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.