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Category archive: Classical music

Friday February 17 2017

You don’t have to believe that animals either have or should have rights to realise that people who are gratuitously cruel to animals are likely to be more cruel than usual to their fellow humans.  But what of fake cruelty to fake animals leading to real cruelty to real creatures, animal or human?  I imagine there is some kind of correlation there too, although my googling skills fell short of finding an appropriate link to piece demonstrating that.

Being cruel to a fake animal that another human loves is clearly very cruel, to the human.

As was, I think, this demonstration of fake cruelty that recently hit the internet.  That link is not for those who are squeamish about beheaded teddy bears.

And what of people who are nice to fake animals?

Here is a picture I took in my favourite London shop, Gramex in Lower Marsh, in which there currently resides a teddy bear who was recently rescued from sleeping rough, by Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland:

image

If you consequently suspect that Roger Hewland is a kind man, your suspicion would be entirely correct.  I agree with you that kindness to fake animals and kindness to real people are probably also correlated.

I sometimes drop into Gramex just to use the toilet.  Never has the expression “spend a penny” been less appropriate.

Wednesday February 15 2017

On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings.  The subject was: The Meaning of Life.  To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”

So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood.  Which might explain why I took this photo:

image

This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking.  Those little hearts put me right off.  But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations.  This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored.  I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices.  You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.

This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station.  Those sermons are impossible to avoid.

See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play.  Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.

The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful.  It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap.  Modern Art is also mostly crap.  But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes.  Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored.  Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it.  Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.

Sunday February 12 2017

I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV.  Very good.

The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes.  Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are.  (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie.  Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism.  You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash.  Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera.  Yes.  They literally do not perform Wagner.  If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.

What Opera North have done is film a stage performance.  The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen.  And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening.  Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about.  (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.

The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them.  At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing.  I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night.  This time, it was not ridiculous.  That’s how very, very good this production was.

I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor.  He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.

Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer.  His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.

Monday January 30 2017

When I make my way, as I do from time to time, to Gramex (which is near to Waterloo) to get another fix of classical CDs, I tend to use the 507 single decker bus.

Many bus stops have become a lot more customer friendly in recent years by having electronic notice boards which say what buses are arriving, where they will go, and when they can be expected to arrive.  Very soothing, especially if you are not in the habit of tracking buses with your mobile, as many are, but not me.

My 507 bus stop sports no such signs, probably because the 507 is the only bus that stops there, and there will be another one soon because they are very frequent.

But inside these 507s, I am starting to see signs looking like this:

image

Again, very soothing.  You get to see progress.  You get to learn when you need to be making a move towards the door, if you are seated far away from the door, so you wont be barging past people in a hurry.  It all adds to the sense you have that buses are nicer to be on than they used to be.

Tragically, this afternoon, what one of these signs was saying was merely this:

image

Not even the one item of information it did still offer was right.  It was not 6.28pm, nowhere near.

But, I am anything but scornful about this little setback.  New kit needs the bugs worked out of it.  Things get tried out, and they go wrong.  The significant thing here is that these kinds of notices are being deployed, not that they don’t yet work as well as they should.

Here is an earlier posting I did about the bus stop signs, also with photos.  And that bus stop sign was malfunctioning also, hence that posting also, and that didn’t stop them pressing ahead with installing those signs either.  Quite right too.

Monday January 23 2017

Here:

image

Click on TRUMP to get the Opera House.

This fantastically cost-effective piece of political signage reminds me of the stuff that Julian Lewis MP used do to CND demos in the eighties.  They’d put however many hundred thousand pro-Soviet bodies on the street, and he’d put one big sign across the top of Whitehall for them all the walk under, saying something like: SOVIET STOOGES.  His sign would get about half the news coverage.  Drove them nuts.

Sunday January 22 2017

Classical music making is mostly museum curation.  Nothing wrong with that, because it is the best museum ever.  But that is what it mostly is.  Perhaps for this reason, it has long been speculated that classical music would soon stop being re-performed or re-recorded.  But there seems to be little sign of this happening.

