Monday, 13 February 2017

Return to Josef Spacek

A surprising number of composers wrote only one sonata for violin and piano: Leos Janacek, César Franck, Richard Strauss, Shostakovich, Debussy, Ravel. The list really also includes Prokofiev, whose somewhat lightweight second sonata is an adaptation of a flute sonata, and Robert Schumann, whose second sonata is very small beer compared with the first. Gabriel Fauré also wrote a second sonata that has nowhere near the stature of the first. Elgar wrote one sonata for violin and piano, as did Guillaume Lekeu and Albéric Magnard; many composers wrote none at all. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, of course, wrote many sonatas for violin and keyboard, and Brahms wrote three (very good ones, too).This occurred to me forcibly listening to a CD recital yesterday.

Some three years ago in this blog I warmly praised Josef Spacek's CD of Janacek, Smetana and Prokofiev. Having listened to it again yesterday, I praise it again; it's a superb CD, and really well recorded. Janacek's ever-fascinating sonata is played warmly. Prokofiev's first sonata for violin and piano has all the tension and spikiness that I missed in Lisa Oshima's recent CD, and Spacek is greatly aided by his piano partner, Miroslav Sekera. Great music, well played and recorded. Supraphon does some good things for a small label in a small country.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Lisa Oshima in Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev and I only have a nodding acquaintance. I know little or nothing of his string quartets (did he write any?), or his piano sonatas, or his piano concertos, or his operas, or his ballet music, or his symphonies. I do, however, know well and like very much his music for violin: the two violin concertos, the two sonatas, the various pieces arranged for violin. So I bought a CD with the (unknown, to me) violinist Lisa Oshima with the (unknown to me) pianist Stefan Stroissig. The CD contains the wonderful first sonata for violin and piano, the Five Melodies Op 35 bis, Five Pieces from Cinderella, and an arranged Suite from Romeo and Juliet. A good start: an imaginative combination of pieces for a seventy minute CD.

The seventy minutes go by highly pleasurably. Ms Oshima is a fine violinist, the duo works well and is well recorded and balanced so we can hear both piano and violin whenever they play together. If I only give the CD two stars rather than three, it's because Prokofiev's music occasionally calls for some real muscle, particularly in the first sonata, and Ms Oshima is too much a well brought up Japanese young lady to risk making a harsh sound, and the pianist, Mr Stroissig, never veers towards percussion. Tempi on the leisurely side do not help. So we get a melodious Prokofiev, which drops it one star from my appraisal. I have twenty recordings of the first sonata, including excellent ones from Janine Jansen, David Oistrakh, Alina Ibragimova, Lisa Batiashvili, Vadim Repin and Josef Spacek. It's a frequently recorded work and competition is fierce, but Ms Oshima can certainly join this exalted company, particularly for those who don't like their Prokofiev too "raw". A warm welcome to seventy minutes of Prokofiev with Lisa Oshima, and some wonderful violin playing; a CD I shall certainly listen to many times.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Postscript: Pires in Mozart

In a short interview before a recent broadcast (30th January 2017), Pires said that she finds playing Mozart "very difficult" (Heifetz said the same). Pires added that sometimes she loves Mozart's music, sometimes she dislikes it. An interesting perspective. Her 2017 performances of K 488 and K 595 are, if anything, better than her versions of a few years ago. Robert Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra are no match for Abbado and his hand-picked orchestras, and Ticciati – or the BBC balance engineers – need to learn about the importance of prioritising the wind band in Mozart (something Klemperer and Abbado understood). Fortunately, in the Mozart piano concertos the orchestra plays a subsidiary role; Mozart made sure the focus was on the pianist! So Ticciati and his Scots are merely "perfectly adequate". But Pires is supreme in this music.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja: Ravel's Tzigane

I listened with interest to a concert (31st January 2017 in Hamburg) given by Patricia Kopatchinskaja (NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock). The work concerned was Ravel's Tzigane of which I happen to have no less than 87 different recordings; it's a popular piece for violinists. As with anything Kopatchinskaja plays – apart from her avant-garde stuff – the playing is immensely interesting (and violinistically superb, of course). My impression is that the nearer the music gets to Moldova (Patricia's homeland) the more the music resounds within her. But what of Ravel's "gypsy" pastiche, written in France around 1926? Should it be played "straight", as a French composition of 1926, or can one take its tzigane label and treat it with the freedom any gypsy would have brought to it?

