Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bach and Black Dogs

Today Daniel Hope's (for copyright reasons I changed a rather nice picture of him with Sting to this little one from his own website. It shows him listening to this CD - note what it does to his hair.) CD of Bach violin concertos appeared here in Tbilisi. Via amazon and DHL, of course - miracles don't yet happen. It contains the two solo violin concertos, the double violin concerto and the Brandenburg Concerto No 5, the one with the endless harpsichord solo. As my school teacher told us, it was the first concerto in which the harpsichord had a solo part, rather than scratching around in the background, or accompanying recitativos with POM pom. Do I like harpsichords? Do I like the sound of a bunch of keys being being dropped on the floor repeatedly? Next question.

This recording has been highly praised, and it is quite breathtaking. Bach is being taken at extremis here - the fast movements are belting along, the slow movements are taken very leisurely; some have quite a wistful quality. His approach to the rigid Bach rhythms (as the historically informed school might see it) is a bit idiosyncratic particularly in the slow movements, and actually quite romantic. The first movement of the E major concerto sounds like a bunny hopping out of its den (? what does a bunny live in?), hop - hop - hop, and then skedaddling along, sometimes with its friends, sometimes alone, sometimes jumping about on top of a hillock, sometimes joining its little friends gambolling along - but it is definitely leading them astray; oh my god, there it nearly died - but it was just teasing, and is off again with its friends - and that's all in the first movement. Overall his performance could be described as 'funky' and certainly as 'imaginative', and since the orchestra is the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, modern instruments are used. It is certainly a most interesting disk with lots of little surprises.

On the books front I finished Ian McEwan's book 'Black Dogs' very quickly; it is very readable. It describes an author's attempt to write his mother-in-law's biography. Not many men might wish to write their mother-in-law's biography, but in this case there are extenuating circumstances. In effect the story jumps about in different periods but does progress throughout the book, attaching itself to a number of historical events. Like McEwan's other book 'Saturday' which I read some time ago, the narrator is given to ruminating a lot, working out what other people might be doing, and why, and what they might be thinking. Fairly unputdownable because the story of the 'black dogs' is only revealed at the end.

Now, Amis' 'Time's Arrow' is still being read, it is very put-downable, but in the absence of TV one has to look at something else than a computer screen of an evening. One can get used to it, and then again a sequence appears totally back to front, but I don't think I'll be able to finish it before I need to return it to the British Council. Not a catastrophe!