Tuesday, February 22, 2005


I can't sleep. I've had quite a large dose of whisky and still can't sleep, mainly because my brain is overloaded. Also, it's snowing here - most uncharacteristic for London in these days of global warming - and I'm wondering how I'll get to the library tomorrow to look for the books I need for my next Indy feature. For those of you beyond these sunny shores, all we need here is an inch of snow and the entire infrastructure of the country grinds to a halt. "The wrong kind of snow" has gone down in history as ye late lamented British Rail's excuse for everything packing up at the slightest excuse...

A few scattered snow showers earlier this evening didn't stop me getting to the Wigmore Hall to hear Gidon Kremer, who was playing there for the first time in 21 years. Not only a fantastic chance to catch him in an acoustic that flatters his sound - I've only experienced him before in the RFH and the Verbier tent - but also a marvellous, apparently eclectic but well-planned programme that would actually have worked nearly as well in Ronnie Scott's. Lots of exciting contemporary & near-contemporary stuff based around the influence, in one way or another, of Bach. With Kremer was the Russian percussionist Andrei Pushkarev, who blended wonderfully with Kremer's intelligence and driven conviction, but nearly stole the show with his own fabulous, jazzy transcriptions for vibraphone of some of Bach's 2-part inventions. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through. And I think Piazzolla is TOP.

Kremer seems to perform as he does not because he's a violinist, but because he's a thirsty, questing, creative musician in every sense. So many violinists seem to be hung up on purely violinistic questions: wonderful sound, great technique, etc, which on this instrument are so complex that they risk becoming an end in themselves. Kremer goes way beyond that. Some of us loved his Bach Chaconne - completely unbaroquey, completely Kremer, completely convincing (apart from some odd upbow retakes that puzzled me a bit). Others didn't. Why is it that some concert-goers hear a so-called baroque fiddler play this thing with a curved bow and no vibrato and instantly think that anything different from that has nothing to do with Bach?!? (I was, as you can see, eavesdropping on the row behind...) That's the amazing thing about Bach, as Pushkarev proved on his vibraphone: this music can take any number of arrangements, updating, adaptation etc etc and still emerge as strong and vital and marvellous as it was the day it was written.

No wonder I can't sleep.

Images are haunting me too of snowflakes on Oxford Street - the only thing that can turn that place into something magical - and poems on the underground and half-glimpsed parallel universes and eleventh dimensions that, I understand, may exist, but then again may not.