Kopatchinskaja, inevitably, treats it as gypsy music and allows herself a lot of freedom and rubato ad infinitum. I agree with her; Ravel's Tzigane is not a profound piece of late Beethoven that should be played with reverence and close adhesion to the composer's score. If I ever played Tzigane (miracles may occur, one day) I would like to play it like Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and with her free approach to the French score.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Edwin Fischer and Johann Sebastian Bach

I took advantage of the free offer by Andrew Rose and Pristine Audio to celebrate (?) their IT problems, and downloaded Edwin Fischer playing the first 24 preludes and fugues of the 48. I have long had Bach's 48 played by Fischer on CD (EMI) but am always willing to evaluate new transfers of the old mid-30s recordings. Repeated listening to the two CDs have prompted several musings:
  • When it comes to Bach on the keyboard, there is no real advantage in confining ones listening to the latest digital sound. The 48 on a harpsichord, clavichord, organ, fortepiano or modern grand piano are somewhat independent of original sound quality. To my ears, the recorded sound of Fischer's 1933-34 playing is fine, particularly in the Pristine transfers.
  • Edwin Fischer's Bach belongs in the same exalted company as the Busch Quartet's Beethoven and Schubert (and recorded in the same mid- 1930s period). I really do not need a better played, or better sounding, recording of the 48. Fischer in the mid- 1930s will do me fine.
  • The 48 preludes and fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach are undoubtedly great music, but I would be at a total loss to have to explain to débutante music lovers exactly why the music is great. Easy to demonstrate this with Schubert, with Bellini, with Wagner … and the rest. But with three hours of preludes and fugues, some of the pieces lasting for less than one minute? I can almost see my grandchildren's eyes glaze over. And yet: I can listen to the 48 over and over again with enormous pleasure. Analysis is irrelevant; this is music to be enjoyed, as every few minute we exclaim: Ah, wunderbar!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Maria João Pires

Jascha Heifetz once claimed that he found Mozart “the most challenging” composer to play. It's true that Mozart's music is often somewhat chameleon, usually elegant and usually with strange twists in the harmonies that differentiate much of Mozart's music from the routine classics of the late eighteenth century. When it comes to Mozart's piano concertos, I feel that two supreme executants stand out: Clara Haskil, and Maria João Pires. I have just been listening to Pires in a handful of Mozart concertos that she recorded with Claudio Abbado over a period of some years, with various orchestras. In one word: Pires' performances are superb (as is the partnership with Abbado).

Pires, who is now in her early 70s and still playing superbly, has had a low-key career (deliberately, once suspects). She does not like solo recitals, and has expressed the view that what she enjoys most is “just making music with a few friends for a small audience”. Like Clara Haskil with Arthur Grumiaux, Pires enjoyed a long musical relationship with a violinist, Augustin Dumay, and the pair made many prized recordings of duo sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. I think Brahms is the most “contemporary” composer that Pires tackles; apart from Chopin, her predilection is for Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

“It is very important for me to know that it is possible to express something without doing too much”, Pires says. Her Mozart playing certainly reflects the same elegant simplicity and sincerity as that of Haskil. In Mozart, her elegant simplicity is matched by Abbado's elegance and sophistication and the results are enormously satisfying. Looking at my large collection of recordings of Mozart piano concertos, I really only need Haskil and Pires.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Bach's Mass in B Minor

As I have recounted before in this blog, the very first concert I attended at the age of 12 or 13 was at St Wilfrid's Church in Rose Green, Sussex … and the work in question was Bach's Mass in B minor. St. Wilfrid was not there, nor was Johann Sebastian Bach: but I was, and that was some 62 years ago and I remember the occasion clearly since no one stole my bicycle that I left outside the church during the concert. The Mass in B minor is, quite simply, wonderful music. For some reason or other, Bach poured the best of his art into the work.

