Monday, 26 May 2003

Bank Holiday weekend, and Wagner’s Parsifal, the old 1951 Decca public performance recording transferred by Mark Obert-Thorn for Naxos. A mere £19 for a first-class Parsifal on four CDs! Wonders will never cease.
Astonishingly, the 1951 recording is perfectly “acceptable” – ie, no allowances have to be made while listening. Balance between orchestra and voices is how it should be. And with pretty well all the singers (except, sometimes, the Kundry of Martha Mödl), you can really hear every word. Hans Knappertsbusch conducts the work as one suspects it should be conducted. Five hours of bliss! But I’m glad I had a big-print libretto, left over from the Goodall LP set.

Friday, 16 May 2003

Down to Portsmouth yesterday for the last concert of this season. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (excellent) conducted by Alexander Polianichko. Highly enjoyable Lieutenant Kijé Suite, followed by second piano concerto (with Nikolai Demidenko as the demonic, very Russian, soloist). I greatly enjoyed watching the soloist in action – a real Russian bear, with an expressionless counternance but with immense power and, on the few occasions permitted by Prokofiev, a warm tone. The concerto was exciting, but not really something I'd care to listen to regularly. A lot of steel, a lot of brutality.
After the interval, it was back to Prokofiev, and the fifth symphony. Enjoyable, but rather a lot of Prokofiev in one dose. Might have been wiser to switch to Vaughan Williams, or Sibelius, for the final work? The orchestra played very well indeed. Polianichko looked every inch a real haunted Russian conductor, albeit with a Simon Rattle haircut.

Thursday, 15 May 2003

I listened to Schubert's B flat major piano sonata D 960 yesterday evening (it's one of my favourite works). Maria Judina's performance is quite fascinating. I think Schubert would have loved it, although asking himself who wrote the music. Does one want a marvellous performance of a piano work? Or a great performance of Schubert's last sonata? I don't think one gets the latter, but one certainly gets the former. It is, of course, one of the dividing lines of critics. I certainly would never wish to be without Richter's or Judina's performances of D 960, although I recognise they are almost certainly not what Schubert had in mind, exactly. I must invest in one or two more performances of this fascinating and difficult-to-read sonata.

Friday, 2 May 2003

My latest craze appears to be Handel's Duetti, sparked by buying Emanuelle Haïm's CD of the Arcadian Duets, and La Venexiana's CD of "The Ten Italian Duets" (with Rossana Bertini and Claudio Cavina). It seems to me that anyone liking Purcell and Bach just has to be sold on the duetti ! Intensely lyrical, but also highly contrapuntal. The slow movement of the Bach D minor concerto for two violins (or almost any baroque sonata or concerto for two violins) could be taken as a model. Lots of variety, lots of changes of mood and nothing lasting more than three minutes. Keeps the singers on their toes, and listeners wide awake. Adding these two CDs to my collection, I must have the world's biggest collection of Handel's duetti (with Kirkby and Nelson, plus Fischer and Bowman, plus Nelson and Jacobs, plus Zadori and Esswood ... )