Saturday, 24 April 2004

Spent a pleasant two hours discovering Renato de Barbieri (died 1992). A formidable violinist (particularly in his 1973-75 recordings of Handel, Tartini, Paganini, Ysaye, et al). I confess I had never heard of him before. Just shows just how much the "fame" of well-known names such as Stern, Zukerman, Bell, etc is due to PR managers and publicity machines. Renato de Barbieri was a major violinist, particularly in the bravura repertoire.

Mention must also be made of the highly superior Crémant de Loire and Pinot Noir d'Alsace that I brought back from Paris on this trip. Excellent accompaniments to de Barbieri !

Monday, 12 April 2004

Easter has been a big time for catching up, and also making some CD copies for Dave Gomberg and Ken Gerberg. It was interesting to meet Ida Haendel again (1999 in Boston, with the Dvorak concerto). For someone in her 70s her technique is marvellous. Rock steady, well articulated, spot-on intonation. Her playing is still very reminiscent of Carl Flesch but, like her teacher, she has always lacked any sense of fantasy or real emotion in her playing. A flawed dame of the violin.

I had to modify my views on Oleg Kagan, who had always struck me as a "critics' violinist". But the live performances of him playing the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich First concertos revealed a violinist with a lot of heart and a real willingness to go for broke. If, alongside the very greatest (including Repin and Stoika Milanova) he did not quite come out on top in the Shostakovich, it remains a very memorable performance. His unaccompanied Bach is excellent, but very "Russian"; no trace of any dances, and all very solemn and grand manner. But well played.

Also sat back with enjoyment and listened to Tossy Spivakovsky playing the Bartok concerto in the 1950s. However, I really do not like the Bartok concerto -- and in fact very little of Bartok's music. It is music without heart, without emotion.