There are performances that are fashionable; there are performances that are eternal. Amongst the latter the Busch Quartet recordings of the 1930s spring to mind, together with many of the Busch-Serkin duo recordings. Fastest, slowest, loudest, softest: are all quantifiable adjectives. Greatest, best, favourite: are subjective and non-quantifiable. So when I am told I can have only one musical work buried with me in the treasure chamber of my after-death pyramid, there is no sure and uncontroversial choice. For me, in my pyramid it has to be Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor. I have been listening to my latest acquisition; Karl Richter and his Munich forces (recorded extremely well and stereophonically in 1961 by the then- DGG team).

I have Bach's Mass in seven different recordings: John-Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe (two different recordings), René Jacobs, Otto Klemperer, Karl Richter, and Masaaki Suzuki. I used to have Joshua Rifkin's minimalist recording for many years, but I seem to have ditched it along the way (probably to a charity shop that may still be trying to sell it for 50p). Karl Richter ticks all the boxes: clear melodic lines, excellent orchestral players (especially the solo violin), good soloists (though I am less keen on the soprano, Maria Stadler). However, I (unusually) welcome the bass, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. A vibrant, alert Mass in B minor that joins my top two. If I still prefer Otto Klemperer in this music, it's because of his stern gravitas and the sense of decades of thought-out tradition. Klemperer was – despite his erratic lifestyle – a thoroughly religious man (judaism, catholicism, finally back to judaism)

And where will you be able to find my final pyramid and resting place to which I will consign one copy of Bach's B minor mass? If I have to name a place at the moment, it will be Luang Prabang (Laos).

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Boris Giltburg in Beethoven

This would appear to be Boris Giltburg week in my home. Having commented on his Shostakovich CD, and earlier on his excellent Rachmaninov, I now have him playing Beethoven – Pathétique, Waldstein, and Op 111 (Naxos). On this latest CD, his Beethoven is somewhat in the sturdy Russian mould (I occasionally thought of the great Emil Gilels). The pianism is truly amazing and lovers of three star piano playing will have a field day.

Personally, I will not give this CD three stars. My preference in music of the classical period is for simplicity, and for artists such as Igor Levit, Maria Pires or Clara Haskil who give a sense almost of improvising as they play. No thought of improvisation with Giltburg; all is carefully planned and thought out (and then brilliantly executed). I recently had the same qualms about Alfred Brendel playing Schubert and Beethoven: all worked out far too carefully in advance, with little sense of spontaneity. I am being subjective here; lovers of fine piano playing and dynamic Beethoven need not hesitate, but when I wish to listen to Beethoven's last piano sonata, I'll gravitate to Igor Levit.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Boris Giltburg in Shostakovich

Igor, Boris, Yevgeny .. why are there no pianists called Harry, Eric, or Fred? But I suppose some are also called Yuja or Xiayin. An inferiority feeling listening to Boris Giltburg playing Shostakovich (accompanied by Vasily .. not Harry, Eric, or Fred, Petrenko). It appears that, for more than a century, if you wish to be taken seriously as a pianist or a violinist, you have to get yourself a Russian name. And especially a Russian background and heritage.

Moscow-born Boris Giltburg dominates a new (Naxos) CD of Shostakovich's music. With the Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko, he plays Shostakovich's two piano concertos and the results are splendid. A really interesting aspect of the new CD, however, is Giltburg's own arrangements for piano only of Shostakovich's eighth string quartet (and of the waltz movement from the second). Piano arrangements of the self-sufficient world of the string quartet are something of an oddity. I love the Shostakovich string quartets; and I also loved listening to Giltburg's playing. The arrangements are best regarded as new Shostakovich works, rather than renditions of the string quartets, but none the worse for that. The piano concertos are lighter fare in Shostakovich's oeuvre; the string quartets more complex, and this comes over on this CD, even with the solo piano arrangements. The concertos feature Shostakovich the famous artist, and the popular entertainer. The string quartets show us Shostakovich the private, and often haunted, person. Bravo Mr Giltburg for highlighting the two sides of the composer on this very welcome CD.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Vier Letzte Lieder

There are some musical works that really get under your skin, and stay there. I have never been a great fan of Richard Strauss (a bit of an old windbag, for much of the time, in my opinion). But Strauss's Vier Letzte Lieder have always been one of my “under the skin” works. Strangely enough, his sonata for violin and piano has always been another.

