Friday, 28 November 2008


That’s the only word to describe the devastatingly simple end of Vaughan Williams’s Riders to the Sea, as Synge’s archetypal matron of loss Maurya finally takes on board the deaths of her six sons by naming them – ‘no man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied’ – and the hungry, unquiet sea roars against her last, becalmed major chords of acceptance: nature versus man in a final unanswered question.

Planned as the culmination of one intense hour in English National Opera's most unorthodox offering of the year, this took on the aspect of a perfect, calm memorial to Richard Hickox, who was due to conduct it (Edward Gardner did so, with tact and sensitivity). How Patricia Bardon, pictured above by Clive Barda with Leigh Melrose as the drowned Bartley and Kate Valentine as Cathleen, got through those lines without any break in the assured legato I don’t know, but this was a quietly authoritative performance from our finest contralto. Here she is again, very much centre stage.

What I hadn’t bargained for – I guess I should have read the papers, but I’m glad I hadn’t – was Fiona Shaw’s inspired prefacing of Riders with Sibelius’s Kalevala creation myth Luonnotar.

Suspended aloft in a long boat, as if viewed from above, the equally glorious Susan Gritton gave a no less searing interpretation as the air-spirit ocean-bound for seven centuries before her accidental act of creation. Her ideal lyric soprano now reaches out to a surprising richness, the taxing high laments pouring over us without the slightest hint of strain (there’s even a little in Soile Isokoski’s much-touted, BBC Music Magazine award-winning recording).

Birth, death, rebirth in aqueousness formed the cord between the two pieces, with minimal mood-music from John Woolrich, recorded snatches of Aran island song and the ongoing surge of Dorothy Cross’s superb video work. Sibelius's eight minutes of eternity are, for me, only mirrored in mastery by the end of VW's very internal opera, and the temperatures plummeted for much of it: the interest is in the mostly slate-grey orchestra, not – at least until the end – in the ungainly setting of Synge’s realistic dialogue. But you couldn’t fault Maurya’s daughters as sung by Kate Valentine and Claire Booth, and if Shaw’s staging asked for more febrile movement than the score implies, the bright rectangle of action flanked by cliffs and turbulent sea-pictures kept its focus. And it was totally satisfying to return full circle to the elemental rocking of Sibelius’s nature-mother, reappearing among the rocks in her pregnant state (though perhaps she should have walked calmly down centre stage, like the Lady from the Sea) while upside-down coffin-boats descended from the sky during Vaughan Williams’s epiphany.

PS - Just had an e-exchange with Ed Seckerson; we echo each other, though I guess he's happier with the whole of the VW as a work than I am. You can see Ed’s five-star Independent review here (for once they've pulled the stops out to get something in the paper double-quick; after all, there are only two performances left). As he added in our quick correspondence, 'where else in the world would you see an evening like this? We are lucky.' We are indeed.


Geo. said...

I'm guessing you've seen other reviews of the production, like Erica Jeal's and Nick Kimberley's. I'm sure other reviews will appear soon. Had I been on the other side of the pond this past week, I should like to have seen this production.

I only saw Hickox conduct once live. While I wouldn't call him the most "profound" conductor in that one appearance, or from his recordings, he got the job done and on record at least, championed a lot of repertoire that no one else would do. The orchestra seemed happy with him, giving him the appreciative seated shuffling of feet and not standing at one point.

David said...

No, I haven't seen those, George, but I tend to stick to a handful of reliables, or should I say critics whose style I like even if I know we won't always agree.

Richard Morrison, for instance. I think he's sound on the new music hype, but in this instance I was flabbergasted to see that he belittled the Sibelius strand which I thought so essential to making the evening work. Indeed, as the finer and more universally resonant score, Luonnotar made sure we didn't switch off too much in the meandering bits of the Vaughan Williams and had promise of the fine end to come.

Thanks for the links, but in this instance I won't look at those. You can also be sure that if certain Guardian or Telegraph critics crop up (not Tim Ashley nor Rupert Christiansen, both of whom I respect), I'll only get in a lather at how kneejerky/lazy they are. I'd normally recommend
for the editor's and sub-editor's balanced views, but in this instance the guy they used also got it completely wrong as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway I guess you saw the fuller Hickox appraisal a couple of entries down.

Anonymous said...

That was indeed a fascinating feature on the Sibelius _Sixth_, and I now would not mind hearing the work in its entirety, though I may well forget to listen to the Jarvi performance tomorrow on _Classical_ _Collection_. From a quirky personal standpoint, that recording would also appeal since it does not contain anything else I already have! I discussed the symphony with a Sibelian who used to work at our local Tower Records and now works at Borders, and he said substantially what you did, that it, overall, is on the serene side. Sir Colin is _HIS_ hero, and, while neither of his three performances won out in the end for you, I hope he would be pleased that they came close, notably the last two. As often happens of late in situations such as this, I only wish I could have followed with a score, though you were rather detailed as to the tempo markings at least. Yet, though you did not specifically say so as far as I can recall, you seemed to imply that there are no metronome markings. Yet, as is pointed out in the late Mr. Norman Del Mar's _Conducting_ _Elgar_ by his son, such markings, even when suggested by a conductor in writing, can be overridden in performance, obviously as required by the acoustics when applicable. It seemed, from what you said, that Sibelius had some definite ideas as to how the symphony should go, and yet one wonders, as I am increasingly doing these days, how many liberties, if any, he was prepared to tolerate, even embrace, along with other musical giants. Strange to tell, it appears that Elgar, one of the most scrupulous markers from what I gather and a man with a strong temper, was prepared to allow for differing views, he having been quoted in _The_ _Cambridge_ _Companion_ _To_ _Elgar_ as asserting something on the order of "Mr. Barbirolli will have ideas of his own." I have been after the musician in our building who helps me with certain mundane tasks to borrow for me, from George Washington University where he teaches, Mr. Raymond Monk's _Elgar_ _Studies_, in which there is a paper by Mr. Michael Kennedy on this very subject. VW may have been even more open to differences, there being ranges of metronome markings and alternative scorings in his scores, and Sir Adrian places Holst in that group as well. I realize we have wandered somewhat away from Sibelius, but your comments brought this possibly-quirky tack of mine to the fore as it were. Unless I buy it locally at a higher price, I may not have this recording in time for Sibelius's birthday in just over a week, but I am thinking about it. Something else which interested me was your reference to modality, which could also be found in other Sibelius symphonies? I am trying to think of another composer who uses his winds as Sibelius does, each pair of instruments often functioning somewhat, if not entirely, on its own, and it can be quite interesting/effective. Yet, going back to his earlier work, e.g., _Finlandia_ and the _Second_ _Symphony_, am I off the wall in thinking that the opening of Brahms's _First_ _Piano_ _Concerto_ is a fine anticipation of early Sibelius? And, as per that evening you recently had, and as I wrote to two others earlier this morning, I hope somehow that this double-bill of sorts will be later broadcast so that I might hear it, notably my heroine's _Luonnotar_, though I would like to hear the opera as well, and notably Miss Bardon.

I find that I have, in fact, heard of two of the other singers in this _Salome_, Mr. Graham-Hall and Miss Burgess, and have the latter in at least a few other recordings. I seem to somehow have the idea that Herod is a signature role of his.

I should, in fact, that is if I do not forget, be able to listen to your _Discovering_ _Music_ feature on the Prokofiev _Fifth_ via Listen Again since it will be all of a piece, and thus there would be no need for player controls.

Pleased, it would appear, that this finds you well, and with many renewed thanks and best wishes,

David said...

Well, JV, inevitably Sibelius started out under the shadow of Brahms and Wagner, though he quickly decided to do otherwise. Kullervo, of course, is a Finnish Siegfried, perhaps even unluckier in his fate.

Not sure yet when the Discovering Music is scheduled. We record in Maida Vale on Wednesday, though it will be subsequently edited. It's a daunting thought to have a full orchestra, conducted by as accomplished a talker as David Robertson. We'll see.

BW, David

Anonymous said...

