On concerts, witches and sightings,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH
I've been lucky enough to attend two excellent concerts in the last fortnight. One was Raphael Wallfisch and John York's all-Beethoven cello and piano marathon recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the second a few days ago at the Royal Festival Hall, when Muti led Vladimir Repin and the Philharmonic through the Beethoven violin concerto and Schubert's great C major symphonies in honour of the Philharmonia's 60th. And yet, while always pleased to celebrate sixty years of any great national institution I am forced to conclude that the Philharmonia plus Muti is a less than ideal combination.
It ought to be, of course. First you have Muti, surely from the first-drawer of central casting: slim, charismatic, wild-locked, elegantly economic of gesture. Secondly you have the Philharmonia, the most exquisitely oily of all London's major ensembles: a slick production line of elegant bowings, crisply-tuned winds, and marvellously meticulous brass. It was certainly distinctly admirable, and should have been amazing. But perhaps an orchestra like the Philharmonia requires less micro-management, more exuberance, more unpredictability. One could have balanced a set of vases on the heads of the entire band throughout the concert (with the exception of the ever-wholehearted David Watkin on cello) without entertaining the slightest fear of accident. The Great C major with Muti and the Philharmonia reminded me of a perfectly-groomed gentleman walking his perfectly-manicured poodle for a walk. Everything was: just so. (Yawn.)
And so to Vladimir Repin, who started the Beethoven violin concerto with such casual nonchalance that it was hard to believe he'd ever had to practice it. His Strad (he has one on loan) assists his serenely silvery line, and his bow arm was a joy to behold, but he didn't seem very fussed with the beginning of the concerto, one way or another. He gradually warmed up: as if remembering (not what he was doing) but what he was doing it for. The second movement bestrode the narrow line between too-slow and just-slow-enough, and when the orchestra tuttis intervened I found myself longing for the return of that sheeny sound again. By the end he had immersed himself in the lilt completely; his ovation was long and richly deserved.
It was also extremely agreeable getting champagne and not having to pay for such marvellous seats, so if the LSO etc want to give me a comp for their 60th, I'm definitely game ...
I was intriqued to read about Kev, King of the Witches, so I did a little research myself, and I seem to have stumbled upon his diary!
Good God, is there no limit to this fellow's talents????
Yours with mind still boggling,
re Raphael Wallfisch's du Pré commemorative concert: well the same blonde cellist was there again yesterday evening in Birmingham! But, if the programme is anything to go by, she was not called Alice! I can believe that she may well have several personalities/names though!
I hope all the previously impressed cellists had a good time with Raphael again. I agree wholeheartedly that he cannot be esteemed too highly. I feel very privileged to be doing his website (my first) ...
Sorry, but if you spotted an impressed blonde in the cellos in Birmingham, it was not the same (v impressed blonde) as in Wales. I had been asked to play, but couldn't make it on the day, which (by all accounts) was entirely my loss.
Good luck with the website!!!!
Copyright © 4 February 2005
Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK