Monday, 30 December 2002

Overwhelmed, as often in the past 40 years or so, by Delius’s Sea Drift (Beecham, Bruce Boyce, 1954). This is a piece, and a performance, that have so often left me deeply moved. Beecham knew instinctively the need to keep music such as Delius’s moving. Left me feeling quite moist of eye.
Preceded Sea Drift with more Beecham: Grieg’s incidental music to Peer Gynt (sparked by a telephone query from my daughter Tabitha). The period 1880 to 1910 was so rich in music! Grieg and much of Delius; and also Strauss, Brahms, Mahler, Bruckner, Wagner, Debussy, Elgar, Chausson … This may even be my favourite musical period (despite all my Bach listening over Christmas).
Resisted the temptation to follow the Grieg and Delius with Chausson’s Poèmes de l’Amour et de la Mer, or with Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Elgar’s cello concerto. But they will surely follow …


Friday, 27 December 2002

Christmas Eve saw a great meal of pâté de foie gras, langoustines, cheese and dessert, all washed down with champagne, the incredible Australian Nobel One dessert wine, and a good pinot noir d’Alsace. The langoustines (from William’s Kitchen) were excellent – Tabitha and I consumed 2 kilos of them between us.
Music over Christmas was overwhelmingly Bach. I was surprised just how much I still enjoyed Karl Richter’s 1958 Matthew Passion – and how much I enjoyed Fischer-Dieskau’s singing therein (for a change). Just goes to show one can never generalise. In fact I suspect this may still be my favourite recording of the Matthew Passion; one I have known for over forty years.
Then, on to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. I have seriously underestimated this in the past. It is, in fact, a cycle of six high-grade cantatas. I knew the first two from an old DGG recording I had in the 1950s, and the final four cantatas sort of passed me by ever after. My loss! And also, in this reversal of ancient prejudices, I greatly enjoyed John Eliot Gardiner’s performance of the Oratorio. He usually comes over as the Toscanini of the baroque orchestra. But in this recording (mid 1980s) one cannot really fault him and he doesn’t “hector” the music as he is wont to do in Bach.

Saturday, 21 December 2002

An oddly assorted violin trio enabled me to sort out some of my likes and dislikes (aka prejudices).
I responded with coolness to Jerrold Rubenstein and Dalia Ouziel (1997) playing the three Brahms sonatas. I enjoyed Emil Telmanyi and Georg Vasarhelyi (Berlin, 1939) in the first two Brahms sonatas. And, very surprised, I thoroughly enjoyed Joan Berkhemer and Kyoko Hashimoto in the Mendelssohn F major sonata.
Why? Rubenstein played beautifully; too beautifully, and usually too slowly. Telmanyi, very much in the early last century Central European tradition, took 8:31 and 7:05 respectively over the first movements of the first two Brahms sonatas, and this felt about right. Rubenstein took 11:19 and 8:57 respectively, and this dragged.
Every violinist should understand why there are not too many sonatas and concertos for solo clarinets, oboes or flutes; it’s not that these three woodwind instruments don’t sound beautiful. It’s just that beautiful sound begins to pall after five minutes or so. The best violinists vary the colour and dynamics constantly (Heifetz was a master of this). Beautiful-sound violinists such as Mischa Elman broke up the stream of sound with varied bowing and a lot of right arm articulation. Alas, Rubenstein (ex Julliard) has a lovely Joseph Guarneri violin with a particularly beautiful rich sound on the lower strings. And don’t we know it! In the end, the beautiful slow, rich sound with the seamless son filé from the immaculately smooth bowing arm have the same effect as eating an entire kilo of high-grade pâté de foie gras. Frank Almond in the same three sonatas eventually had a similar effect on me.
Which is why Joan Berkhemer was like a refreshing glass of sparkling water. He (I think Joan, like Ana, is male name in Dutch, for some odd reason) plays the violin with zest and spirit. And it’s infectious. I am not a Mendelssohn fan, but enjoyed the contrast with the over-precious Rubenstein. Berkhemer sounded like a violinist; Rubenstein reminded me of a clarinettist.
Telmanyi in Brahms is no model; but he kept things moving and was consistently interesting. I’ll go back to his two performances (not surprisingly, his playing reminded me of Jeno Léner and the Budapest of the late nineteenth century).
Insight or prejudice? I don’t know. Just keep me away from violinists who play consistently beautifully!