That is an interesting perspective to put on it, though, of course, often applicable to other composers, Sibelius looking back on Brahms instead of the other way. Yet the opening of that Brahms concerto seems unlike anything else he wrote, and it still reminds me more of the comparatively-little Sibelius I know than Brahms!

I do not yet know _Kullervo_, though I certainly know _OF_ it, and know that it is an early work, even coming before the _First_ _Symphony_ if I am not mistaken. Though VW certainly wrote some significant music prior to _A_ _Sea_ _Symphony_, I expect we can say, to at least a degree, that both of these composers started out on a grand scale, going on to include Schoenberg's _Gurrelieder_ as another example and even, though most Mahler as grandiose, his _Das_ _Klagende_ Lied_. And, if one wanted to be maverick, and though I do not yet know this work either, we could also add Brian's _Gothic_ _Symphony_.

David said...

Interesting, isn't it, that a lot of those turn-of-the-century geniuses went for large-scale adventure as a first big statement.

I seem to remember Klagende Lied, which is as much archetypal Mahler as Kullervo is quintessential Sibelius when it's not Brucknerian or even Brahmsian, has six harps and of course a very skewed offstage band.

The other examples you cite are all intriguing, too.

Another connection I'd make is between early Sibelius and Janacek - certainly true of 'Kullervo and his Sister', the best movement. It may have something to do with the singularity of both Czech and Finnish.

Geo. said...

Well, fair enough on your preferences in other critics. I guess I get a kick of digging up all the opinions of the UK press for events like that ENO production, from a distance. Here in the US, in any given city, arts and musical coverage in the papers is minimal at best, the grand exception to that being NYC, and even there only the New York Times has multiple staff to cover what events they can there. In just about any other US city, they're lucky if one critic is there to cover classical music. The trend of late has been that whenever the newspaper bean-counters look to cut costs, the arts are usually the first to get hit.

FWIW, both Jeal and Kimberley wrote approvingly of the twinning of the Sibelius to the VW. I did find the various long appreciations of Hickox in The Guardian and other papers.

JVaughan said...

First of all, thank you _VERY_ much for making it procedurally possible for me to directly comment here again!

Do I safely assume that, as a hopefully-careful re-reading strongly suggests, your reference to six harps and a skewed offstage band refers to Mahler, not Sibelius, since, of course, he frequently used the latter at least?

It is my current understanding that Janacek's unique voice really first manifests itself in _Jenufa_, or is that just when really-mature Janacek begins? I must confess to not even knowing of that early Janacek work to which you referred.

By the bye, do you share my enthusiasm for Sir Charles's OIE _Makropoulos_, and for Miss Barker's portrayal of the principal character therein? Someone else with whom I correspond does not think she has the maturity of a Sodestrom, but, though I only have played the famous Czech-language version with her as Amelia to a limited degree, I would personally give the prize to Miss Barker at the moment, and would credit this recording with making me interested in this opera! If only Maestro Rizzi had not reputedly opted for revised orchestration in parts, if not all, of his fairly-recent OIE Katya since this is logically the next Janacek opera to which to proceed. And if only the RAM's English version of the _Vixen_ had not been recorded so "off mike," thus making even the English difficult to understand. Yet there is an OIE version with Sir Simon, and, while I would prefer to have our hero conducting, I must not rule out investigating this, notably if he uses a score faithful to the composer's best intentions.

Begging your pardon for re-asking this if you do not mind, but what do we know about the voice of Mr. John Coates, Elgar's preferred Gerontius? Was he a Tristan-like heldentenor?

From what I am reading, I am gathering that you, like your fellow Blogger, Pliable, are quite the photographer!

Finally for now, referring to something you told me off the record, I was unaware that Maestro Jarvi had conducted _A_ _Sea_ _Symphony_.

J. V.

David said...

First, you're right, George - we should be jolly grateful for the coverage we have here, though it seems to be shrinking fast. Arts editors believe that concerts are over the day they're performed, and so those reviews get shunted to the bottom of the pile.

And yes, JV, I certainly reeled at the Barker/Mackerras Makropoulos at the ENO, though I've only dipped into the final scene of the recording. I thought Barker's Salome and Suor Angelica were star-quality, and much as I admire Bullock, I do think Barker would have been better for the Chandos recording.

