Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Excellent concert in Portsmouth last week. James Ehnes played the first Shostakovich violin concerto (Marin Alsop) then Alsop conducted Elgar's second symphony.
Technically, there has probably never been a finer performance of the Shostakovich. Ehnes really is a master violinist. In particular, the scherzo and the burleska sounded quite superb. Perhaps the notturno and the passagalia could have done with a little less head and a little more heart. But it was a very fine performance. I do, however, prefer the Sarah Chang / Simon Rattle performance; Chang also has an impressive technique, but she also has more heart, which this concerto certainly needs.
Alsop's conducting of the Elgar impressed me; speeds were swift and the music had plenty of backbone (which Elgar -- like Delius -- really needs in performance). It was all a glorious 55 minutes of Edwardian colour and didn't sound a minute too long. The audience really enjoyed it (and also listened to Ehnes's pianissimo passages and pauses in the Shostakovich concerto in rapt silence).

Sunday, 19 March 2006

My first (all alone) Tom Yum soup (Thai bouillabaisse). Excellent! The 800 gms of baby squid were hard work, but it was all worthwhile. I forsee this becoming one of my staple dishes (as long as the supplies of fresh squid, mussels, scallops and clams hold up). Paste supplier secured via the Internet (Wing Supplies, a Chinese outfit).
Otherwise, it was Bach today; 77 minutes of contrapuntal arrangements played by Fretwork (consort of viols). Sadly, apart from my sister Iris, I cannot think of anyone who could possibly share my love of this esoteric, cerebral music. If ever I am exiled to Mars, I shall take with me a) the complete works of Bach b) the complete works of Handel and c) many, many cases of Crémant de Loire.

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Very much Back to Bach, the last few days. Specifically, I bought Volume 19 in John Eliot Gardiner's Soli Deo Gloria series of Bach cantatas. Somewhat hesitantly, I admit, since I have never really enjoyed JEG in Bach or Handel in the past; too hectoring, to my taste.
But, with the two hours on these two CDs, all is forgiven. The music is Bach at his best (although somewhat lacrimose, in the wrong mood). The playing and singing are exemplary. And the recording is how such things should be, but rarely are. All in all, a rave success. As someone with over 170 Bach cantata recordings on his shelves, I am not easily impressed. But I certainly am, this time round. And Gardiner seems to have improved with age.