Posted tagged ‘Debussy’

Proms: RSNO/Deneve, Chicago Symphony Orch/Haitink

September 11, 2008

Bernard Haitink

Bernard Haitink

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now seriously back at work full-time so no time for lengthy blog, alas.  However, I must celebrate the end of my Prom-going season which ended with a couple of crackers!

 

Stéphane Denève and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Saturday) gave a stunning performance of Debussy’s La Mer – dazzling orchestral detail, lovingly shaped, deeply felt.  Denève (conducting without a score) may have lingered slightly over some of the significant turning points, but I felt this was absolutely ‘his’ music and he was totally inside it.  Lovely orchestral playing, especially the finely-tuned woodwind and acutely pointed trumpets (if you see what I mean).  Unbelievably quiet pianissimos when required, and blazing loud passages that seemed to point to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (never thought that about La Mer before).  (But where were the disputed fanfares in the last movement?)

 

(Going backwards through their programme…) The less said about their Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto with Stephen Hough the better.  Hough was having an off night (nerves?), stumbling and hurrying all over the place.  The orchestra was stodgy, dull and ragged.  It felt like a bad ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ performance.

 

Thea Musgrave’s ‘Rainbow’ was nice – pretty, simple, appropriately colourful, did what it said on the tin.

 

Albert Roussel’s Bacchus and Ariadne Suite No. 2 was a revelation – great music, chirpy, quirky, powerful and dangerous.  Lovely stuff.

 

On Tuesday it was Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – I couldn’t make the Mahler 6 the previous night, so this one was not to be missed (and very crowded it was too).

 

One rarely hears ‘big-orchestra’ Mozart these days – although it could be argued that (more…)

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FOUND!

August 9, 2008

 Well, well.  After a year and a half of commenting and submitting stuff to FOUND Magazine’s Find of the Day, I see that they have finally published one of my Finds!  Apparently it can take several years for a Find to show up, as they get so many, so I’m honoured.

Thanks, guys!

To read all the comments – witty, illuminating and otherwise – click HERE.

Dame Myra Hess at the National Gallery

November 21, 2007

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Wait a minute, you say… that was way back, during the War, wasn’t it?  Well… Myra Hess has been brought back to (sometimes disconcertingly vivid) life, through the efforts of The Pianola Institute, in the persons of Denis Hall and our dear friend Rex Lawson – presiding modestly over the proceedings in their immaculate white tuxedos.

myra-hess.jpgTonight’s recital took place in the very room where Dame Myra gave her legendary wartime concerts, the octagonal Room 36 under the central dome.  Amazing sense of being in the presence of history – especially as the small but enthusiastic audience included some venerable guests who had known, and even performed with, Myra Hess;  and one grand old lady (we think Carola Grindea?) who persuaded her not to lock up her piano for the duration of the War, but instead to use her talents as a pianist to raise the nation’s spirits (rather than driving an ambulance ‘which other people can do’).   

With their impressive Duo-Art Pianola hooked up to a Steinway grand (the ‘pianola’ being a Black Box with 88 robot fingers pressing down the piano keys, and presumably with some robot toes for the pedals as well), Rex and Denis treated us to a feast of original piano rolls recorded by Myra Hess and her friends and colleagues – including Harold Samuel, Harold Bauer. and Myra Hess’s cousin Irene Scharrer (whose two electrifying Chopin Etudes were the highlight of the evening for me).  Dame Myra herself played Bach, Scarlatti (arr. Dukas!), Debussy and Szymanowski, and half a twee duet by ‘Burgmein’, who turned out to be the Italian publisher Giulio Ricordi hiding behind a pseudonym.

How’s this for synchronicity?  Two nights ago I was writing up Joshua Bell’s recital (see my previous post) and had a rant about Harold Bauer’s ‘rewriting’ of the Schumann violin sonatas.  Lo and behold, tonight we had Harold Bauer ‘in person’ playing a Schumann Novelette introduced by Denis Hall saying that Bauer had published a complete ‘improved’ edition of Schumann’s piano music, which was still worthy of pianists’ attention today.  Hmm.  Still, the playing was impressive.

Overall, (more…)

The Cannons Scholars; Piano 4 Hands

October 29, 2007

Original plan for this weekend was a quintet gig in Somerset, which got cancelled for some reason or other.  So nothing in the diary, until (a) an e-mail from a friend saying ‘come to our concert on Saturday night’, and (b) another friend asking if I was going to Blackheath Halls’ Sunday morning offering?  (Thanks, Sue and Gillian).  So now I have two nice concerts to write about!

The Cannons Scholars is an ad-hoc-ish young and jolly band playing baroque music on modern instruments, under the direction of John Andrews.  Saturday’s programme was Vivaldi’s Gloria and Handel’s ‘Dettingen’ Te Deum, which on paper looked like altogether too much triumphal D major;  in practice, both works had enough inventiveness and contrast to keep the interest engaged, especially in these bright and characterful performances.

Like anything John Andrews does, it seems, the performances were immaculately organised and presented (great little programme notes, by the way), immensely musical and very exciting.  (And I’m not just saying that because he’ll be reading this!  Hi, John.)  Yes, a very few ragged corners here and there.  But nobody’s perfect.

St Paul’s, Covent Garden, is a lovely venue:  cosy, welcoming, not too resonant, even quite good sight-lines.  And it’s right at the heart of Covent Garden (remember My Fair Lady?  It’s where Professor Higgins meets Eliza Doolittle), though on this occasion there wasn’t too much extraneous noise from buskers and street performers outside.  To me it always feels like being in someone’s sitting room, thanks to Inigo Jones’s simple domestic box shape, the decorated plaster ceiling, and the knick-knacks – sorry, monuments – around the walls.  (It is ‘The Actors’ Church’:  I was sitting alongside Terence Rattigan, Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin…)
 
The choir – the Minerva Consort, only a dozen strong – never sounded small, and made the rafters ring.  Some nice soloists too (good to see that soprano Amy Haworth was at Trinity, Cambridge, under Richard Marlow, same as me – but I guess I was there before she was born!).  An admiring word for Sue Treherne’s clarion oboe solos, and the fearless high trumpets of John Parker and his colleagues.

Listen out for Handel’s Semele in March 2008!

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This morning (after the extra hour in bed – hurrah) I rolled up at Blackheath Concert Halls for my free coffee and croissants, and was pleased to discover I could get a Musicians’ Union discount on my ticket…  The recital was by piano-duet team, Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa, trading as ‘PIANO 4 HANDS’.  Disappointingly small audience, but that meant I could sneak into a front-row seat.

The duo were a joy to watch.  (more…)