Sunday, 31 May 2009

Somewhat unusually for me, a weekend of songs. First was the entirely admirable and enchanting Carolyn Sampson in an intelligent selection of songs by Henry Purcell, all beautifully accompanied by an ensemble headed by Elizabeth Kenny. A CD that is always in my "favourite 12" rack. Next was the equally admirable and enchanting Sandrine Piau in songs by Chausson, Strauss, Debussy, Zemlinsky, Koechlin and Schönberg. Finally, Dietrich Henschel in songs by Vaughan Williams, Mahler, Pizzetti and Duparc -- four composers and four languages in all four of which Henschel convinces. I keep buying song recitals and rarely listen to them. But when I do, as now, I thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Food was provided by plaice fillets, mussels, sea bream and crab. I seem to have morphed into becoming 80% piscavore. But it's just what my body tells me to eat. Maybe I'll live to the age of 69 years yet.

Monday, 25 May 2009

The new recording of Handel's Faramondo is very fine. A director of whom I have never heard before -- Diego Fasolis. A cast of unknowns, apart from Philippe Jaroussky in a relatively minor role. But Max Emanuel Cencic, Sophie Karthäuser and Marina de Liso are good, solid singers and In-Sung Sim is an excellent bass. The recording integrates voices and orchestra well -- so important in Handel whose writing for the band is always more than interesting. The band, I Barocchisti, performs very well indeed.  A happy new addition to my extensive Handel opera collection, with three hours of well played and well sung top-notch music.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Two hours of Handel operatic duets this evening, and not a moment too long. Patrizia Ciofi and Joyce DiDonato get three Michelin stars for their CD. Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo also get three, plus one extra for the greater contrast in their voices (Mingardo is a true contralto, whereas DiDonato is a mere mezzo-soprano). Mr Handel gets three stars for his music, and three extra for the sheer melodic variety. Handel, Mozart and Schubert were the Melody Trio of all music.

Sinced childhood in Pagham I have bought, caught or eaten many, many crabs. But none better than yesterday's large crab bought in Fishworks in Bath.  It sets a new standard. Much of the secret is that at 11:00 it was playing football with its friends, and by 12:30 when I collected it, it had been boiled and was cooling on ice ready for me to take away and eat that evening. Accompanied with tomatoes, ciabatta, brie de Meaux and mayonnaise (all from Quayle's) and a glass of excellent rosé wine (Château Kefraya 2006 from the Bekka Valley in the Lebanon).  A bank holiday weekend coming up, so I look forward to some music listening; a new recording of Handel's Faramondo is awaiting me beside my CD player.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

I have always been a reluctant fan of the music of Karol Szymanowksi. In principle, I like it; but in practice, it rarely warms my heart. Which hasn't stopped me really liking a new Hyperion CD of his complete music for violin and piano played by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberthien.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Ibragimova is quite a violininst. In her sheer violinistic dexterity and seeming ability to play anything in any position, she resembles Nathan Milstein (though with more fire and drive than old Nathan was wont to show in his recordings). This CD is something of a demonstation disc as to the full range of colours and sounds a violin can produce. I listened entranced to the 76 minutes of the CD, not so much for Szymanowski's music, as for Ibragimova's violin playing. In a world bursting at the seams with incredible violinists, Ibragimova is beginning to stand head and shoulders above the competition.

All praise to Ibragimova for sticking to less-played repertoire -- and to Hyperion for recording it. Had it been EMI, Sony or Universal, she would have been playing the Mendelssohn violin concerto, coupled with the Tchaikovsky. And also all praise to Hyperion for not sexing-up Ibragimova (or Tiberghien). Alina is a vey pretty girl in her mid- twenties, but she gets just one demure black-and-white photo inside the booklet (as does the pianist). How it should be. I hope this CD sells and sells and sells, despite Mr Szymanowski's somewhat wayward music.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Came back to Nicolai Medtner's interesting third sonata for violin & piano; why on earth do not more people play and record this work? Admittedly, it's over 40 minutes long, but its four movements sustain interest right through to the end. To my surprise, the version I listened to yesterday -- with David Oistrakh and Alexander Goldenweiser -- was impressive. Oistrakh is not normally a violinist I warm to, since too often he plays -- always immaculately -- on cruise control and auto-pilot. But in the 1959 recording, he seems involved and inspired (and Goldenweiser is no slouch as a duo partner). Like all recordings from that time, the "star" violinist is somewhat spotlit, but not nearly as badly as the distorted balance on which Heifetz always insisted and thus ruined almost all his duo recordings for enjoyable listening. A pleasant surprise to be able to enjoy an Oistrakh performance, thanks to the recording from Carlos.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Home again. Nice to listen to music. A sudden whim took me to Angela Gheorghiu singing Verdi arias; "Draculette" may not be a very nice person (as rumour has it) but she can certainly sing with an authentic, commanding diva voice.  Beautiful woman; beautiful voice; highly intelligent singing. A bird outside my window was so impressed it joined in the singing from time to time.  And it's nice to wallow in Italian opera arias after weeks of Bach and Handel. That, after all, is one advantage of having a large collection of recordings; one never knows too far in advance where musical fancy might lead.

Additional music listening was a disc of violin music by Léon de Saint-Lubin (enticingly labelled as Volume I). The music sounds like minor Schubert (none the worse for that). Impressive violinist is the totally unknown (to me). Anastasia Khitruk -- yet another attractive Russian young violinista. The disc is in the series making available lesser known violin works of the 19th century.  From St Klaus di Naxos, of course. Once again: what would lovers of violin music and playing do without Naxos?

Good also to tuck into fish, scallops and langoustines again. It has been a while.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

No new posts, alas. I am in Kentucky so musicke and food are nothing to write home about (though some very good pork ribs the other evening). Tomorrow I am back to Boston, from whence I fly to England on Thursday. So the coming weekend should see shoals of shellfish and scores of musical works -- jet lag permitting.