Friday, 20 December 2002

Well, after well nigh 45 years, Paul Kletzki’s performance of Mahler 4th Symphony (1957 with the Philharmonia and Emmy Loose) has been dethroned in my affections. By the 1967 public performance in Prague (3 January) by John Barbirolli and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with Heather Harper in the finale.
Beside the 1957 Philharmonia, the BBC orchestra sounds a bit rustic. But it’s suave, northern playing versus rustic southern playing, and Barbirolli and the BBC orchestra win hands down. To my mind, Barbirolli masters the ebb and flow of the music magnificently. The structure holds together and nothing seems too long – especially not the 20 minute adagio. After so long a time, it is increasingly rare that a “newcomer” ousts an old favourite. The Barbirolli was broadcast on 19 December 2002 and, I must say, the sound transfers beautifully to CD. A new confirmed favourite. Probably unlikely to be supplanted in my affections from now on? I even prefer Heather Harper to Emmy Loose. There’s a volte face!

Tuesday, 17 December 2002

A lot of pleasure yesterday evening from my new (EMI Great Recordings of the Century) 2-CD set of Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia in Wagner bits and pieces (1960-61). Wagner fitted my mood very well, and the Tannhäuser Overture makes good listening. The sound is fine, and well balanced. Interesting to note how the stock of Klemperer (and Furtwängler, Weingartner and Mengelberg) keeps rising -- and that of Toscanini, for example, drifts downwards. Partly to do with the awful sound Toscanini used to like. But partly due, one feels, to his brutal way with so much music. Whatever: the two Klemperer CDs will give me as much pleasure as does the similar 2-CD set of Furtwängler conducting Wagner bits.

Friday, 13 December 2002

Somewhat disturbed evening, and nothing I listened to seemed to “speak” to me. But around 10.15 I found (by accident when looking for something else) the DG re-issue of Clara Haskil and Ferenc Fricsay in the mid-1950s playing Mozart (mono). Put on the piano concerto No.27 (K 595) and was immediately entranced, both by Mozart and by Haskil. It sounded as if Mozart himself were playing, and the music certainly “spoke”. At such times, Mozart truly joins the great triumvirate (with Bach and Beethoven). And what a good recording! No apologies needed for 1955 mono sound. The disc also contains the 19th concerto (K 459) so I must dip into that when I get back next week.
There is, after all, a point in having a back collection of CDs about which one has forgotten!

Saturday, 23 November 2002

I little thought I would listen to Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto four times on two consecutive evenings – and still really enjoy it the fourth time round! A great tribute to Vadim Repin’s playing on the new Philips release (with Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra). As a violinist, Repin is nothing like Heifetz (who is?) But he has a similar way of making you listen to what he is playing, by continually varying his bowing, playing and dynamics. You listen to Repin when he plays. The next phrase is never predictable.
I now have five recordings of Repin playing this work (from 1985, 1989, 1994, 2001 – and the present disc recorded in 2002. I sense that Repin is more ready to meditate in this latest version; the old excitement is still there, but it is contrasted with added repose where needed. The violinist opening of the work is near ideal in the present performance, and I greatly admired the beginning of the slow movement, played with touching simplicity, and piano.
The coupling is the Myakovsky violin concerto. A thoroughly pleasant work that Repin plays masterfully and with obvious affection. All in all, a worthwhile new CD. Having a Russian orchestra playing with him in these Russian works obviously helps the feeling of rightness that Repin brings to the music.

