More Rachmaninoff

I’ve already posted a wonderful performance of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd symphony, but the recent Prom included another moving version, conducted by Thomas Gausgaard. I Like the Cut of his Jib, as Adrian Chiles observed prophetically about Guus Hiddink’s managing of the South Korean football team in 2002. Nor is the BBC Scottish to be sniffed at. I loved their Mahler 5 at the 2015 Proms, with Donald Runnicles.

With typical Prom flair, the concerto and synphony were introduced by concert versions of Orthodox liturgy sung by the Latvian radio choir. You can find the whole concert here for the next month.

After the 3rd piano concerto, the encore of Vocalise led me to Rachmaninoff’s 1929 studio recording of his orchestral version:

Wimbledon: sequel

Following my Wimbledon post, what a treat to admire Jo Konta, mature and focused (and object of patriotism—confused, in some less enlightened quarters). Only the stately Venus was worthy to vanquish her, and in the final the sunny Garbine Muguruza made a suitably classy victor in turn.

And then there’s the sublime Roger Federer, magisterial and fluent like Li Qing or Ronnie—utterly different as they are away from the ritual arena.

Just remind me who said women’s tennis (read: sport) was boring? More on the perennial sexism debate:

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/shortcuts/2017/jul/11/andy-murray-the-feminist-that-tennis-needs?CMP=share_btn_tw

And after my remarks on the Beeb’s commentary team, don’t forget Beethoven’s Wimbledon adventure.

Bach and swimming

As I learn more Bach on the erhuswimming always helps me. I’m just learning to internalize putting my clasped fingers into the water more horizontally, beginning the back-pull more immediately and maintaining the power.

When I get home, I take up the erhu, calibrating my motor-movements—string crossings, changing positions, breathing—in the service of my sound-ideal. Still sounds a bit rubbish, but hey. Practice makes perfect.

A great annual ritual: Wimbledon

The annual Wimbledon ritual is well under way again.

Never mind the tennis, the Beebs’s own line-up is impressive enough—Brits like Trusty Tim, always playing with a straight bat [?—Ed.], and the demure Sam Smith, obligatory Funny Foreigners led by generally lovable but sometimes off-message Mac, wise Tracy Austin and Martina Navratilova, and ever-hot Pat Cash. It’s entertaining to see how the stalwart female commentators maintain patience with the hapless male pundits negotiating the sexist minefield in the wake of the Inverdale–Bartoli fiasco.

Quaintly more antiquated than the other Majors, it’s a benign celebration for the middle classes (including me—I went to school nearby, and sold ice-creams there). Like any ritual, indeed any performance, Wimbledon confirms Correct Behaviour (not least to keep those errant Foreigners in line); and it will mean different things to different people. But it’s a visual treat, despite the retro ritual costumes; and as to the ritual soundscape, the ping-pong [sic] of the ball makes a fine soundtrack too—along with the spectators’ Wimbledon groan.

Doubtless this old story will be revisited during the longueurs between matches:

Vitas Gerulaitis lost his first sixteen matches against Jimmy Connors. After finally defeating him at the 1980 Masters, he proudly declared:

Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis seventeen times in a row!”

Let’s hear it for Latvia

As if the visit of the Li family Daoist band to Paris wasn’t enough, now we can cheer 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko’s fearless hard-hitting victory in the French Open tennis final. Another victory for hope against fear, perhaps—and the power of the young.

She hits her forehands harder than Andy Murray—OK, the balls are lighter (watch this space), but at least they’re not pink and frilly, FFS.

Again, we need to note the power of sport as ritual.

Of course nationalism* is suspect (as in Macron’s fine rebuke “Let’s make the Planet great again”), UKIP St George flags and all that. When Andy won Wimbledon, “ending a 77-year wait” (“blimey, he’s getting on a bit”), sure it was wonderful, but I couldn’t help feeling, “So that’s what’s been missing from British history, eh—never mind defeating Nazism and setting up the NHS, apparently our constant sense of ennui has resided solely in our failure in a tennis tournament…”

So the thrill of Ostapenko’s win is mainly about her, but in this case it’s cool to get a vicarious pride for Latvia too. So let’s all go and educate ourselves about its modern history!

 

* With all due respect to Dr Johnson, “nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” would have been better—patriotism is generally defined as more benign, though indeed we do need to keep a careful eye on that too.

Real and Zidane

After my words of praise for Arsenal and Wenger, the victory of Real Madrid and the gorgeous Zidane in the Champion’s League was even more inspiring.

Sure, we should always remember the artistry of Barcelona and Messi (the latter all the more since he “looks like he works part-time on Saturdays in a video rental shop”).

And Zidane’s headbutt in the final of the 2006 World Cup remains iconic. After all, players like him must be so used to being wound up on the pitch, yet not rising to the bait. With just minutes to go before he could be fêted, canonized, his rash act seems like an even higher form of art, a worthy sacrifice—never mind mundane celebrity, he just had to do it, like in a bullfight.