Thursday, 29 December 2005

Christmas listening has been dominated by Bach's Mass in B minor. With this, I seem to have come full circle, having started life in the 1950s with Karajan, then going via Joshua Rifkin in the 1980s to Parrot, Kuijken, etc. The performance that entranced me this Christmas was the 1966 one by .. Otto Klemperer. Magisterial, monumental, "old-fashioned"; but quite addictive listening. I probably wouldn't take to Klemperer playing, say, the cantatas. But the Mass sounded right.

Akiko Suwanai in the Bach concertos also made me think (A minor, E major, double, and violin & oboe). Played like this, the music really does not need soloists of the stature of Suwanai or Mullova. A bit like taking a Ferrari to drive the children to school 3 kms away. The disc does, however, contain my four favourite Bach concertos.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Concert yesterday evening (Bournemouth) with Yan Pascal Tortelier conducting the BSO (Vaughan Williams fourth symphony -- very good).

Hagai Shaham played the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. A work I've heard before ... many times. I've never rated Hagai particularly highly before, but he went for broke in the Tchaikovsky, and it really worked. No seeking out the mysterious depths, or highlighting intellectual profundities. He just swept into, and through, the music like a mini tornado. British audiences never, never applaud between movements. But the audience (with me in the vanguard) broke into spontaneous applause after the first movement, and it really would have been criminal not to.

In my view, the only way to play this barnstorming, echt-romantic concerto. Hagai has gone right up in my rating system.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

Re-listened to the solo violin CD from Baiba Skride. Despite David Gomberg's less than enthusiastic reaction to her Baltimore concert, I now find the CD highly impressive. First of all, she can really handle a violin and bow! Secondly, she uses an impressive range of dynamics and knows how to play softly when the music needs it. Her Ysaye first sonata is excellent, and this is possibly the first time I have really enjoyed the Bartok solo sonata (to my surprise). Skride's shading of the dynamics brings out fully the melancholy at the heart of this music.
The Bach (second partita) is well played from the violin point-of-view but, like so many violinists from the East, it is not at the same level of interpretation as the Ysaye or the Bartok. Too interventionist; Bach doesn't need all this care and carressing. The sarabande comes over as adagio molto con espressione; a long way from a dance movement. If Skride has a drawback, it is the (familiar) one of wallowing in slower music and concentrating too hard on always sounding beautiful.
Anyway, I am certainly in the market for more Baiba Skride. As long as it is not, yet again, the concerti of Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Bruch or Prokofiev.