For something written in 1948, the Lieder have become extremely popular, and quite rightly so. A recent arrival in my collection occasioned a re-evaluation of what I liked. The recent arrival was Diana Damrau singing in September last year with the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Kirill Petrenko (an off-air recording). As a quick-check version, I also acquired Renée Fleming singing with the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Christian Thielemann (2008). Somewhat remarkably for these works, the two Bavarian versions feature pretty well identical timings for the four songs – even for the fourth song whose timings can stretch from a languorous 9 minutes and 54 seconds (Jessye Norman, with Kurt Masur) to a rapidissimo 6 minutes and 23 seconds (Martina Arroyo, with Günter Wand). Miss Arroyo was not going to miss that last bus back to her hotel.

I listened to Damrau; I listened to Fleming. Immediately into my re-cycling bin went Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (with Szell), Jessye Norman (with Masur) and Soile Isokoski (with Marek Janowski). Lisa della Casa stays on my shelves for sentimental reasons. For me, the Lieder are, above all, a glorious outpouring of a soprano voice. The glorious soprano outpouring needs to be matched by a golden outpouring from the orchestra. The whole needs to be well recorded so we can bask in a golden musical Götterdämmerung. Damrau / Petrenko fill the bill. Fleming / Thielemann fill the bill. In the final run-off, however, it is Diana Damrau who gets the gold medal, since I have a strange problem with Renée Fleming's German diction. I, who am always castigating singers for not enunciating clearly, find that Fleming's clear and meticulous enunciation in several passages detracts from the impression of a glorious outpouring and leaves the music, on occasions, sounding cautious and calculated. So Damrau and Petrenko run off with the top prize. I don't expect them to be toppled for some considerable time.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Gustav Mahler, and Kirill Petrenko

I first came across the music of Gustav Mahler when I was in my early teens, acquiring recordings of the Kindertotenlieder, then of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, then of the fourth symphony (Paul Kletzki and the Philharmonia, that I acquired in 1958 on a Columbia LP). Subsequently I dived regularly into Mahler's music – in 1959 I was in the Albert Hall (while my father was in the orchestra) listening to Mahler's eighth symphony. In the 1970s I was in one of the London halls listening to Mahler's fifth symphony. Between around 1956 and 2017, I decided that the only Mahler works I really enjoyed were the Kindertotenlieder, the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Das Lied von der Erde … and the fourth symphony. If I have time and patience, I might re-visit the second symphony, that seems to have promise, for me. But the rest I leave to my great-grandchildren.

My selectivity regarding Mahler seems to have been shared by others; Otto Klemperer, who as a young man was a Mahler acolyte and owed much to Mahler, played Mahler works all his life, but mainly the second and fourth symphonies (plus Das Lied, of course). To my knowledge, Klemperer never bothered to record the first, third, fifth, sixth and eighth symphonies of Mahler – but I have three recordings of the fourth symphony conducted by him. So I was interested to receive a Mahler recording by Kirill Petrenko … of the fourth symphony! I gather Mahler devotees regard the fourth symphony as a bit outside the canon, but it appears that Klemperer, Petrenko and I are fans of the fourth. The Petrenko (Kirill, not Vasily) performance dates from 2004 and comes with the Orchester der Komischen Oper Berlin, not an obvious Mahler orchestra at that date. Petrenko was only 32 at the time of this recording, having emigrated from Russia to Austria at the age of 18. Even so, the conducting is sure and the performance excellent if, one suspects, it will be even better and less episodic 30 years later when Petrenko takes a longer view of the music and the scherzo can become more fantastique, rather than burlesque. I have been listening to Kirill Petrenko (courtesy of a good friend) conducting Mahler, Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Elgar; all good late Romanic stuff in which Petrenko seems to excel. He has yet to be heard (by me) in Debussy, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Brahms, Beethoven, Sibelius and Mozart, of course. But as a lover of the late Romantics, I am grateful for a fellow aficionado.

