

Yes, prog-rock of the Seventies is back, says Rick Wakeman

Clubbers who have made "Get Lucky" this summer's dance-floor anthem will be shocked to hear that Daft Punk aren't the robot-friendly sound of the future – but revivalists of Seventies progressive rock, once the most derided of genres.

Video: Tracks from the Playlist

Watch the videos below to take in tracks from this week's Playlist.

Album: Souad Massi, The Definitive Collection, Wrasse

From tango to soukous, from flamenco to fado, this spirited Algerian singer-songwriter embraces it all.

Album review: Nino Machaidze, Arias & Scenes (Sony Classical)

It's not hard to understand why Nino Machaidze has become something of an overnight sensation since her 2008 breakthrough in Roméo et Juliette at Salzburg. In this selection, the Georgian coloratura soprano combines phrasing of nuanced subtlety with top notes of stunning power, ranging from the lilting, seductive “Quando men vo” from La Bohème to the impassioned gusto of her dramatic Violetta in an extended scene from La Traviata climaxing with a joyous “Sempre libera”.

Miles Kane, Don't Forget Who You Are (Columbia)

Album review: Miles Kane, Don't Forget Who You Are (Columbia)

Album of the Week: Singalong anthems with a Sixties beat and lots of swagger

Jamie Cullum, Momentum (Island)

Album review: Jamie Cullum, Momentum (Island)

Jamie Cullum's first album for Island may be his best. It certainly goes beyond his retro-jazz comfort zone, with piercing electric organ and electric piano lending a vibrant, visceral edge to several songs.

Frank Almond, A Violin's Life (Avie)

Album review: Frank Almond, A Violin's Life (Avie)

A Violin's Life tracks the specific instrument employed on the album, a famous Stradivari known as the “Lipinski”, through pieces written by, or for, its successive owners, beginning with the baroque formality of Giuseppe Tartini's “Sonata in G minor”, notable for its technically demanding double-stopped “Devil's Trills”, and proceeding to the Romanticism of Julius Röntgen's “Violin Sonata No 2 in F sharp”, from the late 19th century.

Floraleda Sacchi, Philip Glass: Metamorphosis (Amadeus Arte)

Album review: Floraleda Sacchi, Philip Glass: Metamorphosis (Amadeus Arte)

Floraleda Sacchi's harp lends itself particularly well to the minimalist logic of Philip Glass's progressions on this anthology of transpositions, never better than on the “Opening” from Glassworks, where the bass pulse beds beautifully among the mirroring figures of the theme.

The Phoenix Foundation, Fandango (Memphis Industries)

Album review: The Phoenix Foundation, Fandango (Memphis Industries)

For their follow-up to 2011’s acclaimed Buffalo, New Zealand psych-poppers The Phoenix Foundation chose to ignore the “short-form game” of contemporary pop and make “Test Match music” – an indication of the double-album length of Fandango which, alas, also  hints at its yawning longueurs.

Video: American teenager speaks 23 languages

Whilst most people struggle to learn one new language, a 16-year-old from New York has managed to master 23 different tongues.

Milos, Valentina Lisitsa, Fabric, London

Getting into Buckingham Palace might have been easier than getting through the well-guarded door of this former Smithfield slaughter-house now converted into a nightclub: Universal and Bang&Olufsen had temporarily taken it over for some gentle reciprocal promotion.

Rokia Traoré, Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)

Album review: Rokia Traoré, Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)

The daughter of a Malian diplomat, Rokia Traoré is perhaps the most naturally cross-cultural of her country's abundant musical offspring, effortlessly blending styles and sounds as easily as she switches between languages.

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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game