Friday, July 29, 2005

Mountain excitement

Verbier tent
Originally uploaded by Duchenj.

Back from Verbier. Here's a picture of the scene outside the concert tent the other night. The tent in the picture is the Cafe Schubert, where lectures and pre-concert talks are held. It's quite some setting for music...

The quality of the performances was, as usual absolutely incredible (with one scarey exception). The highlights of our all-too-brief stay were Leonidas Kavakos, Mischa Maisky and Elena Bashkirova playing the Schubert B flat Trio; and Thomas Quasthoff, accompanied by Evgeny Kissin, singing a selection of dark-hued Schubert with a power and empathy that were positively spine-chilling.

During less than 48 hours we experienced all of this and much more. Cello masterclass with Ralph Kirshbaum, lunch & interview with the fabulous Kavakos (stopping on way into street cafe to say hi to Vengerov a few tables away), mountain cable car & glorious walk, amazing concert with Mozart played by Michala Petri, Janine Jansen, Julian Rachlin & various others, a scrumptious fondue, the Quastoff/Kissin gig and the most extraordinary party I've ever been to...

The only upset was a cellist called Alexander Knaizev, who - despite having Kissin as his pianist - gave the most horrible performance of sonatas by Franck and Shostakovich. I disgraced myself by getting the giggles, but I don't think I was the only one. Half the audience loved it; many others fled the moment the Franck was finished. I hung on for the Shostakovich in case it improved, but it didn't.

Some claim to like his 'intensity' - but if someone TALKED to you like that, constantly fortissimo, milking E-V-E-R-Y W-O-O-O-R-D F-O-R M-A-A-A-A-A-A-X-I-M-U-U-U-M E-M-O-T-I-O-O-O-O-N A-A-A-A-L-L T-H-E T-I-I-I-I-M-E W-I-T-H-O-U-U-T A-N-Y V-A-R-I-E-T-Y-Y-Y-Y, you would either think they were crazy or you'd go crazy yourself. Sorry, but that's not intensity. It's emotional claptrap and it has nothing, but NOTHING, to do with Franck, let alone Shostakovich (and this guy, being Russian, should at least have known better there). Plus it takes some doing to make an audience come out of a cello recital in a tent feeling as if their ears have been assaulted by an electric guitar. I was particularly disappointed because I've heard some of his recordings and liked them very much, including his solo Bach.

Anyway, win some, lose some... Verbier is beautiful, thrilling and -given the amount of serious dosh there - remarkably human. This was my fourth visit (and Tom's first) and I hope I'll be able to go back next year.

I'm now about to do extra time on the exercise bike to burn off some of that fondue...