Friday, 22 November 2002

Yesterday evening I was bowled over by Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra playing Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherezade (new CD from Philip). It is wonderful to hear again an orchestra that sounds different. Not just the Cincinnati-Orchestre de Paris-LSO-Frankfurt Rundfunk sound we are used to. The Kirov orchestra sounds Russian. Dark, gloomy and vodka-sodden. The solo violinist is incredible (Sergei Levitin). And Gergiev conducts -- makes you think of grim old Mravinsky wielding his deadly baton. A refreshing change from the bland stuff we usually get. I was attracted to the CD because two critics thought it the best thing since Furtwängler conducted Tristan & Isolde, and two other critics thought it the worst thing since Andre Rieu conducted Beethoven's 9th Symphony. A recording creating such strong reactions must be good!

Wednesday, 20 November 2002

Well, I was wrong, yet again. Hilary Hahn playing the Elgar violin concerto (Bavarian Radio SO, Colin Davis) turned out to be extremely impressive. Of course, her accuracy was incredible and her sound always immaculately beautiful. But she was also on Elgar’s wavelength. A bit of tasteful wallowing in the first movement, but the slow movement kept a good forward momentum and the finale was taken fast. The Elgar concerto has been lucky with its recording (with only Igor Oistrakh and the second Zukerman recording really falling over). Hilary Hahn, however, was well up with the front leaders, at the age of 23. Not as mercurial as Albert Sammons; but rewarding in her own right. My pre-judgments were wrong. And the Elgar suited her much better than did the Shostakovich first concerto. Colin Davis was also a good partner in this concerto, experienced Elgarian as he is. A good addition to my list of favoured recordings of this work.

Monday, 18 November 2002

Further investigation of George Lloyd. Revisited his eighth symphony, and also bought a CD of his two violin concertos (played by Cristina Anghelescu). Lloyd was an odd fish all round. Bits of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Rachmaninov (in the eighth symphony), Delius, Sibelius … and some film music, at times. Musically highly incorrect, and a long way (thank goodness) from Luigi Nono or Stockhausen. No wonder the William Glock crowd at the BBC made sure George Lloyd was firmly banned.
I don’t think I’ll ever become a George Lloyd fan. But his music makes pleasant listening.

Tuesday, 5 November 2002

Greatly to my surprise, I enjoyed listening to George Lloyds’s 8th Symphony (a Lyrita LP by Philharmonia under George Downes recorded 1981). The symphony was written in 1961 and is strangely impressive. Why have I never heard one note of George Lloyd before? Mixture of Vaughan Williams, Sibelius and numerous other influences. I had to transfer the LP to a CD for someone in California, which is how I came to meet the piece. I must investigate more of George Lloyd’s work
Ended the evening by dipping into Disc 1 of the 5 CD set of George Cziffra playing Liszt (that I picked up in FNAC in Strasbourg last week for only 20 Euros). Great stuff, the first two Hungarian Rhapsodies. And Cziffra in the 1950s played much as one imagines Liszt must have played.

Wednesday, 9 October 2002

I sat open-mouthed at Viktor Tretyakov yesterday evening. His "later" Paganini first violin concerto is quite staggering for a public performance (or even for any performance). In the end, though, Tretyakov -- for all his incredible exploits -- is not my favourite violinist. He sounds like a true Soviet People's Artist on steroids. Brilliance, technique, stamina, stunning virtuosity. But he does not communicate any particular love of the music he is playing. Makes you think back to other People's Artists such as Milstein, Heifetz, Oistrakh, Kreisler et al who often communicated so much more than stunning virtuosity. Even Kogan, whom Tretyakov resembles, played forte and piano, and often played with great tenderness.
A modern equivalent of Tretyakov is probably James Ehnes, whose (very good) Brahms concerto I recorded recently features irreproachable violin playing. But ...

