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  • Death and incest

    2 May 2013, 14:32

    Thu 25 Apr – Stravinsky: Apollon Musagète / Oedipus Rex

    Apollon Musagète i could've lived without but Oedipus Rex was amazing: musically and visually, with the soloists half-hidden in the orchestra and soloists and choir alike made up like ghouls. Lighting was used cleverly to add drama to the proceedings but the main thrill came from the power of the music itself which lived up to the myth.
  • The band played on

    2 Dic 2012, 20:25

    Thu 29 Nov – Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 / Walton Symphony No 1 First the conductor and then the soloist were forced to withdraw because of illness, but the LSO came through magnificently.

    Sir John Eliot Gardiner (one of my musical heroes) took the place of Sir Colin Davis as conductor and a young Korean pianist, Sunwook Kim, stepped in to replace Elisabeth Leonskaja for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The latter got a magnificent ovation for his performance but the real surprise to me was the Walton symphony which I hadn't expected to like. The LSO really seemed to put their hearts into playing it and the music put itself into mine. Quite a fierce piece too.
  • Unexpectedly fab

    28 Oct 2012, 10:45

    Thu 25 Oct – JALALU-KALVERT NELSON / DOMINIC LASH / ANGHARAD DAVIES / MARK SANDERS

    I had no idea what to expect of this gig as i'd never heard of Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson beforehand and he seems to have no discography (just lots of compositions, listed on his website: http://http://www.jalalukalvertnelson.com, which span to ).

    He is a trumpeter and also plays a massive (6 foot?) horn, called an . Amazing the sound that he gets out of the latter. I loved his playing too - unlike some of the set his tone is , as though some old-time trumpeter had gone .

    Apart from Jalalu we had Angharad Davies on violin, Dominic Lash on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. All excellent, especially Dominic Lash whose gigs and releases i'm going to be keeping an eye out for now. I bought a CD at the gig by a group called The Convergence Quartet which featured him and it is also wonderful.

    This was a session and you never know (i s'pose that's part of the attraction) how well the music will come together at these sorts of gigs. Well, it really came together at this one. Absolutely loved beautiful - but , with the musicians really listening to one another and no egos at all.
  • Berlin-Paris-Buenos Aires

    13 Feb 2011, 13:58

    Sat 11 Dec – LAST TANGO IN BERLIN: Ute Lemper started off the night by apologising for not being able to make the original date, 20 November, and then gave us our money's worth and a half, just to make sure we knew how sorry she was! I forget how long she performed for but it was a long show.

    The programme was a mixture of Brecht, torch songs and tangos by Astor Piazzolla, joined together with a narrative about a journey from Berlin to Paris to Buenos Aires... and then back again. In fact, i lost track of how many times we 'visited' each city and to be honest pretty well lost my way with the 'story' itself which started to bore me after a while.

    I also got a bit bored with the knowingness with which the songs were performed. I s'pose it's the nature of : the singer doesn't really inhabit the song, so much as play it for theatre. You sense them watching you watching them and watching themselves.

    The Brecht songs were probably the most satisfying. Not only did the theatricality feel more authentic there but Lemper also has just such a marvellous feeling for the beauty of as a language - and yes, you did read that right.

    Less successful, for me, were the Piazzolla pieces. Somehow Lemper never captured the spirit of his music, despite having an excellent guitarist (at least i think that's where she said he was from).

    She was in good voice and the back injury didn't seem to get in the way as she shimmied and strode about the stage. All in all, an interesting and enjoyable evening.
  • Kristin reads and sings

    30 Ene 2011, 11:58

    Mon 24 Jan – Kristin Hersh:

    I admit i haven't been keeping abreast of Kristin Hersh's career in recent years (being mostly a fan of her Throwing Muses stuff) so i had no idea she'd even written a book, never mind that she would be reading from it at the gig. Never mind, the book, a memoir based on a diary she kept in her late teens, is a delight as is Kristin's reading of it - at once world-weary, caustic, ironic and at the same time innocent, almost gauche.

    Each reading was followed up by a song, none of which were familiar to me. I had the impression they were specially written to compliment the readings but i may be wrong about this. At any rate, they were interesting songs, sometimes good songs, but for whatever reason didn't really grab me. I actually found i was looking forward to her reaching the end and starting the next excerpt.

    Maybe part of the problem was that i've never really got over the end of Throwing Muses (i miss that wonderful NOISE) but i think it may also have had something to do with the concert's format: as much as i did love the readings it meant the songs themselves were broken up and the music struggled to build up steam.

    At the end of the gig, after considerable persuasion (we clapped and clapped!) Kristin came back on and did a number of older songs. These i did recognise. They included "Your Ghost" and - most thrilling of all - a song from The Real Ramona, my absolute favourite Throwing Muses album:"Hook in Her Head". Wish she'd done Two Step but you can't have it all!

    Afterwards i bought the memoir: "Paradoxical Undressings" (it also seems to go under the title "Rat Girl"). I'm looking forward to reading through her tales of a squat 'haunted' by a ghostly unidentified animal and her friendship with a former movie star and that lady's priest. It'd be even better if Kristin would release it as an audiobook though. Or maybe she has? I must look.
  • Britain as a village

    11 Dic 2010, 13:08

    Sun 31 Jan – The Imagined Village: [GIG EARLY THIS YEAR]

    I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar / It meant that you were / A protest singer / Oh, i can smile about it now / But at the time it was terrible
    (The Smiths)

    It began with a protest song. The song, sung by Chris Wood as i recall, concerned the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by the Metropolitican Police - an important event, don't misunderstand me, but that doesn't alter the fact that the song was worthy, graceless and endless, as protest songs almost invariably are.

