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.