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Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH
is proud to be with the English Symphony Orchestra

Dear Alice,

I believe I spotted your name in the programme of a truly remarkable concert given as part of the Elgar Festival last week. What did you think of Robert Cohen's Elgar cello concerto? And wasn't Vernon Handley marvellous? He looked so terribly frail and conducted so vibrantly!

A Griffiths

ESO -- English Symphony Orchestra -- Elgar Festival 2006

Dear Mr/Ms Griffiths,

Yes, indeedy, I was there -- I was even proud to be there. Robert Cohen's Elgar was deeply-felt, completely unshowy -- and in depth of musical expression a world apart from Natalie Clein, the last soloist I accompanied in the work ... What phrasing in the slow movement! And what breathtaking speed in the second!!! -- yet not a note was lost. I spoke to him to say how thrilled we were, and found him as modest and charming as his playing would lead one to expect. I have already instructed one pupil to lose no time in getting hold of his Elgar recording, and intend to follow my own advice myself!!!!! -- One strange note: I could see his marvellously subtle bow arm from where Tod Handley always shoves the cellos (where the 2nds ought to be, frankly) and noticed that his bow thumb was flat against the bow stick, not curved at all -- something we all agreed we spent our lives urging pupils NOT to do!!!!!! ... but who am I to quarrel with results like his??

As for Tod, he was a revelation. I have worked with him before -- in what ought to have been his prime -- in the Ulster Orchestra and the Guildford Philharmonic -- and he's always been stunning with English music (though I thought his Brahms equally fine) but now, in his seventies, and needing the assistance of two sticks to get onto the stage, he is quite simply better than ever. Since working with him I have been conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Sir Colin Davis (notice anything about these three that he hasn't got??) and I simply feel, with the rest of the ESO, that a mere CBE does him scant justice. His previous tempers have mellowed, but his stick technique has sharpened; he was able to feel the 'right' tempi with such unerring ease that even the rehearsals passed in a flash; and his twinkles around the orchestra caused one friend to pronounce him 'still dishy' -- which must be down to sheer charisma, as he never was exactly an oil painting, and now is old and bent (but I know what she means; and he was a famous ladies' man in his time). The English Symphony orchestra is in deep trouble -- such deep trouble that its continued existence must be doubtful -- but he lifted up an orchestra traumatised by the last few months into a sound and unity I'd never heard in it before ... And all at VERY short notice: Tod basically stepped in to save the day, when the whole festival was in the balance.

So glad you enjoyed it -- and please continue to support the orchestra. We need it now more than ever.


Ask Alice

Dear Alice -- You should be commended for your patience, not castigated in any way by the intolerant person who wants to use your column as her own personal soapbox! She needs to find another place to host her rants! Please do not give her any more space. I love M&V, and read it nearly every day. Why? Because of the music!!! Health notes/issues belong elsewhere.


Dear Kelly,

In many ways agree with you, however still wish to stress not personally pro-herpes ...


Ask Alice

I received this from Ann Van Allen Russell, a friend of mine, and wanted to share it with you:

Every year, English teachers from across the USA can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners ...

. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36pm traveling at 55mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19pm at a speed of 35mph.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Copyright © 9 June 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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