Sunday, 6 October 2002

A very fin de siècle evening, with Soile Isokoski (with Marek Jonowski) singing Stauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the 1972 Manchester recording of Jascha Horenstein conducting Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde ( Alfreda Hodgson, John Mitchinson, BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra).
There is something wonderful about this Horenstein Mahler recording, one of eight recordings of the work I have, and the only one I really like to listen to now – with maybe Klemperer or Haitink now and again. Horenstein didn’t have a world class orchestra, nor big-name soloists. But there is a passion and integrity about this performance from all 110 performers that makes it pretty unique. Everyone is giving of his or her best: and it shows.
Soile Isokoski in the Strauss songs is also superb, but it’s a pity her diction isn’t better. With John Mitchinson in the Mahler, you can hear every word he sings.

Friday, 4 October 2002

Recorded Leonidas Kavakos off-air in Paganini (with BBC Scottish Orchestra under Carlo Rizzi; Edinburgh Festival, August 2002). An excellent performance of the second Paganini violin concerto, plus "i palpiti" (with orchestra). Kavakos is a fine violinist; musical, risk-taking and technical highly proficient. It's good to see a modern violinist frequently performing virtuoso music, rather than churning out yet another Mozart, Beethoven or Bruch concerto. I am glad I have long been a Kavakos fan! His playing is quite a tonic.

Tuesday, 1 October 2002

A lot of pleasure yesterday evening from listening to Christian Ferras and Pierre Barbizet playing the sonata by Lekeu. The sonata -- the first two movements, anyway -- is excellent. Sort-of fits in with Elgar. The playing by Ferras and Barbizet is magnificent.

Wednesday, 18 September 2002

On 15 September in University of Kentucky Music School heard a recital by Greek pianist Vassilis Varvaresos who is around 16-17 years old. His Prokofiev sixth sonata was remarkable, and he played a very fine Islamey. The Beethoven "Moonlight" I found too slow and reverential, ditto the two Chopin pieces. However, the two Ravel pieces -- Jeux d'eau and Alborada de Gracioso -- were well done. Nothing wrong with enjoying a real virtuoso recital! The audience was a bit amateur: lots of coughing, leaving at the interval, leaving towards the end, as people fitted Varvaresos into their busy Sunday schedules.
As usual these days, did not buy any CDs in America (except a Django Reinhardt disc to play in the Xantia).

Sunday, 15 September 2002

Sitting in the lounge in Kentucky playing with Steve Arnold's wireless-link laptop. No mouse. Quite fun, really. Unlikely to buy any new CDs in America; it ain't the treasure trove of recordings unavailable in Europe that it was 20-30 years ago. Bought an interesting book on Prokofiev, which has really spurred me to do some more investigative listening. I really don't think I need any more recordings of the major violin concertos or symphonies. I really should make an immediate New Year's Resolution concerning my future CD buying.
Scheduled to hear a 15 year old Greek playing "mainly Russian music" this afternoon, followed by an Indian meal. That will be nice. More details in due course. Major storm here at the moment. Dramatic thunder and lightning à la Johann Strauss.

Saturday, 14 September 2002

Had a good evening listening to the Furtwängler recording of Bruckner’s fourth symphony with the VPO (1951, Munich radio broadcast). Those were the days! The symphony sounded like a flowing river of molten gold. Orchestras don’t play like this any more. And there are no more conductors of the stature of Furtwängler. Andrew Litton conducting Bruckner’s fourth with the RPO?
Before I left for Kentucky, a frustrating recording experience Batiashvili playing the first Prokofiev violin concerto at the Proms on 11 September. I nearly forgot to make the recording! And when I remembered (just in time) I found that with my new installation of WaveRepair 4.8, the “Input New Wave File” function had been moved from the “File” toolbar to somewhere else. In trying to find it, I lost around 90 seconds of the beginning of the Prokofiev piece. Rage!

