Monday, 31 July 2006

Lots of praise for Philippe Graffin. His recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto (Liverpool Philharmonic, Vernon Handley) is up there with the best in this lucky-on-record concerto. I must do a retrospective of my Graffin recordings. He doesn't get the exposure of Hilary Hahn, Maxim Vengerov, Joshua Bell et al. But he is easily their equal.

Thursday, 20 July 2006

A nice thing about buying CDs serendipitously is that occasionally one gets a pleasant surprise. And a good thing about Naxos is that low prices encourage experimentation. I picked up the Elgar CD of 21 year old Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma without any particular expectations. But her playing in this music is a real pleasure. I am not particularly fond of Elgar's sonata for violin & piano (23 minutes without any real inspiration in sight) but I loved Lamsma's playing so much I forgave Elgar. And in the eleven salon pieces that complete the CD, Lamsma shows a real feeling for style, and excellent variation in dynamics and tone colour, and an intelligent appreciation of the need to keep things moving. Even an old warhorse such as La Capricieuse comes up freshly painted.
Yet another really talented young violinist. I'll watch out for her.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Really fallen in love with Sandrine Piau's new CD of Vivaldi cantatas. Old Mr Four Seasons is not normally my cup of tea, but the two cantatas (Laudate pueri, and In furore iustissimae irae) are 100% delight. And what a singer! She takes her place in my current personal pantheon with Carolyn Sampson and Natalie Dessay.

Idyllic concert yesterday in a small church in a lovely Cotsworld village. The violinist played an all-bravura programme that pleased the audience immensely (Vitali, Debussy, Sarasate and Kreisler). And how good to find someone with the courage to present a politically and musically incorrect programme! He was a crowd pleaser and drew warm and enthusiastic applause. Too many fluffs for my liking, however, and too many intonation problems. Double stops brought out his real weaknesses in intonation; Heifetz would prescribe six months of playing scales. Still, the setting, the violinist's enthusiasm, and the programme made the occasion an enjoyable one.