JVaughan said...

What about _The_ _Washington_ _Post_? My Google Alerts sometimes link me to arts-related stories, and, if I am not mistaken, their fine Chief Critic, Mr. Tim Page, still does concert/opera reviews. Yet, since I do not read the papers myself apart from what I am referred to by these Alerts, I cannot be absolutely certain about these things, though I could ask a prominent area musician who lives in my building and _DOES_ read, occasionally at least.

I had not considered that point, but, now having done so, you may well have hit the mark by saying that Miss Barker might have been better for the recording of _Salome_! She also seems well thought-of in her Native Australia. I must re-acquaint myself with her top which I do not think wobbles as much as much as Miss Bullock's, and her lower register is _DEFINITELY_ stronger unless I am _REALLY_ missing something!

J. V.

p.s. I must apologize for the repetition of "as much" in the above.

David said...

It's just a younger-sounding voice. And for me she even pressed the Callas button in her Suor Angelica. Some searing moments from Emilia Marty, too: we usually hear a, shall we say, senior lady playing this 337-year old - Anja Silja, Soderstrom, Barstow - so her view of it was refreshing and, yes, it was exciting to hear the top gleam.

Maybe Bullock searches more into the text. I do like her integrity, and her recital disc, despite the weird acoustic, is wonderful.

As for six harps and offstage bands, yes, Klagende Lied (I guess the sextet is optional as it is in Rheingold).

Geo. said...

Hmm, sorry about the shrinking arts coverage there as well. The thing is that, by default, all news in a newspaper is "yesterday's news", which includes concerts.

For JV: Tim Page no longer works at the Washington Post. He took a buyout package and now teaches in Southern California. However, the WaPo, to its credit, did hire a new classical critic, Anne Midgette, formerly of the New York Times. In fact, I think she said at one point that the future of music criticism was blogs.

David said...

I know, George, I know. But when I worked on the Guardian, the attitude was that operas and plays would still be running by the time the review appeared, whereas concerts had gone. The argument that this would be the only documentation of an event for posterity never seemed to be taken on board.

Don't get me started on newspapers and arts editors...I did love my year-long stint on the Sunday Correspondent, which fell after a year in the middle of the last recession. They were fun, civilized people there and I had good contact with my arts editor, Chris Peachment. I can't say that I've had anything like the same experience before or since.

Music is always the 'art' to suffer. You know John Adams's remark about his cultured neighbours in SF? They went to see the latest films, exhibitions and plays, read the latest novels, but they had no idea who he was...

David said...

Oh, and I should qualify that when I say 'I haven't had the same experience before or since', that applies exclusively to newspapers. I have excellent dealings with all other editors on the monthlies, the concert programmes and the radio (where I take my hat off to them all for staying so human with the increased workload they all have to deal with).

JVaughan said...

That is the point, is it not, this 337-year-old woman remaining ever young, and, of course, she is a singer on top of all that, and who would want to hear an old hag in anything but old-hag roles?! I have known Miss Silja's name for many years, but confess to having heard, at best, only bits and pieces of her artistry. From what I read, she can be rather strident.

To my shame, I had not stopped to consider that there might be as many as six harps in _RRheingold_! Although the Krauss/Bayreuth _Ring_ which I have is, of course, in monaural, I do have two stereo recordings of the "Entrance of the Gods," and thus it might be instructive to listen to them with an even-more-fined-tuned ear!

Speaking of people not recognizing composers, I once heard a story, told by Copland himself if I recall aright, in which he spotted someone in an airport with a book or a score of his, and, though he may not have often done this, approached and offered to autograph it for him. Yet, if I have this right, the man receiving this gift mistook him for someone else.

The man in my building indeed confirmed yesterday that Mr. Page had moved on to the West Coast and had been replaced. It is obviously good that he was replaced when he left since, as I _STRONGLY_ guess you know, this area is among the strongest for the arts in the entire country, what with the Kennedy Center, The National Symphony and Washington National Opera, numerous choruses, etc., etc.! And, of interest to me personally, we have some of the finest military/symphonic bands you would like to hear if you enjoy such music, notably my personal favourite, "The President's Own" United States Marine Band! I have been following them much of the time since this month in 1960! We hopefully learn valuable information from critics in the past, so why should not our posterity not wish to do the same!

J. V.

p.s. And I meant to say "Why should our posterity not, etc."

David said...

Gosh, JV, you have eclectic tastes. Mine don't stretch to military band music, I'm afraid - bad memories of being dragged to the Royal Tournament and my stepfather's Royal Marines LP collection. We didn't have a lot in common...

I do reel at the virtuosity of the Black Dyke and Grimethorpe Colliery lot, though: where does all that incredible talent come from? And of course it's very movingly tied up with the personal tragedies of our northerners.

Silja, for all her wildness or perhaps because of it, is a goddess for me, and I count her Kostelnicka as one of the half-dozen truly great performances I've ever seen. Watch the Glyndebourne Jenufa on DVD and tell me what you think. This has to be the first port of call for any theatre-lover who wants to get in to opera. Her Marty is unmissable, too; we just got different qualities from Barker. A delightful woman to interview, too; not cuddly, but impressive and honest. I fear she'll be wasted a bit on the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, opening soon at the Royal Opera House.

JVaughan said...

Our area military bandsmen and women are all top-notch professionals, whereas it is my understanding that those Northern brass bands of yours are made up of the actual mine workers.

I fear the only thing I would be capable of doing as per that Glyndebourne _Jenufa_ is to listen to it. Do you like Dame Josephine's rather-terrifying Kostelnicka?

Did you interview Miss Silja or Miss Barker, thus also telling me which of them you feel will be wasted on the Witch in _Hansel_?

Hoping I am not repeating something I may have asked when I first visited here, do you share another passion of mine, Handel? I have a particcular interest in the oratorios and in performance practice associated with them, continuo practice being a current sort of obsession for me. I think current performance generally use the organ as a harmonizing instrument more than it seems Handel did, and it would appear that he had almost entirely abbandoned all these trendy theorbos and the like by the 1740's, though we do believe he used them in his operas and early oratorios.

J. V.

p.s. "Current performers," not "Current performance."

David said...

Whoops - that was unintentionally tactless of me. How much we take for granted.

Sorry - Silja was the interviewee, not Barker.

I'm a fairweather Handelian - ie when I think it will be done to my liking, I'll go. But I thought I'd had it with Handel stagings until I sat enthralled through the ENO Agrippina. I really ought to have made the recent Partenope but somehow didn't feel propelled enough - despite an excellent cast including Rosie Joshua and Pat Bardon.

Still, one of my desert island tracks of all time, as I wrote in Jan, is Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's recital performance with Roger Vignoles, of 'As with rosy steps' from Theodora.

JVaughan said...

I have been _MOST_ impressed with what little I have heard thus far of a singer in that _Agrippina_, Miss Lucy Crowe, and she may well become another special favourite! Although I have not bought it, she is in a new recording of _Parnasso_ _In_ _Festa_, which uses much of the music Handel wrote for _Athalia_. I like Miss Joshua reasonably well in the Chandos _Semele_, but wish they had not had to use all those theorbos, as well as the presumably-_COMPLETELY_-inauthentic Baroque guitar! Yet it is the only complete recording we have of this work on period instruments and in a version Handel actually performed, and thus we must live with it for now, faults and virtues together. _PLEASE_, where is a _REALLY_-first-class _Samson_, though the virtually-complete Christophers version is not without its virtues?

The late Mrs. Hunt-Lieberson was a _SUPERB_ singer, and I have her in a complete Theodora, though as the title character, not as Irene, who sings "As With Rosy Step," possibly my favourite air from this oratorio. My favourite _Theodora_ is the McCreesh, though La Gritton may have sung more memorably elsewhere. Yet it gets the musicology basically, if not entirely, right for me, and thus, though it may not be as exciting as his _Solomon_ or even his _Saul_, it still must win out for me. And, given what is coming up for Jewry later this month, we could also use a new _Judas_ _Maccabaeus_, the 1976 Mackerras now sounding a bit oout of date despite Dame Janet's _RAVISHING_ "Father Of Heaven."