Tuesday, 3 September 2002

Listened to the Beethoven Violin Concerto played by Erich Röhn with Furtwängler (January 1944). This is probably the best Beethoven vc ever recorded. For a change, the orchestra sounds a complete equal to the violin. Röhn’s playing here is completely on a par with Kreisler or Menuhin in this work. A really enthralling performance (and I have always considered that the Beethoven concerto really is one of those works I have just heard once too often).
If only someone could find a way to remove coughs from recorded concerts! The constant coughing is the (only) drawback to this performance.

Wednesday, 28 August 2002

Finished an excellent CD (HC 108) consisting of Elizaveta Gilels in nine short pieces (exceptional), Bronislaw Gimpel in the Tchaikovsky violin concerto (excellent) and Aaron Rosand in the Sérénade Mélancolique (very good). All the pieces came from Ronald de Haas, and the Gilels took a long time to de-click (but the result is well worth it). The 79’ 50” CD burned easily and well on the office machine, and plays without problem on my home CD player. The Nero CD editor is excellent in that it allows you to insert a file into an existing audio file (for example, in the Tchaikovsky to run the finale directly into the end of the second movement).
A new instant classic! It’s a CD of golden era violin playing to which I’ll return. Strange that Gimpel – like Ricardo Ondoposoff, Ida Haendel or Aaron Rosand – had comparatively little success

Thursday, 22 August 2002

Listened to CD (copied from Ronald de Haas) of Elisaveta Gilels (Mrs Leonid Kogan) playing various virtuoso short pieces – with a bias towards staccato bowing. That girl could certainly play! And even Heifetz’s jaw might have dropped at her stacccato. An exhilarating 38 minutes or so, and this is a CD I’ll certainly be returning to whenever I want to be bowled over.
A bit of the automaton about Elisaveta’s playing, however. Not a tender character (on this disc) and it doesn’t make me want to hear her in the Beethoven or Elgar concertos. But Hora Staccato: very much so!

Wednesday, 21 August 2002

Recorded Leonidas Kavakos on 18 August (Prom) playing Ravel’s Tzigane, plus Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. Good to see these old warhorses gracing the concert platforms again.
Kavakos really played them both very well indeed. He is a fine violinist – wish he had a lucrative recording contract with someone. The encore was, again, Tarrega’s Recuerdos de l'Alhambra. Marvellously played.
My CD transfer gave problems – sticking groove! Re-did CD on the office machine, then the new CD failed to register on my CD player. Third time was lucky. A bit worrying that one has to test these things from beginning to end.

Saturday, 17 August 2002

Really enjoyed Handel’s “Tra le fiamme” with Magdalena Kozena and Marc Minkowski. Handel is good music for cheering anyone up. And the CD (Archiv) really is a core collection item. A disc for the Top Fifty collection.

Bought the Nonesuch CD by the Kremerata Baltica of Enescu’s Octet (1900) and Piano Quartet (1940). An enjoyable disc; the works are so completely different! The 1900 Octet sounds vaguely Smetana / Dvorak, whilst the 1940 Piano Quintet sounds almost Stockhausen (“endlessly wandering”). Both works will repay frequent listenings. Enescu’s sole defect as a genius seems to be a lack of ability to write a memorable theme

Friday, 9 August 2002

Yesterday evening I greatly enjoyed Vaughan Williams' third symphony (Previn conducting the LSO). It's a work that takes a lot of playing in order to sink in. But I think it is sinking in at last. It would be quite good to have a score, since I am still not conscious of where the first movement ends, and the second begins. And it's one of those pieces where you have to get the volume right from the start (otherwise the music keeps either fading into nothing, or blasting you out of your seat).

And today I received at long last the Testament re-issue of the Kogan / Bruch recording of the first Paganini concerto. At last! This has rarely been seen since it was recorded in 1955, and I was extremely lucky to have found an Italian cassette of the performance some decades ago. An extremely welcome reissue (though, after waiting 47 years, one cannot help but feel that EMI is more interested in undermining re-issue companies than genuinely preserving Kogan's brilliant performance for posterity).

