2011 Threesomes

Thanks, again, to my blogging colleague Somewhere Boy for inspiring this meme. As he says in the preamble to his own post (I’ve also ‘borrowed’ his title), the meme is “a socially sanctioned excuse for theft”. It’s also the opportunity for a ramble before I have to get on with some reality tasks.

Top 3 concerts: 2011 was a busy year for me, as my new job as reviewer for Bachtrack.com enabled me to enjoy even more live music (a trend I hope to continue in 2012). Hard to select a ‘top three’ as I heard so much fine music in 2011, from an extraordinarily talented young cellist giving her first London recital at St John’s Smith Square to Marc-André Hamelin’s superb late-night Liszt Prom.

Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall. Truly a concert which took my breath away, especially his exhilarating performance of Boulez’s Piano Sonata No.2, a piece I did not know. In this concert, the last of Pollini’s 2011 residency at RFH, he demonstrated true virtuosity, in the very best sense of the word: a pianist who can tackle any repertoire with great skill, conviction, fidelity and flair. A very memorable and special event (review here).

Ian Bostridge at Wigmore Hall. I adore Ian Bostridge and have been known, in the past, to prostrate myself before him in my devotion (only to be hastily dragged away by a friend!). He has a beautiful voice, clear and pure, lacking  that heavy vibrato of old-school tenors, and is even able to make German sound attractive when sung. For two hours I sat in rapt adulation. And then went home and wrote this review.

Mahan Esfahani at Cadogan Hall. A double first for the Proms: the debut of young Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and the first ever solo harpsichord recital at the Proms. Esfahani brought the ‘Goldberg Variations’ to life in new, exciting and unexpected ways, and left the entire Cadogan Hall audience utterly spellbound by his performance (review here).

Top 3 books: I sort of ‘gave up’ reading during the second half of 2011, and temporarily left my bookclub (which I established in 2005) as I simply did not have time to read anything much as I was studying for my performance Diploma (anyone who thinks that is just “playing the piano” should come and see me for a fuller explanation!). It occurred to me, when I (previously a voracious reader) hadn’t actually opened a novel for about two months that reading is a little like piano practice: you need to do it regularly. Once in a routine, it is easy to read every day. Instead, I caught up with some reading during two holidays in France. In no particular order…..

The Hand that First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell. I loved O’Farrell’s first novel, After You’d Gone, and have enjoyed most of her subsequent books. This is her most recent, and as usual she cleverly interweaves several narratives, sensitively and evocatively. A moving and absorbing story of lives connected across the decades.

A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood. I read some Isherwood as a teenager and then forgot about him. Then I saw the film ‘A Single Man’ starring Colin Firth in a Tom Ford suit. The film was exquisite, the book even more so (of course). Beautifully observed, poignant, painful, funny, warm, and ultimately hopeful.

The Musicians’ Way – Gerald Klickstein. I’d been following the blog of the same title for some time before I purchased the book. It arrived at exactly the right time when I was fully immersed in my Diploma preparations. An excellent volume full of sound advice on how to practice effectively and deeply, preparation for performance, dealing with performance anxiety. A great handbook for musicians everywhere, professional and amateur, accessible and easy to absorb.

Top 3 CDs/Downloads: I rarely buy CDs these days, as I tend to download albums or single tracks from iTunes, or listen to things via Spotify where I “borrow” them before deciding if I’d like to own them.

LISZT Années de pèlerinage: Deuxième Année, Italie (complete). Première Année: Au la de Wallenstadt; Au bord d’une source. Troisième Année: Les Jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este • Christine Stevenson. One of many wonderful contributions to the Liszt bicentenary celebrations in 2011, this recording by pianist and fellow-blogger (Notes from a Pianist) contains much to delight the ears and mind. Christine spent 2011 playing and writing about Liszt’s music, and her deep involvement in his music, both physically and intellectually, is evident in her thoughtful and detailed reading of these works.

50 Words for Snow – Kate Bush. After years of waiting for a new album by Kate Bush, we get two in one year: Director’s Cut, a satisfying and enjoyable reworking of songs from her albums The Red Shoes and The Sensual World, and 50 Words for Snow, a completely new album, which proves that Kate has still ‘got it’, with her unerring ability to reinvent herself every time she releases a new album. In her early 50s now, her voice has mellowed, it’s rich and warm. Lyrically strong, musically inventive, nevermind that the ubiquitous Stephen Fry is on the title track – he’s a lot better than I feared, and I love the different words for snow (‘ankle breaker” being my favourite!).

Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

‘O Radiant Dawn’ from the Strathclyde Motets – James Macmillan. Discovered this very morning thanks to Radio Three’s Breakfast show. A piece of spine-tingling beauty and purity. I’m “borrowing” the entire album (performed by the matchless Sixteen with Harry Christophers) from Spotify so I can explore it further.

The Sixteen – Strathclyde Motets: O Radiant Dawn

3 blogs I follow. A bit nebulous and entirely subjective this category….and not music-related. Actually, I visit so many blogs that it’s impossible to select a “top 3”, so here are three of my favourites, for different reasons.

Betty Herbert. Betty blogs on sex and sex-related issues so this site is NSFW. She also blogs about trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, books, food, film, and invites guest posts or ‘Whispers’. Open, honest, funny, poignant, comforting, friendly, this is the blog equivalent of having coffee with your best girlfriend.

Cook Eat Live Vegetarian. I discovered this wonderful food blog by accident while searching for a recipe for Tikka Halloumi. If you thought vegetarian food was dull and tasteless, think again! Natalie’s recipes are imaginative and colourful, and are accompanied by the most gorgeous, mouth-watering photographs. She lives in Spain, the lucky girl!

The Kitten Covers. Sounds like a sex site? It’s not. It’s a joke. Silly and fun. Album sleeves reworked with cats and kittens. Love it.

2 Comments

  1. Lovely post, Fran – I’m intrigued by that MacMillan album too, having heard good things about it. Must investigate further.

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