Thursday, April 10, 2008

A big day at the Beeb

Such is the excellence of our national broadcaster's communicative power that it managed to schedule two of its biggest music-biz bashes for the very same day (yesterday). First, the waterborne BBC Music Magazine Awards went off with the usual splash on the Thames. There's a full list of winners here, and I can promise that there are some absolutely fantastic recordings to sample on it.

Among them: Mitsuko Uchida's Beethoven 'Hammerklavier' (which scooped Record of the Year too), Natalie Dessay and Emmanuelle Haim getting a Handel on Il trionfo del Tempo e Disinganno, tenor genius Mark Padmore in more Handel, the Jerusalem Quartet in Shostakovich, Martha Argerich in more Shostakovich, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites on DVD, and much more.

And don't forget to check out the runners-up. Voting between the final three can be a close thing, involving flying fur and chocolate biscuits in meltdown in the bowels of the Beeb's conference rooms (I remember well from last year), and very often the other two are just as deserving of a prize. For instance, this year's instrumental category shortlist also featured Steven Isserlis's stupendous Bach Cello Suites and JDCMB favourite Rachmaninov-player Rustem Hayroudinoff making total magic out of the Etudes-Tableaux.

Don't get me started on the issue of more deserving discs that, generally speaking, don't make shortlists, or longlists, because some critic somewhere might have preferred to give five stars to something second-rate yet English (I am not alleging that this took place this year, since I wasn't there, but it's something that does occur in the British music press from time to time). This line-up is a worthy list and I look forward to feasting on the ones I haven't yet heard.

Meanwhile, over at the Proms Launch in South Kensington, apparently there were scenes outside the Royal Albert Hall when Nigel Kennedy turned up to play his violin (watch him here, courtesy of, er, Hello Magazine). Yes, he will be back at the Proms at last (after 21 years), to perform the Elgar Concerto, conducted by Tod Handley. And after the rave reviews he got for his recent rendition of it in the RFH, I wanna be there.

We hear that Murray Perahia is also to perform in the series for the first time in something like 20 years (you wonder where he's been all this time...and then start thinking about all the other great musicians who have also not been there for 20 years...or ever...) and that Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will give two concerts. Vaughan Williams features in a big way to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, as does Messiaen for his centenary (on the organ), and Helene Grimaud, piano virtuoso and a stunning-looking lady well suited to the cameras, has made it to the last night. There's also to be a Dr Who Prom. Is this a step up from Michael Ball? I'll reserve judgment until the night. Oh, and there's a folky Prom involving a spot of Maypole dancing.

I didn't make the Proms launch party, because the absolute priority last night was listening to Tasmin Little and Piers Lane giving a terrific recital together at Cadogan Hall, that undersung star of London concert halls. Bravo, chaps - your Elgar Sonata had me succumbing to serious snuffles, and we won't forget the 'Banjo and Fiddle' encore in a hurry!

Mad props meanwhile to Blogged, which has rated this blog 8.6 on the Sviatoslav Richter scale; Classical Music Magazine, which sent its estimable Hornblower along to the Hungarian Dances launch and kindly put in a picture and report on the Diary page (featuring Solti the cat, naturally); Pliable on the Overgrown Path, who featured Korngold and some wonderful pictures of Bruges the other day; and some marvellous Hungarians doing interesting things in Budapest, of which more, I hope, soon.