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WEBLOG- Robert Hugill

Wednesday 5th October

Iíve made a good start on the Robert King set of Vivaldiís sacred music, but I am alternating between amazement at Vivaldiís fertility and a sneaking suspicion that he just wrote repeats of the famous Gloria with variations. As an interlude we watched the DVD of Handelís Rodelinda in the production from Glyndebourne. Iíd seen the touring production (with Emma Bell and Robin Blaze) so this televisation of the original production and cast (Anna Caterina Antonacci and Andreas Scholl) came as no surprise. What amazed me was how less bad-tempered I was about the production viewing the DVD than when Iíd seen it live. review

Another interlude has been the Georgian Journey, a fascinating 2 disc set of music from Georgia covering both traditional sacred music and secular, folk music. I received the disc by accident, I misread Georgian Journey for Gregorian Journey and was expecting a disc of Gregorian chant. But we put it on in the car and both of us fell in love with it. Georgian music is polyphonic, possibly the oldest polyphonic folk tradition in the world and the sound world is that early chant combined with the vigour and directness of folk-delivery. review

Wednesday 19th October

Vivaldi has not been going quite as fast as I would like, Iím on disc 10 of 11 so reaching the end. Iím now at the point where I begin to run out of adjectives, especially on a set like Robert Kingís where there is not much really to complain about. No doubt when David eventually gets to proof read the article heíll be complaining about the frequent repetitions of my small stock of superlatives.

Iíve been typing up the contents as I go along as this is something I truly hate. My proof reading skills are minimal, so there is plenty of scope for error as you type in all the Latin titles and try to coordinate a cast of some two dozen soloists. Still, the reviewís not worth much if the reader does not have full information about the discs.

Monday 24th October

Vivaldi is done and dusted, my only worry is that it comes over as a long list rather than a coherent piece of writing, but with so many items its tricky to do otherwise.review I can now get down to writing the Emma Bell review, weíve been listening to her Handel disc at home whilst cooking so I think Iíve got to grips with it. My main complaint is that the recording does not seem to do her voice justice. Perhaps sheís not a recording voice, some people do seem to be better heard live than on disc. Still, it is lovely to hear richer, more vibrant voices singing Handel nowadays; after all he wrote for the greatest voices of his age and though style has changed, the basic vocal equipment hasnít. review

Monday 31st October

A little revelation over the last few days, Thomas Hampsonís new disc of orphan arias by Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. At this stage in his career, with some pretty big roles behind him, it is fabulous that he is in such good vocal health in this repertoire. You canít get away with things in classical era music, especially when you are accompanied by Concentus Musikus Wien rather than a well upholstered symphony orchestra; itís a credit to Hampson that he does seem to need to try and get away with anything. review

Wednesday 2nd November

And now for something completely different, the last of my batch of Milken Archive recordings of Jewish music.

The cantor on this one, Simon Spiro, sang the lead in Phantom of the Opera in the Far East and represented England in a song for Europe besides being Cantor at the St. Johnís Wood Synagogue and singing with Cliff Richard, Johnny Mathis and Kenny Rogers. Quite a remarkably varied background. review

Friday 4th November

A reissue of Emma Kirkbyís disc of Handelís Italian cantatas; amazingly this disc was issued over 20 years ago. It is quite remarkable how some artists manage to combine longevity and consistency; perhaps it has something to with having a clear idea of what does and does not suit your voice. Kirkby has generally stayed firmly within her fach, something that can require strong mindedness and discipline; the result is evident in her voice today. Not that Kirkbyís fach is as limited; besides encompassing centuries of Western music (from Renaissance to Classical) she has occasionally done more contemporary pieces. review

Wednesday 9th November

Just putting the finishing touches to a review of Bluebeardís Castle from the BBC Proms; whatever you think about the detail of the performance I cannot help but be impressed at the way more of these performances are being made available on discs. A curious detail of this performance came to light when I was digging out the original reviews of the performance (it helps to work for a newspaper company with a large electronic library of newspaper articles). Soprano Jeanne Michelle Charbonnet was a last minute replacement as Judith, which perhaps helps to explain why we have a dramatic soprano rather than the usual mezzo-soprano. But the liner notes say nothing of this; does it matter I wonder? review

Friday 11th November

Starting on the Fonit-Cetra recording of La Traviata with Callas; what do you find to say that hasnít been said before, Callas being one of those singers who tend to polarise people, most either love her or hate her. I can remember in the old days of Record Review on Radio 3, there were certain critics who could always be guaranteed to bring a record of Callasís out on top, no matter what the opposition. review

Tuesday 22nd November

A bit of a personal hiatus but Iím just finishing Glass Sky an interesting collection of new music for flute, strings and harp (including 1 piece for Japanese koto). Itís interesting to see how each of the composers deals with the problem that this combination (flute and strings) can sound very French. Some embrace it, some reject it by emphasising other cultures (Japanese, South African birdsong, American folk) and others embrace it but transform. review. Once Iíve got this done it is on to a disc of American light music

Friday 24th November

The American Light Music review is done and emailed off to Rob; I must confess that what struck me most was the remarkable consistency of style between the various different ensembles. review.

Monday 28th November

And now for Menuhinís 2nd recording of the Mendelssohn violin concerto. All musicians who come to success young have the problem that as they mature, they often want to re-record their repertoire in the light of their development as an artist. As a child prodigy who re-made his technique when he matured, Menuhin had the added problem that when recording as an adult he had his earliest recordings to fight against as well. That said, he had the luck to develop at a time when recording technology was developing fast, so that his first post-war recording of the Mendelssohn was streets ahead of his 1930s recording and when he came to record it a 3rd time he was able to do it in stereo for LP. Of course, as with any great artists there is no need to think of each recording being a replacement for the previous, simply a different view of the musical material.

Thursday 1st December

Iím in the embarrassing position of knowing Bo Holtenís work as a conductor far better than his oeuvre as a composer. The fact that he has composed a substantial body of music, particularly choral music seems to have passed me by. This is particularly embarrassing in that Holtenís style is fundamentally tonal and owes quite a lot to the sort of Renaissance polyphony that he works with as a conductor, which means that his general sound-world chimes in with my own preoccupations as a composer.

Tuesday 6th December 2005

Rather curiously The Tendírest Breast, a recital of English 20th century songs on texts by Women poets has a couple of interesting personal resonances. Roger Quilterís A song at parting sets a Christina Rossetti poem that I used in my song cycle Quickening. Itís always difficult to be objective about other peopleís settings of texts that you have used yourself, but I did not feel that Quilterís charming song explore all the depth present in Rossettiís poem. Also on the disc, Alastair King sets a poem by Katharine Raine, The Moment; Raineís poem has remarkable echoes of a poem by Sorley Maclean which Ronald Stevenson set in his song Shores. (Ronald set Macleanís own English version of the poem but I understand he subsequently re-worked the song to set Macleanís original Gaelic.) I do wonder what the link is between the poets?

Robert Hugill


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