Friday, 31 December 2004

For New Year's Eve this year, it was Elgar rather than Bach. I wanted to hear the violin concerto. Interestingly, my choice went to Isabelle van Keulen out of the 11 versions I have. A few wobbly bits in the finale, but she plays with passion and eloquence and is very well supported by the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder. (Off-air of a January 2004 concert).

Greatly enjoyed a 2-CD Vadim Repin concert (Tokyo, October 2004) courtesy of Akiko. Serious programme based on the Franck sonata and Schubert's D 934 Fantasy. Double secret of success? Repin's playing, plus the duo partnership with Nikolai Lugansky. Duos are best when they feature equals (like Repin and Berezovsky, or Repin and Lugansky). I have not warmed to Repin in duos with Argerich, nor with "Bash'em" Itmar Golan.
Also on the CD are Arvo Pärt's Fratres (good) and Schoenberg's Op 48 Fantasy (as awful as ever). The enticing encores are two Tchaikovsky pieces, plus Bartok's Roumanian Dances, and Paganini's Carnival in Venice. Civilised listening at the highest level. Quite restores one's faith in violin & piano duos.

Monday, 20 December 2004

Recorded off-air Vadim Repin and Martha Argerich playing the Beethoven Kreutzer sonata (from the 2004 Verbier Festival). I'm certainly glad Ms Argerich doesn't want to accompany me; she is pretty dominant. One of those performances of which it is said: "sparks were struck". It is certainly a performance full of life and fire. In some ways, it might be termed hectoring. But this is as much Beethoven's fault as that of Martha Argerich. This performance reminded me that there are many violin & pianos sonatas that I prefer to the Kreutzer.

Sunday, 19 December 2004

A really excellent new CD features the young German violinist Julia Fischer. She fits well into the all-star team of extraordinary young female violinists and, like Janine Jansen and Elisabeth Batiashvili, is thorougly musical and "serious". This, her first CD, has an excellent Khachaturian violin concerto, the Glazunov concerto, and the first Prokofiev concerto. Adding to the pleasure is the all-Russsian back-up of Yakov Kreizberg and the Russian National Orchestra. Recording is excellent, though the violin balance a little too natural for my taste; with these concertos we are, alas, used to a more forward balance for the soloist. But Julia Fischer is yet another young violinist to watch.

A new release (December 2002 recording) of Schubert's Trout Quintet also makes one wonder whether, in recorded classical performances, the "good old days" were always that good. This new Trout, with an all-French line-up of the Capuçon brother, Gérard Caussé. Frank Braley and Alois Posch, sparkles and dances and underlines the fact that this was a young man's music written for an informal social occasion. Difficult to think of a Trout I'd rather put on. And the recording (Virgin) is really first-rate.

Monday, 13 December 2004

To Portsmouth on 9 December to hear Elisabeth Batiashvili play the Brahms violin concerto.Only, it transires, it wasn't Batiashvili (again) but a substitute young woman of exceptional talent, but with an inferior violin; she appeared to be playing on a violin that did not respond to pressure -- forte on the E and A strings came over as being harsh. But you could have heard a pin drop during the cadenza; she really made the audience concentrate on what was being played. Her name: Antje Weithaas. Good, but not Batiashvili.

The orchestra plainly did not like the conductor, Rolf Gupta (Norway). Conducting without a baton, his arms became two flippers that twitched up and down, which plainly left the exposed, high, pianissimo violins at the start of the Prelude to Lohengrin, all at sea. From grim faces all round, it seemed as if hard words had been exchanged during the interval; the conductor came on late for the second half (Schumann second symphony) and the orchestra only managed a slight smile when he tripped and nearly fell at the end of the concert. I doubt we'll be seeing him again with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.