    I'd actually only gone along because a friend had bought tickets for the pair of us and after this initial number plus the couple that followed it by the same support artist i seriously began to wonder if i'd be able to stand to stay for the whole gig.

    Luckily, once the rest of the gang came on stage things improved mightily. Both Martin Carthy and his daughter Eliza are fine singers and musicians. Eliza Carthy in particular has one of the great folk voices. And then there was the rich mix of musicians which included an Indian percussionist, Johnny Kalsi. This signalled a new understanding of what British folk music might be and also made the music more more fun.

    All in all, not something i'd want to go to twice but interesting and enjoyable nevertheless.
  • Eight cellos!

    11 Dic 2010, 12:30

    Fri 10 Dec – Park Lane Group: Cellophony:

    Reminded at half eleven that i'd promised to find something "quirky and interesting" for me and a friend to go to in the afternoon i rushed to the internet and found this free lunchtime concert at St Martin in the Fields. It so happens that i've already bought a ticket to see this all- octet at the Purcell Room in January, playing much of the same repertoire, but never mind: you can't get too much cello.

    We arrived a quarter an hour before the performance was due to begin and the church was already filling up. This was the best-attended of the three lunchtime recitals i've been to so far by a mile. I don't know whether this was because the musicians had brought their families and friends down en masse or whether it's because word is already out that they're brilliant but if it's not the latter, then let me put the word out right now because they are.

    The programme began with the "Prelude to Tristan and Isolde" by Wagner (a composer i've yet to connect with) and then moved on to a fantastic contemporary piece apparently by Berio which was followed by a jump back to the 18th Century for an excerpt from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier". Two further pieces, one by Boulez and one by Giovanni Sollima completed the concert.

    As the group moved from piece to piece they also moved chairs and even re-arranged said chairs. Presumably this was to add some spatial variation to their sound although i have to admit i didn't notice much difference. What i did notice and what impressed both me and my friend M was how much range the cello has as an instrument. We scarcely missed the violins at all (although i'd have liked a double bass or two but then i always do).

    Looking forward to hearing Cellophony again in January!
  • The Unthanks break out

    11 Dic 2010, 11:55

    Thu 9 Dec – The Unthanks explore and perform the music of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons:

    A gig of two halves, literally.

    The first half saw The Unthanks (formerly known as Rachel Unthank & The Winterset) serenade us with torch songs from the songbook of Antony & the Johnsons: lovely although it did get a bit samey in the end and somehow Rachel and Becky never quite captured the loneliness of the originals (even though i prefer their voices).

    The second half was much more varied, mostly, i suppose, because Robert Wyatt's repertoire is more varied. Alongside timeless ballads such as "Sea Song" we also got the barbed, breezy "Dondestan" and a bit of .

    There were a few precarious moments, notably one in which Rachel fluffed one of the verses of a song. I put these down to nerves (record company people were in the audience we were told) and lack of preparation time: it seems this concert was planned back in the summer when they were expecting to finish their new album imminently. It remains unfinished.

    Still, overall it was a rewarding evening: a chance to hear the Unthanks branch out from their familiar northern folk territory and a chance to hear a fresh take on familiar songs (well, some familiar songs and some i'd never heard before if i'm honest).
  • Christmas Kate

    11 Dic 2010, 11:38

    Wed 8 Dec – Kate Rusby:

    This turned out to be a very pleasant evening: a mixture of traditional South Yorkshire with tracks from Kate Rusby's new album - not forgetting the odd solo number from members of her band.

    At the beginning she explained that there is a local tradition of going from pub to pub singing carols which were banned from churches during the Victorian period for being too raucous. They don't sound all that raucous in the Twenty-First Century but they were bright and joyous, and made even more so by Kate's gorgeous voice. She really does sound as good live as she does on CD - perhaps more so.

    The tracks from the new album were also good although i did find myself wishing she'd do a few from the older albums too (but that was just me being greedy). In between songs she regaled us with stories about her everyday life (one about her baby daughter grabbing the dog's tongue was especially memorable) and generally came across as the girl next door - assuming next door is Yorkshire and the girl next door is one of Britain's finest singers.

    The only negative comment i have to make is about two members of the audience who were sitting in front of me and who spent the first half of the concert grumbling about other people coughing (ironically they were more disruptive with their carping than the afflicted were with their racking). Unnecessary given this was an amplified gig and very lacking in Christmas spirit. Thankfully this couple vanished at the interval and i could enjoy the rest in peace.

    And Kate - your knees are fine. I've no idea why that "Songs of Praise" viewer had such an issue with them!
  • He played a trick on us

    11 Dic 2010, 10:55

    Tue 7 Dec – Philharmonia Orchestra, Håkan Hardenberger:

    The concert started with the Philharmonia playing Beethoven but it was Håkan Hardenberger most of us had come to see - those of us who had come that is: it seemed the snow had kept a lot of people at home.

    The great man arrived on stage for the second piece, Haydn's Trumpet Concerto (which was strangely disappointing) and then announced (i can't remember whether he did this before or after the Haydn) that he and conductor Andriss Nelson had 'played a little trick' on us: in place of the cancelled Gruber trumpet piece he had been supposed to perform in the 'pre-concert' he was going to perform a different one ("Three MOB Pieces") in the main concert. I guess it's one way of getting people to listen to a contemporary composer and it was very good. I enjoyed listening to the contrasting sounds of the three types of trumpet which were required. Nevertheless, i was still disappointed i hadn't got to hear the "Exposed Throat".

    After that there was the interval and then "Ein Heldenleben" by Richard Strauss which i enjoyed without really liking the piece, if that makes any sense at all!