Here, to illustrate the non-demise of classical music making, is a list of currently performing pianists.  It was rather hastily compiled.  Perhaps some of those listed have retired.  Some may even have died.  And there are surely many omissions, including, quite possibly, some major omissions, including, for instance people who I am assuming to be retired or dead who are nothing of the kind.

Also, there must be a huge number of Asian pianists who are very, very good, but who I have simply not noticed the existence of.  I live in London, and this list surely reflects that, both with its inclusions and its exclusions.

The number at the end of each clutch is simply me counting how many there are starting with each letter, thereby making it easier for me to count the total.  It came to: 175.

Depending on how you determine inclusion or exclusion, the list could be far longer.  I went for things like: Have I personally heard of them?  Have they done recent recording?  Are they hailed as good by classical music critics?  Do I personally like their playing?

I seriously doubt whether there have ever before been as many pianists roaming the earth, performing this amazing music, mostly by dead people.

So, here we go:

Pierre-Laurent Aimard - Dimitri Alexeev - Piotr Anderszewski - Leif Ove Andsnes - Nicholas Angelich - Martha Argerich - Vladimir Ashkenazy - Yulianna Avdeeva - (8)

Sergei Babayan - Andrea Bacchetti - Daniel Barenboim - Martin James Bartlett – Jean-Efflam-Bavouzet - Alessio Bax - Mark Bebbington - Markus Becker - Boris Berezovsky - Boris Berman - Michel Beroff - Kristian Bezuidenhout - Jonathan Biss - Christian Blackshaw - Rafal Blechacz - Frank Braley - Ronald Brautigam - Yefim Bronfman - Rudolf Buchbinder - Khatia Buniatishvili - (20)

Bertrand Chamayou - Frederic Chiu - Seong-Jin Cho - Arnaldo Cohen - Imogen Cooper - (5)

Alexandra Dariescu - Lise de la Salle - Jorg Demus - Jeremy Denk - Peter Donohoe - Barry Douglas - Danny Driver - Francois-Rene Duchable (8)

Severin von Eckardstein - Michael Endres - Karl Engel - (3)

Til Fellner - Vladimir Feltsman - Janina Fialkowska - Ingrid Fliter - David Fray - Nelson Freire - Benjamin Frith - (7)

Ivana Gavric - Alexander Gavrylyuk - Boris Giltberg - Havard Gimse - Bernd Glemser - Nelson Goerner - Anna Gourari - David Greilsammer - Helene Grimaud - Benjamin Grosvenor - Horacio Guitierrez - Francois-Frederic Guy - (12)

Marc-Andre Hamelin - Wolf Harden - Rustem Hayrouodinoff - Martin Helmchen - Angela Hewitt - Peter Hill - Ian Hobson - Stephen Hough - Leslie Howard - Ching-Yun Hu - Bruce Hungerford - (11)

Valentina Igoshina - Ivan Ilic - (2)

Peter Jablonski - Paul Jacobs - Ingrid Jakoby - Martin Jones - (3)

Cyprien Katsaris - Freddy Kempf - Kevin Kenner - Olga Kern - Evgeny Kissin - Mari Kodama - Pavel Kolesnikov - (7)

Piers Lane - Lang Lang - Dejan Lazic - Eric Le Sage - John Lenehan - Elizabeth Leonskaja - Igor Levit - Daniel Levy - Paul Lewis - Yundi Li - Jenny Lin - Jan Lisiecki - Valentina Lisitsa - Louis Lortie = Alexei Lubimov - Nikolai Lugansky - (16)

Joanna MacGregor - Alexander Madzar - Oleg Marshev - Denis Matsuev - Leon McCawley - Alexander Melnikov - Gabriela Montero - Joseph Moog - Vanessa Benelli Mosell - Olli Mustonen - (10)

Jon Nakamatsu - Eldar Nebolsin - Francesco Nikolosi - David Owen Norris - (4)

Noriko Ogawa - Garrick Ohlsson - Gerhard Oppitz - Christina Ortiz - Steven Osborne - Alice Sara Ott - (6)

