Tuesday, 21 November 2006

stringy goodness

Having a very musical time at the moment. A couple of weeks ago we heard the Britten Sinfonia at West Road, directed by Nicholas Daniel. He's always entertaining to watch - more a contemporary dancer than a conductor. He is also very tall and wears such remarkable shirts with Mandarin collars. The first half was Mozart and Tchaikovsky Serenades. Mozart very entertaining, with little cameo moments for the front desks, playing as soloists and as a string quartet. The final solo violin entry was stolen from the Sinfonia's leader by someone further back in the ranks, which was a nice touch. Tchaikovsky fittingly passionate. I noticed for the first time how the fast theme of the finale is a speeded up version of those bold, yearning chords that are the signature of the work and the heart of the opening movement. (Don't know how I'd manage to miss it before, since Pyotr Ilyich flags up just how clever he's been by giving us the opening chords again at the climax of the finale, and then gradually building the tempo until the music has been transformed into the fast theme again for the rush to the finish line.)

The second half left a little to be desired... John Taverner's Kalaidescopes was a nice idea - lots of contrasting bits presented by strings sitting in a circle round a solo oboe - but it went on far too long (the umpteenth recurrence of even the 'nice' bits grated somewhat). Watching Nicholas Daniel kept me from getting bored - he managed to get through three handkerchiefs in the course of his seriously virtuosic aerobics - but Kate was less impressed. Based on the conversations of those flowing past us as we unlocked our bikes outside, I would say that we weren't alone in that!