Mahler's fourth symphony (Paul Kletzki conducting the Philharmonia, with Emmy Loose in the finale) is perhaps the only recording of my collection to have survived nearly 60 years in the Number One spot. One day, I suspect, Kirill Petrenko will finally dislodge it.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Karl Richter in Bach

When I was young, tomatoes and mushrooms had real flavour, politicians were principled and honest, journalists delved deeply to report the true facts, daytimes were never wet … and Bach's music sounded wonderful as performed in the 1960s. Probably everyone has an idealised memory of youth; however listening to Karl Richter's performances of Bach's Brandenburg concertos and orchestral suites recorded in the 1960s, there is something that rings true about the Bach memories, at least. Prior to the 1960s, “Big Bach” was in order, as played by conductors such as Furtwängler and von Karajan. After the 1960s, artists such as Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, followed by Kuijken and others, dragged Bach back to the museum, complete with periwig and boy sopranos. The “authentic” brigade reached its height with such absurdities as Joshua Rifin's Mass in B minor with just eight voices, with the imposition of boy trebles instead of better trained and more musical sopranos, and the arrival of hell-for-leather Italian bands out to show everyone they were the world's fastest Bach players. Recently, excesses have been modified and players and singers allowed to sound musical, as well as historically correct.

Playing Bach demands a good sense of rhythm, a love of the music, and a determination to ensure that all the many strands and counterpoint in Bach's music can be heard clearly (think of the third movement of the third Brandenburg concerto, for example). If you love Bach's music and use your commonsense, Bach will do the rest; his music does not need preening and pointing and manipulating. Karl Richter and his expert band of musicians based in Munich come over beautifully in these recordings from the 1960s. The pioneering “new Bach” of artists such as Richter and Busch (in the 1930s) was soon (temporarily) overshadowed by the novelty of Olde Bach from ancient times. I grew up after 1959 with Karl Richter's recording of the St. Matthew Passion, a recording I still enjoy albeit now on CD transfers. Such expert singing and playing, and such love and feeling for the music! To listen to Karl Richter directing Bach is to re-enter a familiar and eminently civilised musical world. The playing is expert, the recordings well balanced and well restored. Personally, I ask for nothing more, and if anyone knows of a better performance of the sixth Brandenburg compared with Richter's version, played here with skill, love and warmth, please let me know; the performance for me is ideal Bach playing.

Friday, 23 December 2016

David Nadien

Re-mastering a CD of violin music is a delicate task. All too often, cleaning up and brightening an "old" sound results in the higher reaches of the violin sounding over-bright, with a steely sheen to the sound. It was therefore greatly to my delight when sampling a re-mastering of David Nadien playing twelve encore pieces to discover that the violin sound was impeccable, despite the new CD being labelled "Stereo. Super Audio CD. SACD" and all the other buzzwords that too often portend something inferior to the original. Not having a SACD player, the advantages of that technology pass me by, but I do like a good violin sound, especially when David Nadien is playing.

Being a super-top violinist in America in most of the twentieth century was no automatic passport to a top career. For a start, to all intents and purposes there were only two companies making classical recordings: RCA and CBS. Both companies were conservative, and both frowned on duplicating key repertoire. For violinists, there was the Heifetz hurdle, then the Isaac Stern hurdle. Some American violinists such as Milstein (naturalised) or Menuhin escaped the RCA and CBS limitations by recording in Europe where there was a much wider choice of recording companies. Other American violinists such as Oscar Shumsky, Joseph Gingold and David Nadien dodged the problem by embarking on alternative careers. Nadien became big in the world of commercial recording for films, advertising, etc. Luckily his playing was preserved (mainly by friends) so we can still enjoy his suave, impeccable sound. I greatly enjoyed this recital CD, re-mastered by a good friend of mine.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Ginette Neveu

Baden-Baden in 1949. Ludwig van Beethoven's violin concerto played by Ginette Neveu, with Hans Rosbaud conducting the SWR Sinfonieorchester, and German engineers recording the event. The tapes re-mastered in Germany and the performance re-released on the SWR Music label. This is a high point of European civilisation; Neveu's performance is a classic, with total absorption in the music (especially the slow movement), a complete absence of showmanship or dumbing down of classical music (as is so prevalent today). If I could play the Beethoven violin concerto, this is how I would want to play it. I have three different transfers of this performance, but I have not compared them. Anyone desiring to listen to this all-time classic performance need not worry about the quality of the 68 year old sound in the SWR re-mastering from the original tapes.

