I always admire Esa-Pekka Salonen in concert—and not merely because of the fine story (about his interview for the LA Phil) that I love to relay, illustrating establishment mindsets in both WAM and Daoist studies.
And I can never resist a live performance of Ravel’s Shéhérazade.
At the Prom yesterday it was just magical. The venue itself creates a remarkable intimacy—the special communication between performers and Prommers, rapt attention, unique silences. Marianne Crebassa’s singing was exquisite: embodying Ravel’s intimate parlando style, she was always a vehicle for the nuance and drama of the text, deftly avoiding the diva trap. And Salonen conducts with suitably detached clarity. (For L’indifférent, see also here.)
Reluctant as I was to break the spell, John Adams’s grand Naïve and sentimental music eventually won me over.
Hot on the heels of my implausible link from Bach to Stravinsky, the concert began with a more convincing one, Stravinsky’s Variations on Vom himmel hoch. Reading Richard Taruskin as I am just now, I was more in the mood for it than usual.
À propos Ravel’s Piano concerto for the left hand: two-handed pianists soon got in on the act, though how to occupy the spare hand must take some thought. In This Day and Age one imagines young pianists saying,
“You know what’s so great about the concerto? You can text your mates while you’re playing it!”
<OMG GUESS WHAT I’M DOING LOL>
In Certain Quarters such behaviour might go down like a one-legged man at an arse-kicking party.
Conversely, watching people texting with two thumbs, I think of the mbira.
While we’re on deficiencies in the limb department, apart from the one-legged men in The third policeman, this classic audition springs to mind (Tarzan, “A role that is traditionally associated with…”):
More from the Terpsichorean muse:
Just as brilliant as Family guy and Soap is Parks and recreation, with the most joyous theme tune ever:
From the innocent vamp, with its tiny yet prophetic throw-away ending, to the zany syncopated opening of the tune (like the end of Boléro played a lot faster than the much-too-fast versions of lesser “maestros”), via the crazy successive modulations à la Berlioz, to the manic ascending scale introducing the recapitulation to coy simplicity—how does it cover so much ground in 30”?! And this is the full version that doesn’t always get aired!
Still further to my ésquisse on Ravel, the page dedicated to him continues to grow.
BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the week is always worth a listen—not least for its featuring of female composers, like Anna Meredith, Meredith Monk, Gwilym Simcock, women of the MacDowell colony, Barbara Strozzi, Clara Schumann, Vitezslava Kapralova.
This week’s daily fix of Ravel explores stimulating angles as ever.
Having praised them both, my amusement about Stravinsky’s description of Messiaen is tempered with surprise:
All you need to write like him is a large bottle of ink.
But then he described Ravel as a “Swiss watch maker” too, so just let’s move on. There’s no pleasing some people…
In the Monteverdi Choir’s brilliant series of anagrams on Mozart operas and other WAM classics, composed in free moments on tour in between (or during) frequenting local hostelries and singing like angels—anagrams masterminded and elaborated by Nicolas Robertson (“more on that story later”, I hope), Igor Stravinsky comes out as
Gran visits York
Further to my Ravel page (under WAM):
Tanita Tikaram (where has she been all my life?), for her wonderful Private Passions, chose Michelangeli’s version, also very fine, of the slow movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto.
Apart from Bach (including the amazing Lalo Schifrin) she featured the slow movement of Mozart’s A major piano concerto, with the ill-fated Clara Haskil.