Friday, 19 October 2007


To the Pushkin House, Bloomsbury Square, on Wednesday evening for the first of Rosamund Bartlett's lectures on Chekhov's short stories. She's an enthusiastic presenter, loves her subject, and had a raft of slides which made one want to go to Taganrog and Yalta. Lecture 1 was a general introduction, prefaced by a reading of 'A Little Joke' by a photographer friend. R was especially lively on Chekhov's punctuation, comparing his commas and sentence breakdown with the more effortful attempts of two translators (no, really, it was fascinating in practice). Future events feature the brothers Fiennes and Michael Pennington. The generous host, Maurice Pinto, treated us all to an Italian meal round the corner afterwards.

The Pushkin House is classily decorated and the lecture room is hung with pictures (it's a bit noisy, as the traffic roars along Bloomsbury Way). There's a comfortable library and the House has an amazing programme (all laid out on a handsome website - I don't know why it took RB's email to alert me to this treasurehouse. I'm in discussion with the director, Julian Gallant, about a Prokofiev series next year (there, at last my Main Man Sergey Sergeyevich gets a mention).

Last night was sheer pleasure with the Morley students focusing on Britten's Violin Concerto and Cello Symphony (blighted only by the usual debacle with the Morley sound equipment). Why is the Concerto not hailed as being up there with the Berg and Shostakovich 1? The way it opens up into symphonic dimensions in the last-movement Passacaglia is astounding. The Cello Symphony is harder work, so oblique and skeletal in its opening movement, but Britten wears his heart on his immaculately-crafted sleeve in the slow movement. The economy of means here reminds me of Sibelius 4.

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