Friday, 30 June 2006

Yesterday evening I actually listened with pleasure to Busoni's second sonata for violin & piano (all 38 minutes of it). First time I've stayed awake and have enjoyed the journey. It was probably helped by the fact that the violinist was Leonidas Kavakos (pianist Denes Varjon). Recorded via streaming audio from the BBC website (concert in Wigmore Hall in mid-June 2006).

I have always been an admirer of Kavakos. In some ways, he often comes over as a 21st century equivalent of Adolf Busch, or Szigeti. He focuses your attention on the music rather than on his playing, which is perhaps one reason I enjoyed the Busoni at last. Also a similar experience with Leila Josefowicz and her new recording that includes the Shostakovich sonata for violin & piano. This sonata's sparse textures have usually seemed somewhat barren to me (as played by Oistrakh and Richter, no less). But it comes off in Josefowicz's hands. The coupling, the first Shostakovich violin concerto, needs another audition, though I did admire the orchestra under Sakari Oramo. To complete an excellent evening, a truly delicious crab (from Fishworks in Bath).

Monday, 12 June 2006

It's an unusual experience to find myself listening to the Beethoven violin concerto with continuing pleasure. To all intents and purposes, it's one of those works I have simply heard too often. However, the new Music & Arts discovery of the 1942 public performance (Carnegie Hall) of the Beethoven with Adolf and Fritz Busch (New York Philharmonic-Symphony) really is a new instant classic. I've always liked the 1942 studio performance by the same team, but this live performance from a few days earlier is far superior (more relaxed and more integrated).
As usual, Busch impresses and entrances by his sheer musicianship rather than by any spectacular feats of fiddling. When Busch is playing, you just listen to the music, and there are no distractions. This must be in the top five recordings of this somewhat difficult concerto over the past 80 years. No mean achievement!

Sunday, 4 June 2006

It can be an interesting experience, putting on a new Bach cantata recording for the first time. In the case of one of the CDs I brought back from Paris, the experience was great, and a new "classic recording" was born. Selected pretty well at random from the shelves of the FNAC (St-Lazare), the three cantatas conducted by Philippe Pierlot with the Ricercar Consort give enormous pleasure. For Bach, you need a) the composer at his best b) expert singing c) expert instrumental playing d) good recording and e) good overall direction. This CD (Mirare) has them all. The cantatas concerned are Gleichwie der Regen and Schnee vom Himmel fällt (BWV 18), Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (BWV 106) and Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich (BWV 150). I plan to establish a "top 10" rack, since recordings such as these all too often become buried in the collection and forgotten.

A second CD, part of Sigiswald Kuijken's new programme to record all the Bach cantatas, still awaits a listening. It will have to work hard to equal Pierlot's forces!