Tuesday, 11 July 2017
Europe Day Concert CD: it's here
Delighted we are with it, too. Simon Weir, the producer at Classical Media, has done a grand job with sound that's very present - though it's odd to learn that St John's Smith Square has problems of dryness, since it never feels like that from where one's sitting. I think the small body of strings (188.8.131.52.2) mostly works in favour of the transparency I hear right from the start.
There's not much more to add to my report of the very rich and moving event, except to say that personal favourites remain the Martinů Ariane monologue, where you can really hear Nicola Said going for it (let's have another of Matt Smith's photos from the concert, below), true goosebump time, and the Sibelius Tempest numbers - I really don't know better performances of the movements in question on any other recordings, thanks partly to the exquisite wind playing and especially to Jonathan Bloxham's subtle work with clarinettists Joe Shiner and Greg Hearle in 'Song II', which may be my favourite minute of music ever.
Matt Kaner's new 'Brexit' piece Stranded still sounds fabulous, of course; I hope Matt and violinist Ben Baker can make good use of it. The biggest surprise was how totally gorgeous the Pearl Fishers Leila/Nadir duet comes across on the recording; it was good in performance, but I didn't realise how good. I repeat myself, but we're ready to see Jennifer Davis's Micaëla and Thomas Atkins' Don José right now (there they are on 9 May below, at the anxious stage of the duet). They're in the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance on Sunday along with the four others I heard at St Clement Danes - looking forward to that.
I actually took a week off from concert and opera going after the East Neuk Festival - 11 events in three and a bit days needed proper digestion, and hopefully the results on The Arts Desk, if necessarily a bit telegraphic in the overall 1500 words, do it justice. I did, though, catch a lunchtime event by serendipity. Joined our nearly nonagenarian friend Edward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to be there for him before and after an endoscopy.
At first I just sat in the waiting area - a pleasant space, like most in that admirably designed building - but started to fulminate at the telly: it was Trump's big-scare speech in Warsaw about defending white Western civilization, and the droning of platitudes became too much. I asked the nice receptionist if she knew when Edward would be out. '1.45' came the answer. So I popped out, bought a sandwich, came back and found a flute-and-piano recital in full swing in the ground floor atrium.
This was thanks to hospital charity CW+ and the Concordia Foundation: a concert every Thursday lunchtime. Good music, good art: this is a place that's a dream of what an NHS hospital can be like. My experiences there have all been good; a friend who was a cancer patient there had a less good time of it. Depends on the medical team in question, I guess. But anyway, the fascination of this event was watching all those who came, stayed, stood for a bit, danced around, walked past either with smiles on their faces and as if nothing was happening.
And the playing was top-notch: flautist Sophia Castillo and pianist Marie Otaka, both prizewinning student at the Royal College of Music. I caught the end of their selection from Bach's Second Orchestral Suite, a very evocative piece by Ian Clarke called Orange Dawn, a very surprising transcription of Lensky's Aria, the show-offy Monti Czardas, 'Morning' from Peer Gynt and an also surprising Carmen Fantasy put together by Francois Borne. It sent me back to the ward lighter of heart, even if I then had to sit for another hour with intermittent Sky highlights of that abysmal Trump speech.