Saturday, May 05, 2007

Violinist scuppers Iran-US rapprochement?!

The Indy today runs a startling news story about the curtailment of a Sharm-el-Sheikh dinner in which the Iranian foreign minister left in a huff - possibly because of a violinist in a red dress...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Classical Brits...

This peculiar awards ceremony took place yesterday. I don't think it quite matches up to what I was told a few weeks ago. A nice PR person called me and said that the Classical Brits wanted to go upmarket, that a certain Very Wonderful Tenor was going to be singing on the big day and that if the paper would take something then they'd fly me out to Vienna to interview him. Boss wasn't keen - we've probably had too much VWT recently - so (*sigh*) I didn't go. Now the results are out: guess what? Paul McCartney, Katherine Jenkins and so forth. Fine if you like that sort of thing; I didn't think Sir P's album was as utterly dreadful as some would have us believe. But it's not exactly going upmarket.

A couple of noteworthy notes, though: they gave a lifetime achievement award to Vernon ('Tod') Handley, who deserves a knighthood far more than most British conductors who already have one. And the young violinist Ruth Palmer won a prize, having had the gumption not only to raise enough sponsorship dosh to hire the Philharmonia and make her first recording off her own bat, but to play stupendously well on the disc.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Poor old Erich

Oh dear. I hate writing things like this.

I know Korngold is difficult to play, difficult even to decipher, and can be overwritten etc etc, but still I don't think that's any excuse for what I heard last night.

It purported to be the Sinfonietta that EWK penned at the tender age of 15 and which induced Sibelius to describe the youngster as 'a young eagle'. Of course it's great that they programmed it - but I couldn't think when I last heard a professional orchestra and conductor produce such a dreadful performance of anything.

Most of it went around half the necessary tempi. The balance was non-existent. The dynamic contrasts likewise. Light, shade, colour, ebb, flow, the white-hot energy that flows in Korngold's musical veins, all were spectacular by their absence. Some of the players seemed to be struggling and ensemble didn't really come into it. My companion put it well, saying she was astounded that such non-four-square music could be made to sound - utterly four-square. Korngold normally changes his time signatures and expressive instructions every few bars - flexibility is crucial... The best I can say is that they played it at all.

The culprits? The BBC Concert Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth. One didn't expect the Berlin Philharmonic, of course, but it was depressing, particularly as the concert was well sold and most people there would never have heard the piece before and won't know how beautiful it can be. Besides, Wordsworth is probably the only conductor in Britain who knows the work well, having performed it a number of times at the Royal Ballet for La Ronde. Perhaps it would have been better if he'd decided just before the concert that he didn't believe in it...

Before the interval our friends Philippe Graffin and Raphael Wallfisch did a splendid job with the Miklos Rozsa Sinfonia Concertante and afterwards we all went for a pizza, which was nice.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

1 May

The first of May, hooray, hooray,
It should have been a holiday
But Mrs Thatcher took it away,
So while in Europe people play
Here in silly old UK
We have to go to work today
Except for those who cause affray.

So here are some new colours, spurred on by lilac trees, late apple blossom and a few early roses that have been fooled by weeks of sunshine into thinking it's June.


The Royal Festival Hall is reopening in a grand bonanza on 11 June after a major refit that is supposed to fix its acoustics. They're working flat out to finish the thing on time and are now giving some acoustic test concerts to help them perfect the final stages. On Saturday night, the LPO performed a whole evening of Brahms with Vladimir Jurowski, starring the one and only Vadim Repin in the Violin Concerto.

I was BANNED from attending. No journalists were allowed in.

Not like word isn't rife on the ground - everybody I know seems to have been inside and heard something, even if not that concert, in the past few days. Tom, for once in his life, is too scared to say a word, but elsewhere rumour has it that the stage is much larger than before and that in the rear stalls underneath the balcony you can actually hear the orchestra.

London is now chock-full of journalists trying to source leaks - which might not have been the case if we hadn't been shut out.