Sunday, 20 April 2008

After a pleasant, relaxed day yesterday, today was black. As usual with black days, the only music that is acceptable is that of ... Handel! Enjoyed Amadigi di Gaula this evening (Marc Minkowski version). The opera contains some really lovely music. The performance is good over all, but some of the singing is a bit squally (Eiddwen Harrhy) and I have never taken to Nathalie Stutzmann's somewhat un-feminine voice. I think I'll also invest in the new recording just out from a mainly Spanish cast. Can't have too many recordings of Amadigi!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

A superb large fresh plaice this evening; undoubtedly the best and cheapest de luxe dish that can be bought. Eaten with great pleasure.

Then I renewed my acquaintance with Shostakovich's piano quintet, an impressive work often reminiscent of late Beethoven. The 1949 performance by Shostakovich with the Beethoven Quartet sounds entirely authentic. Somewhere there must exist a better transfer than the Doremi disc I have, typically over-filtered and with a thin, shiny sheen to the violins. If only someone, somewhere would re-incarnate this performance coupled with the Gilels, Kogan, Rostropovich recording just a few years later of the Tchaikovsky piano trio! I would buy ten copies.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

An evening devoted, strangely enough, to Nicolai Myaskovsky. I listened first to the cello concerto (Jamie Walton) followed by the violin concerto (Vadim Repin, with Valery Gergiev). A pleasant evening, and I had half forgotten what a good violinist Vadim Repin is. Myaskovsky came over as very much a Russian contemporary of Vaughan Williams; equally rare on modern concerto programmes.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Renaud Capuçon is a most impressive young violinist; I must re-visit his recordings. On his new CD, a compilation of 21 small pieces, he comes over as a 21st century version of Nathan Milstein: suave, stylish, never striving for effect, and with a formidable amoury of colour, bowing and dynamics. Capuçon understands -- as did artists such as Milstein, Heifetz and Beecham -- that small salon pieces must never drag and must never be over-inflated.

This CD is 74 minutes of delightful music coming from the Guarneri del Gesù of Renaud Capuçon. Jérôme Ducros accompanies skilfully. André Tubeuf contributes a typically flowery and pompous liner note that tells you all about his literary pretensions and little about the music or the performers.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

It has been a while since I last enjoyed the music of Camille Saint-Saëns ("the greatest composer who wasn't a genius", someone said). But this evening I basked in his fourth piano concerto in a pretty definitive 1939 performance by Robert Casadesus, Pierre Monteux and the Concertgebouworkest. Super work, and inspired playing.
For dessert: Back to Bach (the cantatas BWV 18 -- Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt -- and BWV 106 -- Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit). The performances by the Ricercar Consort under Philippe Pierlot are near-ideal, to my mind. BWV 18 has the viola part that I used to practice so assiduously! Coming back to Bach after my recent diet of Handel and Vivaldi, I notice the sheer density of the music; everything is polyphony (but also, of course, highly melodic).

Saturday, 5 April 2008

When my father (born Short Street, Horwich, 1903) was in his last weeks, he asked for a music player in his room and listened over and over again to ... Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss. After three hours of baroque high-voice vocal music this evening, I suspect that one day -- far, far in the future -- I would wish to die to the vocal music of Bach, Purcell, Handel or Vivaldi. This evening was Simone Kermes in Handel (as already recounted) followed by Kermes in Vivaldi (Amor Sacro, and Amor Profano). Definitely music to die to.
A week's pause. Now back to cockles, squid, an incredible livarot ... and Handel sung by Simone Kermes and Maïte Beaumont (excerpts from Amadigi, Rinaldo and Alcina). Great food, and great music. When you put Handel and Vivaldi side by side, the Saxon wins every time.