Enrico Pace - Murray Perahia - Javier Perianes - Alfredo Perl - Maria Perrotta - Daniel-Ben Pienaar - Maria Joao Pires - Artur Pizarro - Jonathan Plowright - Awadagin Pratt - Menahem Pressler - Vassily Primakov - (12)

Beatrice Rana - James Rhodes - Pascal Roge - Alexander Romanovsky - Martin Roscoe - Michael Rudy - (6)

Fazil Say - Konstantin Scherbakov - Andras Schiff - Dimitris Sgouros - Howard Shelley - Grigory Sokolov - Andreas Staier - Kathryn Stott - Martin Stadtfeld - Yevgeny Sudbin - (10)

Alexandre Tharaud - Jean-Yves Thibaudet - Cedric Tiberghien - Sergio Tiempo - Geoffrey Tozer - Daniil Trifonov - Simon Trpceski - Noboyuki Tsujii - (9)

Mitsuko Uchida - Florian Uhlig - (2)

Nick Van Bloss - Denes Varjon - Stephan Vladar - Lars Vogt - Arcadi Volodos - (6)

Wiayin Wang - Yuja Wang - Ashley Wass - Llyr Williams - Ingolf Wunder - Klara Wurtz - (6)

Christian Zacharias - Krystian Zimmerman – (2)

That’s a lot of pianists.  All the major items of the piano repertoire have each received numerous recordings, and they each get performed somewhere on earth about every other day, and in the case of the popular piano concertos, several times a day.  It just refuses to stop.  The classical audience keeps aging, and then dying, only to be replaced by more aging people, who also then die, and so it goes on.

Real comments here are very rare, so all real comments on this would be very welcome.  But especially welcome would be comments informing me of major omissions to that list.

Wednesday January 11 2017

This afternoon I read in the Evening Standard that Chelsea FC were hoping to get planning permission for a big new stadium, and sure enough, this evening, they got it.  I guess they’re all pretty happy there, what with Chelsea being top of the Premier League and all.  (Although, I can’t help mentioning their recent winning-streak ending loss by Spurs.)

Here’s how it is reckoned the new stadium will look (I found this picture here), from above, when it’s dark:

image

The architects are Herzog de Meuron, the same firm that did the Tate Modern Extension.  And, they also did that amazing new opera house out in the estuary in Hamburg.  And hey, that opened today, according to that report.  Blog and learn.

But back to that Chelsea stadium, what strikes me, yet again, about this major eruption of architectural modernism is that while it is very modern, it is also very carefully crafted to fit the inevitably rather oddly shaped site.  Indeed, the architects make use of this odd shape to give their stadium its rather particular, asymmetrical shape, while nevertheless contriving an exact rectangle in the middle, in the manner required by the rules of football.  Form follows site plan.  That’s the way modern architecture is now done.

(It would seem that the exact same principle applied to the new Hamburg opera house also.  It was put on top of an “historic brick base”.  A brick base, I’m guessing, which was whatever shape it was, and could not be otherwise.)

And what also strikes me, yet again, is what a total nightmare it would have been to have attempted a design like this Chelsea stadium without computers to keep track of everything and handle all those asymmetrical shapes.

(The Hamburg opera house was plagued with delays and cost overruns and defects and took a famously long time to finish.  But that’s a different story.)

Sunday November 13 2016

I have a new CD player which has the delightful property that it does not put a little pause in between tracks.  My previous CD player, an abomination perpetrated by something called Cambridge Audio, does insert such gaps.  This doesn’t matter, mostly, because mostly the tracks I want to listen to have gaps between them anyway, so gaps that are a tiny bit bigger are not a problem.  But if you are listening to one of those classical pieces which is played in one continuous lump, but which is divided up into episodes on the CD, and when each of these episodes is given a separate track, the effect is disastrous.  A total deal breaker.  Strauss Alpine Symphony Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini or Corelli Variations.  Almost any opera.  There are actually a lot of such pieces.

