Saturday, November 20, 2004


The most recent batch of CDs to hit my desk has included a few extremes, to put it mildly.

I've been concerned about Anne-Sophie Mutter's state of mind for some time, ever since turning on the TV several years ago and hearing the most self-conscious, mannered and inappropriate performance of Beethoven's Spring Sonata that had yet come my way. Last season she did the Beethoven concerto with Tom's orchestra and I was quite ready to strangle her by the end for the pointless and hideous affectations that permeated the whole thing. She redeemed herself playing the Brahms Double with Lynn Harrell earlier this season, which was beautiful - phew, I thought, all that was an aberration. But, alas, not so. Her new recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, conducted by hubby Previn, live at the Musikverein, suggests that she has utterly, totally and horrendously lost the plot. The coupling is the Korngold concerto, which to my great relief is actually OK (recording in a studio may have brought her to her senses?). But how could any self-respecting musician think that what passes for Tchaikovsky here has anything whatsoever to do with the intentions of poor old Pyotr Ilyich? Presumably it's meant to sound different and original, but it is so truly tasteless that it's like dressing the Mona Lisa in a pink velour jumpsuit with a £5000 price tag. It left me feeling physically sick. This is the sort of recording that really does make me wonder what the musical world is coming to. I once read that the role of a critic is to be a watchdog and bark when necessary. Here goes. WOOOF! WOOOF! WOOOOFFFFF!

As an antidote, I've run back to the BAT Boys and their 50th anniversary recording of Mendelssohn and the Dvorak 'Dumky' Trio, the same programme that launched their international recording career. Life-enhancing, genuine music making from three genuine guys who love playing together.

Have also enjoyed Dan Hope's recent solo recording East Meets West, an intriguing programme that combines Indian music with Ravi Shankar with Ravel's Tzigane complete with Lutheal - that bizarre device that Ravel invented to make the piano sound like a cimbalon - and also Bartok and de Falla with accompaniments doctored in similar gypsy fashion, to glittering effect. And nestling in the middle of this appealing programme is an incredibly beautiful violin sonata by Schnittke. Now, this really is different and original - but, best of all, it works.