Saturday, August 09, 2008

History lessons?

Sod the sore hand, this needs to be typed.

Autumn 1956. While the world watches the Suez Crisis, the Hungarians rise up against the Soviets and declare they want freedom. The Russians hold fire until they're sure everyone else is looking at Egypt, which they are. Then they send in the tanks, declaring that they are going to help their allies in government restore peace to the streets of Budapest. The city is devastated and the buildings bear the scars to this day. The West does nothing. They're busy with Suez, they hadn't really noticed what was going on until it was too late, and in any case the Russians say they're only trying to help. Several thousand people are killed. A democratic election is finally held there in 1990.

Summer 2008. The Olympic Games open in Beijing to an estimated global audience of 4bn. Nobody is looking at South Ossetia, where someone fired first. About a thousand people have been killed in one day. The Russians say the Georgians attacked their peacekeepers. The Georgians say that actually it was the other way round. Here in Britain, we seem more concerned about whether the UK might win an actual medal, if only bronze, in the Olympic judo. The media swallow Russian mouthing-off about how the South Ossetians are loyal to Russia and not Georgia, though the Georgian ambassador explained on the news yesterday that actually nobody could know this because the South Ossetian people had not been asked. Besides, it makes no sense: you ever heard of a majority of people in any European country being primarily loyal to the EU? Would any small country really attack a Kraken like Russia against which it knows it doesn't stand a chance? Is Russia really 'protecting its citizens'?

Of course South Ossetia isn't precisely identical to Hungary 52 years ago...but after all that Hungarian homework, some aspects of this development look unbelievably familiar. But here nobody learns much about that bit of history unless they have to, most people are off on holiday, and anyway they'd rather watch sport in, er, China.

Wake up!

Reports from:
The Independent
The Guardian
The Times

Friday, August 08, 2008

Aw shuks!

Blimey - after a rather fraught day due to hand/wrist trouble, it was evening before I discovered that the Indy has reviewed 'Hungarian Dances'!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

une petite pause

Will be off for a while - not on holiday, but urgently in need of reducing extraneous typing while trying to finish corrections on new manuscript. But if you are within reach of Keswick, come and see us (me, Robert Tear, Philippe Graffin, Chen Halevi, Oleg Kogan and Charles Owen) and our Messiaen project at the Lake District Summer Music Festival on Sunday week, 17 August!

Ciaociao for now...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

...and now hear how a violin can sound when allowed

I stumbled over this while looking for a recording of Leopold Auer on Youtube. Apparently Sir Rog once declared on the radio that this legendary prof who taught Heifetz, Milstein and Elman didn't use vibrato...believe that and you can believe anything, especially when you hear this magical tango from another of his pupils, one Georges Boulanger. I've not come across him before, but he shows exactly what you can do with a violin when you know how. Enjoy.

Norrington 'goes too far'

Big piece in today's Observer, resulting from a furious letter from veteran violinist Raymond Cohen telling it like it is about Roger Norrington's Elgar.

Please pardon my French, but the you-must-not-vibrate-ever-ever-ever movement is a load of utter bollocks. I don't know how people have been duped by it for so long. Has everyone forgotten that Leopold Mozart in his mid-18th-century treatise provides exercises for practising something that any Grade V violin pupil would recognise as vibrato? (Yes, he calls it 'tremolato' instead, so what?) LM complains about the application of indiscriminate 'tremolato' - the implication being that in the mid 18th century string players didn't use no vibrato: they used too much! That does not mean 'you mustn't use any'. Most irritating of all is that audiences who lap it all up in good faith have been swindled.

Apropos de which, has everyone forgotten, too, that the cut-down forces of the misleadingly-named 'authentic' movement in the 1980s coincided beautifully with political funding slashes which meant fewer musicians need be employed?

Enough, already!

Bravo, Raymond, and happy 89th birthday! Now have a listen to this...

UPDATE: Monday 4 August - here's Stephen Pollard's take on the same issue from today's Times.