Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Listened to the new CD from Lise de la Salle. This 16 year old from Cherbourg certainly sparkles and sounds as fresh as the dew. And what dexterity! The opening Bach has the same effect as opening a bottle of good champagne. The disc contains Bach, Bach-Busoni, Bach-Liszt, and Liszt. A really delightful CD that I'll keep near my player for some time.

Sunday, 5 June 2005

Weepy evening; Chausson's Poème de l'Amour et de la Mer (Felicity Lott) and Delius's Sea Drift (Beecham). Interval was Lott singing three songs by Duparc. Highly satisfactory, and I particularly enjoyed the Chausson. Another Chausson on its way to me this week (Susan Graham) and it will be interesting to hear how it compares.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

Listened again to Isabelle van Keulen playing the Elgar violin concerto (just a few days after listening to the Hilary Hahn studio recording with Colin Davis). Van Keulen is a bit rough at places in her attack, and there are several unfortunate lapses in the finale. But she plays with spirit and one hears clearly that her heart is in what she is playing. Hilary Hahn is technically more secure and immaculate; but one does not get the same impression that she is really feeling the music. Van Keulen wins on points, but it's a pity about the intonation lapses, and also a pity that the violin is balanced a little too closely to the microphone. I must re-listen to Hahn's live performance (also with Davis, but with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra).

Friday, 3 June 2005

Evening spent with Sergei Khachatryan and Hilary Hahn. Quite bowled over by the 17 year old Khachatryan in the Beethoven violin concerto. Maybe conventional wisdom that says you need to be an experienced, mature artist to tackle a work such as this is not necessarily correct? K. plays beautifully, and frequently with an extraordinarily absorbing pianissimo. This is certainly the best Beethoven concerto since Batiashvili in August 2000, and I was very surprised by just how much I enjoyed it, since it is no longer a concerto I enjoy automatically. The recording made off-air with the NHK orchestra in Tokyo is a model of its kind, with exemplary balance and real dedication from the orchestra (with "old" horns in the Russian style). The encore, the andante from Bach's second sonata, is quite stunning and technically the best since Heifetz. Three stars all round! And thanks to Akiko for the copy.

Hilary Hahn really shows off in the first Paganini concerto (off-air in California in September of last year). She does not quite have the élan of Kogan or Mullova, nor the vulgar panache of Michael Rabin. But, technically, she is anyone's equal. Let down, however, by the recorded balance (very much in the American style, with the "star" well to the fore; why could the engineers not have recruited Khachatryan's Japanese?) Also let down by Hahn's habit of slamming on the brakes every time a lyrical passage turns up. Paganini's concerto was contemporary with Beethoven and Rossini and he simply would not have expected such a degree or frequency of rallentandi to interrupt the flow of the music. However, a thoroughly enjoyable romp through Paganini's evergreen music, and a quite terrifying rendition of the Sauret cadenza.