Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Music for Moods

I have nothing in common with Sergei Rachmaninov. He was twice in exile; once from his beloved Russia, the second time from Europe convulsed in wars. He ended his days in what must have seemed to him a somewhat barbaric land, playing almost non-stop in order to earn money for himself, his family, and his entourage. This evening I sat peacefully in England, with no wars currently in sight; yet I really needed to immerse myself in the music of Rachmaninov, first the second symphony, then the second piano concerto. For the symphony, only Valery Gergiev and the Kirov orchestra would do. For the second piano concerto, only Boris Giltburg could be chosen. It was an all-Russian evening, and a highly satisfactory one, at that. Strange how moods dictate musical choice, which is one reason I always hesitated before buying in advance a ticket for a musical evening. Imagine turning out at 7:30 on a Thursday to hear Haydn, when your mood says “Rachmaninov” !

Friday, 7 September 2018

Arkadi Volodos

Just over a year ago, I was enthusing over a CD where the Russian pianist, Arkadi Volodos, plays thirteen piano pieces by Johannes Brahms. I returned to it today and admired it more than ever. Volodos plays with (apparent) simplicity; listening to him, each piece seems to receive its ideal performance. Cannot ever be bettered.

There are musicians who have a high profile because of all sorts of reasons. Often their recording companies, managers, and impresarios would like to convert them into pop music phenomena because, as we all know, pop musicians make lodsa money for themselves, their recording companies, and their managers. There are other musicians who are highly respected without all the PR razzmatazz; Kirill Petrenko, and Arkadi Volodos spring to mind among the modern highly respected musicians. Neither man appears to give interviews; Volodos lives quietly in Spain and records and concertises from time to time, playing what he wants to play. In terms of publicity seeking, he is the modern equivalent of Clara Haskil who just played what she wanted, with whomsoever she wanted. I am always sceptical about “fame” that is measured in column inches; real fame is when you sit down and listen to someone playing, singing or conducting and exclaim: “Gosh!” Which is what I did this evening listening to Arkadi Volodos playing Brahms.