Just after buying this abominable device, and before I started suffering from its vile gap habit, I also acquired a CD of Daniil Trifonov doing several Rachmaninov variations pieces, and it was while attempting to listen to this CD that I discovered how appalling this Cambridge Audio CD player was.

So now I have a new CD player, which leaves no gaps, and I went looking for that Trifonov CD, in order to actually enjoy it for the first time.  But then came the mystery.  I couldn’t find it.  I have a vague recollection of putting this CD in a different place, to play it on a different player, I think.  But what different place?  Did I even own this CD at all?  Had I only imagined owning it, and had I actually played another CD of those Rachmaninov pieces?

As I searched I realised that I was tidying up.  I guess there are two ways to look for something.  You made the place even more of a mess, or you make it less of a mess.  And, if only because there was nowhere to put any mess I created, I found myself actually reducing the mess.  And once I found myself doing that, I also found myself rereading this, which is me telling me about an earlier effort along similar lines.

I may never find that Trifonov CD.  But if an imaginary CD causes me to contrive the reality of a more tidy home, ... 

Saturday October 08 2016

Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.

See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street.  Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.

And see also, this ...:

imageimageimage

… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square.  A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.

I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.

I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery.  And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.

But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been.  Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.

Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV.  Yes, this explains a lot.

Saturday September 24 2016

I’m listening to chitchat on Radio Three about the origins of Radio Three’s previous and original manifestation, the Third Programme.

They’ve just mentioned an article by John Croft called Composition is not research.  I quickly found it on the www, and I want to hang on to it.

First paragraph:

There are, by and large, two kinds of composers in academia today – those who labour under the delusion that they are doing a kind of ‘research’, and those who recognise the absurdity of this idea, but who continue to supervise PhD students, make funding applications, and document their activities as if it were true. Composing, of course, might on occasion depend on research – how do I make an orchestra sound like a bell? How do I electronically sustain a note from an instrument so that it doesn’t sound mechanical? What is the best way to notate microtones or complex rhythms so that they can be accurately played? But none of these is actually the composition of music. Rameau’s harmonic theory was research, and it surely influenced his music (and music in general), but the Traité de l’harmonie is not a musical composition. The development of the pianoforte involved research and influenced music in profound ways, but it was not composing.

I have not read this essay yet.  But the point of this posting is not to say what I think of it, merely to make sure that I do read it.

I have long been interested in the rather misleading idea of musical “progress”.  This seems like it will be closely related to that idea.  Another related idea: music is not science, and new music does not replace old music.  But, I shall see.

Saturday September 03 2016

One of the reasons I have such a pathologically enormous CD collection is that I fear the power that music holds over me.  I fear being in the position of wanting to hear something, but not being able to.

This morning, on Radio 3, they played a piece of piano music which I liked a lot, both the piece itself and the playing, but did not recognise.  I thought it was perhaps Mozart, played by Brendel, maybe.  It turned out to be Haydn, played by Pletnev.  I just dug around on the www, and here is Pletnev playing that same piece.  Whether that’s the exact same performance I don’t know, but it is playing right now and it sounds pretty good to me.  The piece is snappily entitled: “Variations in F minor”.  Until now, this was not a piece I had paid any attention to.

But I hit the age of musical addiction combined with the money to feed the habit long before there was any www.  For me, having music at my command doesn’t mean knowing about a link.  It means possessing a shiny plastic circle, in a square plastic case.  So, as soon as I had set the radio to record CD Review, as is my Saturday morning habit, I searched through my CD collection (subsection: Haydn), for that Pletnev performance.  No show.  But Amazon informed me that there is a Pletnev Haydn double album with Haydn piano concertos on disc one and Haydn solo piano music on disc two.  I looked again, in the Haydn subsection (sub-subsection: piano concertos).  Success.  I possess the exact same performance thad was played on the radion this morning.  So now, this music doesn’t control me.  I control it.

The question of who is in charge of music and music-making is actually a big deal, historically.  Beethoven’s career, and then later Wagner’s career, were all about Beethoven, and Wagner, being in charge of their music and of their music-making, rather than their patrons or their audiences.  You can tell this from just listening to their music.  Haydn, on the other hand, predated that era, and was dependent upon aristocratic patronage, and this shows in his music.  He would probably not enjoy reading this blog posting, by this annoying and undeserving control freak from out of the future.  But he would not have made a fuss.  Or such is my understanding of his character.