J. V.

p.s. I went a bit overboard on the theorbo in the Chandos _Semele_ since I think there was only one, though still one too many in my opinion.
If I am not mistaken, that Hunt-Lieberson "As With Rosy Step" which you like so much was performed in the Wigmore Hall.
I have not heard it.

David said...

The only Samson I have is Leppard's with Baker - you may find it rather old-fashioned.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's Wigmore Hall recital is available on the hall's own label, through Amazon thus:

The Mahler on the disc, too, is absolutely out of this world. What a great singer she was. I must get hold of her Britten Phaedra.

Lucy Crowe is doing very well - I think she's down for Sophie when ENO revive their Rosenkavalier.

JVaughan said...

I still have my LP copy of the Leppard _Samson_, and it served me reasonably well until the Christophers came along. Yet it contains some _WONDERFUL_ things, notably that repetitive "faith and truth " sequence in Act II. These performers somehow make one glad that not a note of it was cut! And yet the choruses, though some of them are beautiful, can be dull as well, notably the final one. Yet further,
Maestro Leppard indulges in what I find to be that _MOST_-annoying habit of slackening the tempo for the B Section of "Let The Bright Seraphim," doing so making the colatura sound laboured in my opinion. In the Christophers, _THANK_ _GOD_ if appropriate, he and Miss Dawson keep things pretty much in tempo, only relaxing the tension marginally without sacrificing momentum! And the performance is more complete than Leppard, restoring some recitative in Act III which was cut from the earlier recording but included in the even-older Richter. Another joy from the Leppard, though his characteristic wobble at the top make the runs less than clean at times, is Mr. Langridge's _UTTERLY_-infectious "Loud As The Thunder's Awful Voice," not matched for me by Mr. Padmore on Christophers. And both performances over-indulge in the organ for my taste, and the Christophers includes at least one lutelike instrument. Yet, in Dalilah's "With Plaintive Notes" in Act III, the lute stop on the harpsichord is used in the A Section, the actual one being reserved for the B. Since there often _IS_ such a stop, why not use it for lute effects in post-1740 oratorios, thus saving at least a little money?! The solo violin and pizzicato basses in that same air also sound wrong to me, and thus I perhaps I should eventually check with Professor Donald Burrows, who has made a scholarly edition of the work, to find out if there is any Handelian authority for this.

I am told that Mrs. Hunt-Lieberson could not only provide an earful, but was an eyefull as well (I fear I might have left out the final l in "earfull)! I probably should eventually get to that Wigmore-Hall recital, but there is always _SO_ much music to which to get, and I have just spent much on computer maintenance.

If speculation about Miss Gritton taking on the Marschallin proves true, it would be nice if we could hear her doing so to Miss Crowe's Sophie! So who would you want as Oktavian?

J. V.
p.s. I trust you knew I was speaking of "coloratura," not "colatura!" Yet further, as hopefully you also know, "With Plaintive Notes" is in Act II, not Act III! There regretably was also another untidy spot.
And there is at least one cut in the "faith and truth" sequence in Christophers, though _MAYBE_ there is Handelian authority for this.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

I wonder if that former Sophie Sue Gritton is quite up to the elegant beauty of the Marschallin? Mind you, Janice Watson wasn't, and yet she turned in a very lovely, feminine performance in her second ENO Rosenkav.

Octavian? Alice Coote, no question. Her Hansel in the Met Humperdinck is the boyest boy you ever did see. And no hint of lesbian overtones.

Apologies for the above cancellation. It's the only way to edit, apparently.

JVaughan said...

Miss Watson's voice does not really excite me, but she seems to have sensitivity and musicianship.

As hopefully I told you previously, I began admiring Miss Coote when she was a New Generation Artist back in 2003, and also rather liked her as Handel's _Orlando_ in a privately-burned copy of that broadcast. I had heard little to nothing of her for some time until this new _Gerontius_ came, and I find her quite feminine in it. Yet that Orlando would tend to add support to your view of her as Hansel, though I hardly listen to the Met broadcasts these days (is there to be a broadcast, say, around CChristmas, and, if so, is she to be in it?). If La Gritton _DOES_ take on the Marschallin, _THAT_ is one trio I would _MOST_ wish to hear should they be gotten together! It could be, at _VERY_ least, the best trio of female singers to come my way since Mr. McCreesh's recording of Gluck's _Paride_ _Ed_ _Elena_, where we have Miss Gritton, Miss Kozena and Miss Sampson.

I was hoping to listen again to at least part of your Sibelius feature, but, at the moment, I cannot get even the standard IPlayer to work, and I also get an error message, _QUITE_ frequent these days, when I try to listen in Text-Only Mode where, if I wish, I may listen with stand-alone Real Player, which would allow me to rewind and fast-forward in ten-second increments, something which one cannot do in the regular IPlayer without using a mouse. Yet me not being now able to listen at all _COULD_ _POSSIBLY_ have something to do with me unintentionally having two firewalls running at the same time, this pperhaps also impacting on my sluggish start-ups. I have requested volunteer assistance from an area agency, and, if and when such comes, I mean to have my McAfee re-installed, with only the anti-virus tool enabled, my anti-spyware protection now coming from elsewhere. I also find McAfee's anti-spam tool _MOST_ annoying since it tends to find messages that are _NOT_ spam, send them to their folder for such in my E-Mail client, and thus disrupt to a degree my ability to get around in that client until I deal with said message(s). This had all been done a few weeks ago by someone, but some malware forced me to do a System Restore, which undid all he had done. So it must be done all over.

J. V.

JVaughan said...

I forgot to say, for what it is worth, that I took out your book on Elgar again yesterday, put it on my scanner, and, in its early chapters, was reminded again of how attitudes toward another Alice, Lady Elgar, have changed in recent years. At present, yours is the earliest book of which I know to adopt a more-unflattering attitude toward her than used to be the norm, Mr. Kennedy _REALLY_ changing his tune in his subsequent _The_ _Life_ _Of_ _Elgar_. And both you and he, possibly to varying degrees, point out the repression which their daughter reputedly suffered. I have not read Dr. Young's book about her, so do not know if this shift began there. Yet that book is cited in previous writings, including the Third Edition of _Portrait_ _Of_ _Elgar_, so either the authors ignored what was being said, or later evidence has come to light to bring about this change in attitude. I did not get far enough in Dr. Moore's large book to find out what his position is.

I tend to share Mr. Kennedy's, and, it would apper, your, view that _Caractacus_ may be the greatest of Elgar's pre-_Gerontius_ choral works, but my personal favourite is _Light_ _Of_ _Life_, though doubtless some of that admittedly stems from my conservative religious views, and it was the first of these works, I think, which I came to know. Yet there does seem to be some _REAL_ Elgar in it (I am thinking at the moment of passages in "Light Out Of Darkness," though there are others).

J. V.
p.s. I must have also overlooked your wish to hear Mrs. Hunt-Lieberson's recording of Britten's _Phaedra_. I recently acquired Dame Janet's, coupled with _The_ _Rape_ _Of_ _Lucretia_, but have also not heard this later version. I have not yet spent enough time with this piece to really know whether or not I like it.

David said...

Phaedra is stupendous, JV - shattering, exhausting, only a performance of total commitment can do it justice. So I was glad that Sarah Connolly, usually a rather reserved singer, let rip when she performed it with the BBCSO last year.

Of course, I adore the Dame Granite version - but I know there are those who can't bear her.

Sorry to hear of your troubles with accessing. As my computer goes into tailspin, I well understand the stresses of feeling 'under fire' from technology.

Minnie said...

Hoorayhoorayhooray, oh joy, have finally found your VW 'Riders to the Sea' review. Definitely worth the wait, although made me long to have been there (a true existential absurdity if ever there was one!).
Would also love to have seen the Dorothy Cross video, as am intrigued by her and her work: another artist (like Hambling) who lives & breathes the sea/the shore.
To return to 'RttS', have only heard concert version @ Proms '08 prior to skipping the country. One of these days, I hope to see it performed.
Merci encore for further enlightenment, David.