Sunday, 4 August 2002

On Saturday evening listened to Michelangeli playing Beethoven (Op 26) and Ravel (Gaspard de la Nuit). Bliss! There is something about Michelangeli’s playing that has you hanging on to every note. Maybe it’s not the greatest-ever Beethoven playing or the greatest-ever Ravel? But it sounds like it while you listen. On Sunday evening listened again to Michelangeli playing the Beethoven Op 7 E flat major sonata. I simply do not like this sonata. Noisy, unmemorable. A bit of a Beethoven caricature. I'm sure Michelangeli plays it well; but to no avail, as far as I am concerned.

Recorded Ilya Gringolts playing the first Shostakovich violin concerto. I really think this concerto is one of the three greatest (with Beethoven, and Brahms). Gringolts played it well. Bit of E string trouble towards the end of the first movement resulted in some shaky intonation (flat? broke?) which may have accounted for the long pause between the first and second movements during the broadcast. Gringolts is certainly more involved than was Hilary Hahn when I heard her play it in Portsmouth last year. His playing sounds a bit “young” for the work, and I prefer Repin’s maturity. But it was good to listen to. The transfer gave me enormous problems: it transpires that Nero does not like to record sequential tracks where there is neither silence nor absence of sound between the tracks. So my effort to put the third and fourth movements on to separate tracks came to nought, and I had to recombine the tracks into one before Nero would burn happily. Used seven CDs in the process.
A great pity Gringolts stamps and jumps during the cadenza; this sort-of ruins the performance for subsequent listenings. His teacher should have taught him to keep still rather than indulge in gymnastics while playing.

Friday, 2 August 2002

Yesterday listened to the remaining Jenö Hubay violin concertos (Szabadi). Well, numbers 3 and 4 are certainly better than 1 and 2. In fact, No.4 was quite interesting and I shall have to re-listen again this evening.
Finished the evening with Elisabeth Batiashvili playing the Beethoven Spring Sonata (off-air recording). I really like this performance. It is "classical" in the same sense as those of Adolph Busch or Joseph Szigeti: you just listen to Beethoven rather than to the playing of the violinist. Yes, it would be even better if the violin were balanced just a little more forward. But we can't have everything. This is a really key performance in my collection.

Thursday, 1 August 2002

Back from Vilnius. Excellent trip, though a bit hot on the Monday. Lithuania is really a nice country -- pleasant people, honest prices, reasonable quality. A refreshing absence of aggro or hassle. I enjoyed the four days very much indeed.

Wednesday, 24 July 2002

Like the Elgar violin concerto, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde has been pretty lucky on disk, with a number of first class performances in addition to my favourite, Jascha Horenstein with the BBC Northern Orchestra (!) Listened yesterday to Klemperer's 1951 Vox recording (courtesy of Ronald de Haas). Excellent performance, but I preferred Anton Dermota to Elsa Cavelti, the mezzo soprano. The recording quality was truly excellent for 1951. But, the recorders had used multi-miking and spotlighting, so much of the performance sounded uncomfortably as if the solo item had been dubbed on afterwards. Solos hung in their own space, rather than emerging from the different strands of the sounds.
A pity. Still, this does stand as an excellent and worthwhile performance to have captured.
My birthday yesterday. Pretty quiet, and sad contrast to last year's. And, since I am away in Vilnius for a few days after today, the fridge was run down and there was nothing exciting to eat. And it wasn't worth opening a bottle of good wine. Thus, Das Lied made for appropriate, gloomy listening.

Monday, 22 July 2002

Disappointed by the first violin concerto by Jenö Hubay (set of two CDs containing the four violin concerti of Hubay kindly supplied by Ronald de Haas). Vilmos Szabadi plays predictably well. But the music is so anodyne. Nothing Hungarian about it; it could just as well be Estonian, or Belgian. So far, nowhere near the standard of Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps, Sarasate or Saint-Saëns. On with concerti 2-4 at a later date.