Or, he might have rejoiced that he could have made recordings of his music, in circumstances completely within his control, and that I could then listen to them in circumstances completely within my control.  For me, this is the best of both worlds, and it would be nice to think that it might have suited him also.

Tuesday June 07 2016

So, daily-blog-read-for-me David Thompson linked to a posting at ArtBlog, about the rights and wrongs of arts subsidies.  I read that posting, and read through the comments too, just as David Thompson did.  I find myself wanting to comment.  But, can I be bothered?

And then, in comment number 16, courtesy of the Maitre D of ArtBlog, Franklin Einspruch, I discover that I have commented, thus:

The greatest art seems to happen when high art and low art combine, in the form of something that is superficially entertaining and stirring and popular, and also as profound as profundity seekers might want it to be. Arts subsidies harm art by dividing it into less good entertainment art, paid for by punters, and less good high art, paid for with subsidies. Arts subsidies in Britain are now being cut somewhat. The result will be somewhat better art.

Which Franklin found in this Samizdata posting and copied into his comment thread.  How about that?!

The two arts that best illustrate this opinion of mine are probably Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan theatre (i.e. Shakespeare and all that), and classical music in the days of its glory, from about the late 1700s until around 1900 (i.e. Mozart, Beethoven and all that).

Shakespeare’s plays are now considered just about as profound as Art with a capital A can ever get, but at the time, his stuff was considered rather middle-brow.  Too commercial, too appealing to the rabble.  About half of Shakespeare’s mere plays - the very word suggests something not to be taken truly seriously, doesn’t it? - were nearly lost to us:

Of the 36 plays in the First Folio, 17 were printed in Shakespeare’s lifetime in various good and bad quarto editions, one was printed after his death and 18 had not yet been printed at all. It is this fact that makes the First Folio so important; without it, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Tempest, might never have survived.

What will posterity, in its various and many successive iterations, consider to be the Great Art of our time?  And how much of it will be lost, on account of it not now being considered artistic enough?

Monday May 23 2016

I keep wanting to write about music, but (a) it isn’t easy, unless both you and your readers know all the technical terms of your preferred sort of music.  And (b) whereas words go fine with music, words about music, especially if they are attempting to be descriptive of a particular piece of music, can be devilishly hard to contrive in a way that is comprehensible without being banal and superficial and generalised.

A specialist blog or website devoted to a particular sort of music, with musical illustrations supplied to click on rather than only descriptive verbiage, whose writer(s) and readers are united by their taste in that particular sort of music, that makes perfect sense to me.  I don’t read any such blogs, but it makes sense.  I do read old school paper magazines (I see that there is a new one of those out that I’ve not yet seen) exactly like this. But a blog about other things which from time to time goes musical, not so much.  I have no problem at all with my favourite bloggers (6k and Mick Hartley spring to mind) doing postings every so often about music that they happen particularly to like.  Their gaffs, their rules.  But I mostly skip such postings.  I possess a lifetime and more of music in the form of a vast CD collection that I already want to listen to.

So, I do not wish myself merely to do postings about bits of music that I happen to like, hoping - implicitly or explicitly - that others will be infected with my tastes.  I love Western classical music more than life itself, often a lot more.  But most people don’t these days, and that’s fine with me.  If I thought that western classical music was about to be completely expunged from the earth any time soon, I might feel differently about trying to infect others with the love of it, but it isn’t.  Meanwhile, this music is, for me, mostly a personal thing.  It is not an evangelical religion.  If I meet a fellow devotee, we exchange enthusiastic exclamations of love for this or that piece or performance, but I mostly refrain from inflicting such True Believer talk on non-believers.