The second CD in this pack contains a performance of the Brahms violin concerto (same Baden-Baden studio) in 1948. The Brahms concerto's combination of vivacity and lyricism suits Neveu's playing admirably, and this is the fourth recording of the work I have from her (1946 in London with Dobrowen, 1948 in Hamburg with Schmidt-Isserstedt, 1949 in The Hague with Dorati). It was obviously her kind of concerto. The performance here is with the French Radio orchestra under Roger Désormière; hardly first choice in 1948, one feels, and the orchestra is often somewhat somnolent, especially at the opening of the work. But Ginette livens things up. The recording quality – particularly of the violin – is really excellent for 1948.The twentieth century boasted many, many superb violinists, but only a few really great ones. In my opinion, Ginette Neveu was one of the great ones.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Breast Meat Recipe

Breast of guinea fowl, chopped small. Add shiitake mushrooms, one bell pepper, several small onions, chopped ginger, salt, pepper, a little soy sauce, and a little oil. Marinate for 12-24 hours. Cook in a wok for a few minutes. Completely and utterly delicious and a good way to re-purpose breast meat of chicken or guinea fowl (I am a wing and leg eater, only). I eat  half yesterday, the remaining half today. One of the world's tastiest dishes.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Franz Liszt with Daniil Trifonov

I have mentioned before my ambivalent history with the music of Franz Liszt. I enjoy his songs. I like his music for violin and piano. I like much of his piano music. I do not like his piano sonata, and I certainly do not like his orchestral music. Not much of a Liszt fan club here, I'm afraid. But I bought Daniil Trifonov's new double CD of Liszt's études to help solve my Liszt conundrum. Like most people, I know many of the études d'exécution transcendante; here we have all twelve played, on occasions, by a man who seemingly has 36 fingers. I am no piano expert (and far from being a Liszt expert), but it would surprise me to hear that anyone plays these pieces better than Trifonov. My only gripe is that DG has – quite unnecessarily – left only very brief pauses between the twelve pieces and, if you are not careful, the pieces all run into one. Adroit manipulation of the pause on the remote control is needed, a defect I have met with other recordings in the past (for example, Renaud Capuçon's recording of encore pieces).

The six Paganini études are great fun (for those who know the original pieces) with five études based on Paganini's caprices, and one on the La Campanella finale from the second violin concerto. Again, things are marred by minimal pauses between the pieces, a lamentable lack of attention to detail. Probably not a double disk set I'll return to too often, but nice to have for Trifonov's astonishing pianism, and for the Paganini études.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Bach Cantatas with Sigiswald Kuijken

With a somewhat vast collection of recordings to listen to, I tend to follow my nose (or, rather, my ears) when it comes to selecting something I want to hear. Returning home from three weeks away in France, Laos and Myanmar, I was thirsty for music. Fortunately, at some time in my life, I acquired eight CDs of Bach cantatas (Accent) conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken with his Petite Bande and an array of soloists. Each CD has around three cantatas each. The performances are sane, well played, well sung, and well recorded. The music is, of course, Bach. I am happy to sit back in my chair and listen to cantata after cantata. Kuijken uses soloists for the “choir”, a cost-cutting exercise that normally perturbs me, but it does not matter too much in the cantatas where the choral role is normally not too vital (it is a different matter, of course, when we come to the Mass in B minor, or the Passions). A happy event when these purchases from the past fill a necessary need. I often wonder why on earth I continue to buy recordings, when I have more excellent ones on my shelves than I can possibly listen to.

Thursday, 17 November 2016


Off on my holidays: France, Laos, Myanmar, France, home. Not much music where I am going, but plenty of good food. A pity about the wine, but wine and Asian countries do not go well together. However, there will be lots of good food, and interesting old villages and towns, and many temples, and very different and exotic cultures. Awaiting me on my return is a bottle of 2003 Moldovan wine; this will be the very first Moldovan wine I have ever tasted.

Before leaving, I have just enjoyed (again) Joyce DiDonato's latest CD (War and Peace). Ms DiDonato joins my (small) favourite band of current musicians.