Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RIP SOLTI (1 September 1999 - 19 August 2014)

Today we bade farewell to the best cat in the world. Solti - Sir Georg for short - has been our beloved companion through the roller-coaster of the last 15 years. Life won't be the same without him.

We're trying to think of all the good times we shared with the animal who was named after Tom's favourite conductor and lived up to the original Solti's reputation more than any feline should be able to. He was an indefatigable optimist and I reckon he shared with the great Hungarian maestro the motto "NEVER GIVE UP".

He had a passion for Wagner: he'd always come in, sit down and purr, paws tucked under, ears at the ready, especially if it was one of "his own" recordings. He was also a happy, if unbidden, assistant to my piano CD reviewing: he hated bangers and would vote with his paws at the sound of a nasty player.

On one occasion my editor from Hodder came to dinner; Solti bounced in through the cat flap carrying a live mouse, which he deposited proudly at her feet to thank her. As mouser, he was keen, but not obsessive; scrunched-up silver foil would do equally well for a game of pawball. The only time he ever brought me two mice on the same day was on my 40th birthday.

He would join in all goings-on at home and wasn't above invading our occasional house concerts, especially Viv McLean and Sue Porrett in Divine Fire in which he miaowed his approval half the way through. Having developed a call that could be heard through the violin and piano being played together, he used to make his presence felt during phone interviews to far-flung (and other) places and has therefore miaowed at pianists in Argentina, conductors in Russia, composers in Barnes, opera singers in Germany and violinists in Vienna, to hint at but a few.

He'd welcome us home, curled up on the doormat, or meet us at the corner of the cul-de-sac for a quick dash back to his territory. He loved the sun, the hotter the better, despite his lavish fur coat; but he also loved to sit in shelter on the porch and watch the rain. Indeed, he liked to go out in foul weather, get completely drenched, then come charging in, demanding to be dried - the cat equivalent of going to the salon. He kept me company through countless lonely patches of orchestral absences.

Of course he would preside over our annual Ginger Stripe Awards here on JDCMB every 21 December. As these events were often attended by the likes of Mendelssohn, Wagner and the Schumanns, I see no reason why he should not continue to do so, from the silken cushion in the sky.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has sponsored his cat-food in the past couple of years. Your enthusiasm, faith and kindness has been enormously appreciated and those sponsorships that still stand are still, of course, up in the sidebar in the appropriate spot, which will remain the Solti Sponsorship scheme in his honour (though now you might like to sponsor my chocolate supply instead - and I am going to need plenty of it).

Solti died today after a short illness, but he will live forever in our hearts. I am leaving his blog, Paws for Thought, online as a tribute.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tomorrow: Alicia's Gift at CHETHAM'S, MANCHESTER

I'm off to Manchester tomorrow to do an ALICIA'S GIFT concert-of-the-novel at Chetham's International Summer School and Festival for Pianists. I'll be working for the first time with the one and only Murray McLachlan (left), Chet's head of piano as well as founder and director of the course, and possibly the most energetic, determined and tireless person I've ever met. We intend sparks to fly!

The programme is a little different from usual and will include, besides Chopin and Ravel, some extra Debussy and a jolly impressive chunk of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata. Please come and join us if you're in the area. The concert is at 7pm and lasts about an hour. Full details here. I will also be giving a little introduction to book and concert at 5pm, with a Q&A.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Bayreuth virgin: the afterglow...

The second part of my Bayreuth blog is out now at Sinfinimusic.com. In it, I explain I'm furious that so many negative preconceptions conspired to put me off going to this place for my first several decades - when if I'd ignored the lot of them I could have been enjoying the most incredible musical experiences known to mankind aeons ago. Read the whole thing here. 

Below, a few more snaps...

Wagner, feeling blue:

Richard and Cosima's grave:

Grave of Marke, the Newfoundland dog, close by:

The current state of Wagner's home, the Villa Wahnfried (apparently they are building what promises to be a very impressive basement museum):

And the curtain call...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guess where I've been?

Where Big Ritchie is everywhere...

...and the silliest productions get the most extraordinary musical performances...

...and the most distinguished father-in-law in history is relegated firmly to second place, although his native land takes trouble to decorate his grave as appropriate...

Yes, it was my first trip to Bayreuth. I've written for Sinfini on how I felt about going there beforehand and am checking back in again for a report on the reality of it. Here is part one of BAYREUTH VIRGIN: my personal prelude to Tannhäuser. Part two will be out soon...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Pure magic

Hello and temporary ciaociao from very rainy Bavaria. I'm still on hols, but would love everyone to hear Benjamin Grosvenor's enchanting new CD, 'Dances', right now, this minute. My review for Sinfinimusic.com is just out. http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/reviews/recordings/daily-reviews/benjamin-grosvenor-dances
...and you can get a copy here: http://www.deccaclassics.com/gb/cat/4785334