Sunday, 19 August 2012

Gardiner, and Kulenkampff

Back to Bach's St John Passion. After my big disappointment with Budget Bach Jos van Veldhoven, I went out and bought John Eliot Gardiner (2003 recording, Solo Dei Gloria). Much more my cup of tea. Since the 1980s, Gardiner appears to have mellowed, and a degree of mellowness never hurts Bach. Good soloists (a little recessed in the recording) and an excellent choir, unlike van Veldhoven and his puny line-up. Not a counter tenor nor a male alto in sight, thank goodness. The Jewish crowd sounds suitably vicious in Gardiner's -- and Bach's -- hands. I must dig out the 1987 version with Sigiswald Kuijken that I have lurking on a shelf somewhere.

Violin listening has featured Georg Kulenkampff. My kind of violinist. In Central Europe during that era, there was none of the pressure to play faster and louder than anyone else, and fellow violinists were colleagues rather than overt competitors. Things changed after 1945, but I really enjoyed and appreciated listening to Kulenkampff just playing the music. The Beethoven and Spohr No.8 violin concertos are particularly pleasing; there is a calm and naturalness about the playing that is good to listen to. Strange that, in the Beethoven violin concerto in particular, my desert island choices out of the hundreds of versions recorded would be – in random order – Kulenkampff, Röhn and Busch.

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