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.