Bravo Akady Volodos! I have really enjoyed this CD over many hearings. Above all, perhaps, for the Liszt second Hungarian Rhapsody, the Schubert-Liszt Liebesbotschaft and the Tchaikovsy-Feinberg scherzo from the Pathétique Symphony. Virtuoso stuff, and quite exhilarating. Why on earth hasn’t Volodos made more virtuoso CDs? (Silly question; he is grossly overweight, and is recorded by Sony. Wrong image. Woe unto us!)

Sunday, 21 July 2002

A good recording from the radio (transferred to HC106). Mainly excerpts from a Promenade concert in 1954 by Beecham (one of only three proms he conducted, apparently). An excellent Sibelius 7th, plus excerpts from Bizet’s l’Arlésienne suites, plus Massenet’s Last Sleep of the Virgin as an encore (introduced by Beecham). There is also a short talk by Beecham concerning Sibelius’ music.

The CD is filled (77 minutes) by a good performance of Schubert’s B major piano sonata D 575 played by Paul Lewis. All in all, I am well pleased with the quality of the transfers; the problem with the weak signal from the tuner appears to have been solved, and the off-air recordings are excellent. Burned the CD at 4 times speed, following a long discussion in PC World. Good evening -- also eat two Dover Soles, with a very nice Sancerre rosé.

Saturday, 20 July 2002

Bought and listened to Mahler's 9th Symphony in the 1938 Vienna public performance (VPO) conducted by Bruno Walter. Of great historical interest, and the finale was most moving. I still don't like the scherzo one little bit. The recording (restored by Michael Dutton) is a bit off-putting in that the solos are at the same volume as the full orchestral fff. But you become used to it. And it's nice to hear the Vienna Philharmonic from the old days -- another time, another place, another way of doing things. All in all, a good acquisition (cost me £4.99).

Yesterday evening had another bowl of Lazar Berman. This time, I enjoyed the second Schumann sonata; I might even come to be fond of it, in time. And really enjoyed Berman playing the march from Tchaikovsky's Pathétique (arranged by Feinberg). I must compare it back-to-back with the Arkady Volodos performance that I also have.

Friday, 19 July 2002

Yesterday evening, as promised, I put on the Brandenburgs played by Il Giardino Armonico. Splendid stuff -- light and dancing. Heard Nos.4 and 5. Harpsichord is properly reticent, even in No.5 where it often sounds like four elephants. None of Beecham's "two skeletons copulating on a tin roof" here. Great pity no bored nobleman appears to have attended a Bach concert and passed the time by noting precise timings: "So bored by Olde Bach and all his notes that I took myself to writing down exactly how much time was passing. The first movement took 11 minutes and 23 seconds. The second movement took 8 minutes and 14 seconds. And the third movement took 6 minutes and 3 seconds, but it seemed much longer". The first thing one really notices in 1990-2002 Bach compared with 1900-1970 Bach is the tempo. Bach rarely danced before 1970.

Also listened to Lazar Berman playing the first Schumann sonata, but fell fast asleep during the first movement. I must re-attempt this weekend.

Thursday, 18 July 2002

One of the points of this journal is to record for myself what I have listened to. Yesterday evening was Sigiswald Kuijken in the Bach unaccompanieds (Partitas 2 and 3, plus Sonata 3). This is the recent remake. Less acid sound than the 1982 originals, but I haven't been able to do a back-to-back comparison of the playing. Was I a bit disappointed by the fugue in the third sonata? Difficult to say. Anyway, I enjoyed the third partita completely. Kuijken certainly understands that the partitas are based on dance rhythms.
Discovered on the shelf when trying to put the new Kuijken away, the Bach Brandenburgs by Il Giardino Armonico which I thoroughly enjoyed when I bought them a couple of years ago. Must get them out for an airing. They are fast, bright and swing along. A bit like Lara St John's recent disc of the A minor, E major and D minor concertos which I also really enjoyed. Good time for Johann Sebastian.