Monday, 28 May 2007

Back home after a cold, wet English Bank Holiday weekend in Cornwall. Welcomed by Sandrine Piau singing Vivaldi and Handel. Perhaps my musical vision is tunnelling, but I now really feel at home in music composed between around 1705 and 1745. With Bach, Handel and Vivaldi there is a freshness, and a feeling of music flexing its muscles and bursting its bonds. Exiled to a desert island, I sense more and more that it is the vocal music of Bach and Handel that would be selected to accompany me.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The Japanese, thank goodness, refuse to be fashionable when it comes to classical music, so I was able to obtain the 1960 recording of the Bach Brandenburgs from Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia (from HMV in Tokyo, an EMI-Japan release). The recording seems to be banned in pretty well every other country, a reason for being deeply aggrieved at the dictatorship of the Harpsichord Band.
What does one want from a recording of the Brandenburgs? a) clarity of texture -- we need to hear all the parts b) balance of sound c) top-of-the-range playing in both solos and tuttis d) a sense of overall structure e) a sense of depth and perspective in the recording.
Well, so far I have only listened to Brandenburgs 1-3 of this set. But, so far, the Klemperer set has all of these qualities. I am delightfully amazed. Perhaps at last -- after much hunting, trial and error, it has to be said -- I have found my ideal set of Bach's Brandenburg concerti. And not a plucking harpsichord in sight (except for the fifth Brandenburg).

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Inspired by a review, I took off the shelf the CD of Leopold Stokowski's last London concert (May 1974, with the Philharmonia). Vaughan William's Tallis Fantasy, Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole and last, but here certainly not least, Brahms' fourth symphony. The orchestral playing is truly superb throughout, and Stokowski's conducting without a blemish (at the age of 92). The Brahms brings heartfelt cheers from the audience (which even wishes to applaud after the end of the first movement -- quite understandably). The is a CD I must put on more often (the concert opens with Klemperer's Merry Waltz, in tribute to Otto who had died a few months previously).

Friday, 18 May 2007

At last I have enjoyed the Brahms Concerto for Violin & Cello! It is usually played as a Major Romantic Bravura Concerto for two instruments, and I find the whole thing overblown -- and usually with poor balance. But yesterday evening I put on the new recording from Pentatone featuring Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott (conductor Jakov Kreizberg) and was pleasantly surprised. It is played -- and recorded -- as a chamber music piece for violin, cello and orchestra. The balance is excellent and the music makes its points through the interventions of all three protagonists. The two soloists from Munich do good. I have yet to hear the companion piece on the CD .. Fischer playing the Brahms Violin Concerto.