Thursday 11 November 2010
Elgar's great cadenza - and another kind of fall
It really ought to be Elgar's 'For the fallen' from The Spirit of England on 11 November - by no means saturated in the callow nationalism the title might suggest, by the way. But since yesterday was the centenary of the first performance of Elgar's Violin Concerto on 10 November 1910, with the composer conducting and Fritz Kreisler proudly upholding the work as equal to the Brahms and Beethoven examples, it seemed appropriate to feature that most poetic of all cadenzas (ignor '4th mvt' above - it's simply the fourth instalment). And of course it's deeply elegiac - one hesitates to say prophetic, because nostalgic elegy and a sense of loss were always Elgar's most profound stamping ground.
The celebrated meeting of young Menuhin and old Sir Edward in 1932 is unique in recorded history, of course (if pushed to choose one version, though, I'd go for Nigel Kennedy's first recording with Vernon Handley; and the live performance that moved me most was the partnership of James Ehnes and Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Philharmonia. It's a piece that either works totally or not at all, and the emotion that evening was there from the first bars). Last night, however, the dazzling Nikolai Znaider played the work with the violin on which Kreisler gave the premiere.
Was I there at the Barbican? No. In fact I'd cancelled for a number of reasons, but I wouldn't have made it. At just before 5pm I was whizzing down a cycle lane south of Blackfriars Bridge when I bashed into an iron post. I just hadn't seen it in the still-unexpected dark of late afternoon, and I was in a hurry. Result: smashed specs, dodgy leg, black eye and concussion with the concurrent nausea and vomiting. If you were superstitious, like the resident astrologer here, you might say it was in the stars, and certainly yesterday was quite a turbulent one, what with the student riots turning nasty at Millbank and several other casualties I've since heard of.
Anyway, the nice doctor in St Thomas's A&E told me I should just rest for 24 hours, and then I'd be more or less OK, except for the unsightliness. But his first question was 'where's your helmet?' And I had to say that I've long stopped wearing it because it makes my head sweat and I always feel queasy as a result. Well, better queasy than dead or brain-damaged, fortunately not on the cards this time. But I do now say: without this
(not my own, which I gave away), this
or worse. It was a bit mortifying to be bracketed with all the Boris Bike virgins who topple off and arrive at St Thomas's in droves. But, yes, I will wear a helmet in future. And this little image on Wikimedia Commons, sweet as it is, has the proviso that you can fiddle with it if you want 'but please don't add a helmet'. Please do.