Sunday, 31 May 2009
Claudio and the magnolias
There are two reasons to rejoice in Abbado’s long-awaited return to Milan, set down for June 2010 as outlined in this widely-circulated news item. The work he will conduct is to be Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, and in his honour the city is planting 90,000 magnolia trees (the one above frames not La Scala but the more graceful neoclassical façade of Kenwood).
Prima la musica: I only hope this doesn’t preclude Abbado conducting a ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ in Lucerne with the unsurpassable Festival Orchestra. This year the lakeside dream team is giving us the First and the Fourth – not quite enough to lure me out there again. Well, the Fourth would be, but I don’t want to hear it crowned by angular Magdalena Kozena’s childlike heaven. Memories of the Seventh several years back, and all those invigorating DVDs, will tide me over.
It was this release, along with a Debussy double, which first alerted me to the uniqueness of the LFO/Abbado 'love-in' (as Daniel Harding described it in our Lucerne interview), had me overdoing the superlatives for the BBC Music Magazine and led me to pack my bags for Lucerne. Not this year; Milan 2010 it will have to be, if at all possible.
Poi le magnolie: I gather from the rather vaguely worded news that the Milan trees were the Podesta’s idea, and that the environmentally friendly Abbado brought up the subject of magnolias. I don’t remember Italy as a land of magnolias, though Judas trees abound in town and country during the late Spring. And nothing becomes the Italian mountains so well as those beech forests, which make me dream of that haunting Calvino story Baron in the trees.
Ah, memories of the Maiella from this time last year – how I wish we were there again. I never heard whether the earthquake wrought any havoc that far from the Gran Sasso – I’m guessing they experienced tremors, no more.
Anyway, I must also confess I didn’t know magnolias were city-hardy trees, even though we have a good display of them in the posher bits of London – Hampstead and Chelsea – every spring. A few more would be a better option than Boris’s better-than-nothing aim for yet more boring but resilient London planes.
Our royal parks’ gardeners are getting a little more eco-friendly in their formal planting. On Thursday I cycled past a splendid display of foxgloves in Hyde Park, and the bees adore them.
One final shot from the same homeward journey, to see if Sophie’s dropping in. As she can’t open photo attachments in Mali – and maybe not in Casablanca where she is at the moment, helping Keita out with his treatment - I thought she might like to see that the great man she briefly had the right to call Hotel Djenne Djenno’s house photographer, Malick Sidibe, has an exhibition in Kensington’s HackelBury Gallery. The photo in the window, of a young Malian couple at a dance, lifts the spirits.