I am evangelical and anti-evangelical about some things.  If you are not a libertarian, I want that to change.  You should become a libertarian forthwith.  If you are a Muslim, I want you to know, now, that I think you should stop being a Muslim, now.  But if you hate Beethoven and adore hip-hop, that’s fine with me, so long as you have no plans forcibly to stop me listening to Beethoven or to force me to listen to hip-hop.  If you merely want me to adore hip-hop, or even to stop adoring Beethoven, again, fine.  Just so long as you don’t recommend the use of sticks or stones to make those points.  Insofar as you do, then shame on you. But exactly the same point applies to people who force Beethoven upon those who resist Beethoven’s charms.  I am evangelical about that sort of behaviour also.  Are you threatening others with Beethoven?  Stop doing that, now.  Do you favour such behaviour by others.  Don’t even think that.

However, more general postings about music (this one being an example) about the different ways we listen to it and enjoy it, how love of music spreads or should spread (that is what this posting has partly been about), about how those who contrive it contrive it, and so on, of the sort that all music lovers can read and tune into, even as they are hearing in their own heads quite distinct musical illustrations concerning whatever is being said, that makes more sense to me, and - memo to self - I want to do more of such postings here.

Sunday May 08 2016

The Mozart Requiem, or “Rec” (sp?) as performers apparently call it, was duly performed yesterday in the magnificent setting of Narbonne Cathedral, and was wonderful.  G(od) D(aughter) 2 and her colleagues sang beautifully throughout.

However, because of an oddity of the Cathedral’s acoustics, men’s voices would often leap out in front of of the general wash of sound, like closely recorded concerto soloists.  This happened when the chorus was singing, and it also happened when the lady soloists were singing in unison with the gentlemen soloists.  When that was happening, the lady soloists, mezzo-soprano Alice Ruxandra Bell (GD2) and soprano Isabelle Atkinson were, at any rate as heard from where I was sitting, somewhat drowned out by the gents.  The gents sang beautifully, but so did the ladies and you had to listen rather too carefully for my liking to realise this.

But towards the end came the Benedictus.  In this, rather than the ladies and the gents all singing at once, there were precious moments when the ladies were duetting together, while the gents waited their turn to do likewise, the gents complementing the ladies rather than singing over them.  Heaven.  At which point you realised why, following an earlier performance of an identical programme in the town of Ceret last year, a repeat performance was requested for Narbonne, with identical forces.

The all-important chorus, despite my acoustic quibbles, sounded great, as did the orchestra.

My feeling at the end of the Requiem was: I wish I could hear that Benedictus again.  Not right now, necessarily, but, you know, some time.  Was anyone, I wondered, attempting a recording of this occasion?  Following the enthusiastic ovation that greeted the performance, conductor François Ragot and his soloists returned to do an encore, and guess what.  They did a repeat of the Benedictus.  Heaven again.

Earlier, in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Séverine Paris was the mellifluous and utterly assured soloist.  The slow movement was, for me, especially eloquent.

Attendance at this event was free of charge, which perhaps was why the Cathedral was so packed.  Afterwards, the soloists said what a joy it was to be performing for such a huge throng in such a wonderful building.  Being just one of the throng was pretty marvellous too.

Friday May 06 2016

Today, I will be journeying from Thuir to Narbonne, to hear a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne Cathedral.  I will share the car journey with G(od)D(aughter) 2’s parents, the soprano soloist, the mezzo-soprano soloist (GD2), and the baritone soloist (I wrote about his performance as Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore in June of last year).  I heard a tiny snatch of these three singers rehearsing this afternoon.  Despite an unforgiving acoustic (quite unlike the cathedral), and the then very incomplete orchestra, it sounded to me like it will be excellent, particularly the three soloists I will be rooting for.  I heard nothing of the chorus, but conductor François Ragot is much loved by all and I’m sure they’ll do well.

Later, I also got hear a distant snatch of the piece that will proceed the Requiem, Mozart’s similarly beloved Clarinet Concerto.  That too sounded very promising.

I mention all this now (now being the very small hours of the night before) because today (i.e. tomorrow) looks like being a complicated day, and the option of not doing anything more here today (i.e. tomorrow) is one that it will be very convenient to have.