Monday, 29 March 2010

George Frederic Händel's music was like an iceberg: after the composer's death in 1759, nine tenths of his music was submerged and lost from the world of music. Astonishingly, it has only been over the past twenty years or so that Handel's music has re-appeared in popular view. Until recently, Handel was The Messiah, Water Music, Fireworks Music, and a few bits and pieces.

How impoverished were the generations from 1759 until around 1990! So much extraordinary and beautiful music simply lost from the scene. This evening I listened (again) to the CD where Sandrine Piau sings Handel arias -- mainly from the oratorios. Wonderful music. Wonderful singing, and also top-grade backing from Stefano Montenari and the Accademia Bizantina. A recording for the "do not file away" pile. And a recording of music one would probably never have found before 1980.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Alice Sara Ott playing Chopin's complete waltzes. She plays them very well, and most expertly. I bought the complete waltzes long ago played by Dinu Lipatti. He also played most expertly but I was disappointed by the music. I am still disappointed by the music, even when played now by Miss Ott. 19th century salon piano music is not for me, I fear. When it comes to piano music I enjoy Scarlatti, Bach, Schubert, Medtner, Rachmaninov, and many others. But not Chopin (or Liszt).

It was quite a relief to turn back to Handel, and a new CD of opera arias sung by Johannette Zomer. Much more my cup of tea.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The twentieth century was rich in violinists. Probably Kreisler and Heifetz stand out as the two greatest. But the third greatest? A long list of candidates, including Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh and Michael Rabin. But, to my mind, after listening to him again for 50 minutes this evening, the third greatest violinist of the last century was ... David Nadien. Emphasis on violinist, on the craft of playing one of music's most difficult and contrary instruments. But Nadien (almost) trumps them all when it comes to mastering the four strings with a wooden stick strung with horse hair.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I seem to have entered a piano-listening phase. I certainly enjoyed the CD from a British teenager called Benjamin Grosvenor. Quite incredible playing, worthy of the young Gilels or Cortot, with extreme sensibility to both the piano and the music. I could have done without the three bits by Nikolai Kapustin, since I prefer jazz in a jazz environment and not juxtaposed with Scarlatti, Albéniz, Chopin, et al. The same goes for the George Gershwin piece. However, all in all the CD offers a feast of attractive music and quite remarkable playing. On the CD cover and back, it is, however, remarkably difficult to make out the name of the pianist.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Back home from a truly wonderful trip to Bangkok and Hanoi. I should have discovered that area of the world much sooner in my life! And I eat four meals a day and also managed to lose weight.

One advantage of being back home, however, is being able to listen to music again. I made the acquaintance of Franco Gulli, playing Paganini back in the 1960s. Wonderful technique and a lovely sound. A bit short on dynamic contrasts, but nevertheless highly enjoyable listening (and that is not always true when violinists attempt Paganini). Also renewed acquaintance with the stunning Liza Ferschtman, another Dutch girl of incredible talent. Her programme of Bach (first sonata and third partita) and Ysaÿe (first and second sonatas) is a most attractive juxtaposition. And it's good to hear a violinist playing Bach without trying to imitate what a violinist may have sounded like in 1720.