Monday, November 27, 2006

Long live editors!

While Tom is away, I rent a lot of films on DVD. Yesterday I saw for the first time the 'director's cut' of one of my all-time favourites, Cinema Paradiso, and I was horribly shocked.

! During his return visit to Giancaldo, Salvatore not only finds that Elena is married to that really stupid kid from his class at school, but meets her again because he notices her daughter and follows her home. Then he has a steamy encounter with Elena in the car. And she won't go back to Rome with him, and the whole way they'd parted was a huge mistake though partly Alfredo's fault, because he'd decided that Salvatore had to become a great film director and if he and Elena stayed together, he wouldn't make any films. And her note to him is still pinned to the cinema wall with the invoices, although the cinema has only been shut for 6 years before the pending demolition, but they must nevertheless have last seen each other in the 1950s and the present day is 1980-something......I'm upset - by the implausibility, trivialisation, confusion and more. Whoever told the director that the film would be much stronger without this really, seriously, knew what he/she was doing.

Bravo for editors.

The Morricone score is still wonderful.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


...I've just finished the first draft of my third novel. I thought I'd never get there. Crikey. 540 pages, 145,000 words of...oh dear... well, if I get rid of 25,000 words, ie the length of three and a half reasonable dissertations on Hungarian music, Gypsy fiddlers and why one really shouldn't fall in love with violinists, then maybe I'll have something decent to work with. It's been agony. But now is when the real slog begins.

How weird is this?

A sleepless night found me surfing the internet around 3am [sad, I know]. I was startled to find a classical music forum in which a bunch of gentlemen were having yet another dig at my opinions about Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, expressed on this blog so long ago that I can't even locate it in my archive.

Those opinions were written in the way that blogs tend to be: rapidly and with the occasional strong view [oh, we're not meant to have those, are we?] emphasised in capitals - back then, I was using a browser that wasn't compatible with Blogger's editing features, and I hadn't yet learned how to do bold, italics etc with html code. Neither that post nor anything else in JDCMB was ever intended to be taken as academic gospel and I can't think why anyone would consider it suitable for quotation. Nevertheless, fellow blogger Steve Hicken saw fit to quote it extensively in a lengthy article about the work, twisting my words to make his point (the opposite of mine, of course). That sparked the discussion on the forum, where someone also took me to task about 'laying it on a bit thick' with said capital letters. Hey, chaps, I could throw some of my favourite Hungarian swear words at you, but I'll keep it simple instead: haven't you got anything better to do? I'm not trying to write the New Grove here. And if you have to quote daft stuff like mine, couldn't you have the courtesy to spell my name right? You'll find it at the top of this blog in, oh dear, big letters.

The declaration of love from another gentleman on the same forum was marginally more welcome. Dear sir, thank you, but I'm a married woman.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hora of horas...

Tom and the LPO are off on tour today - they'll be arriving in Toronto late tonight, then heading for the East Coast of the States (small matters like Carnegie Hall), back on 4 December. So we spent yesterday evening doing what you might expect a fiddler and his wife to do on the last night home before a tour. You guessed it: gawping at Heifetz videos on Youtube. This performance of Dinicu's Hora Staccato is unbelievable:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sounds from South Africa

Philippe Graffin is currently in Cape Town coaching the Hout Bay String Project. A report from Jan-Stefan's Kloof Street Blog has some pictures and a brief but touching account of what it's been like. The project's own website has a fuller account of its aims and achievements. Here's an extract:

Our orchestra is a vehicle of social upliftment and change. It allows for fundamental communication between individuals. Our teachers have high standards and give of their best and expect the same of the children. We ask children to attend up to five lessons and rehearsals per week. They practice technical exercises and work at their intonation and interpretation, constantly striving to raise their standard of performance. The children experience adults who are willing to invest time and energy in them. Time and time again we see disruptive and angry children become motivated, disciplined, engaged and joyful individuals. These children then become involved in teaching activities at our Project, sharing their knowledge and encouraging others to progress. Some of our children have come from abused backgrounds or have been involved in violence and crime. Music provides drive, focus, passion and moments of beauty in lives where children are often forced to deal with adult issues like despair and abject poverty.
This is admirable and inspiring indeed: see also the astonishing ongoing activities of Buskaid, founded by Rosemary Nalden in Soweto.

I've recently viewed a DVD of a stunning South African reinterpretation of Carmen, U-Carmen, sung in Xhosa and set in a huge township - a version that transposes and sometimes even strengthens the drama, is wonderfully sung and acted, and proved totally convincing. Go see it

UPDATE, 27 November 11.30pm: Jan-Stefan has posted a report about the concert with Philippe yesterday. Great pics.