Music

I was finishing off my weekend listening to Ton Koopman playing a couple of the old organs of Groinigan and Amsterdam and I remembered the strange sound of the organ in Embrun, which I heard last month.

Here's the Wikipedia article on the cathedral
    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cath%C3%A9drale_Notre-Dame_d'Embrun

And an article on the organ, which dates from maybe 1464 and still has mechanical action
    http://www.atelier-quoirin.com/Embrun_etude.php
    (there is an option for English).

But the only recordings I can find, are here
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juDlKIDTsac

and a CD (seems to be only available as a download)
    Michel Corrette played by Jan Van Mol
    http://www.qobuz.com/fr-fr/album/corrette-pieces-dorgue-jan-van-mol/5425016540848

I suggest listening to track 9 onwards for the rich but unfamiliar sounds and colours of this instrument. And strange pitching.

Another online version (which is more complete but not the whole disk). The first track after the introduction isn't that strange but the following tracks are using stops which sound quite unfamiliar
    
http://radio.omroep.nl/f/87010/


Interesting that it's a Dutch organist rather than a French one who is motivated enough to get a CD published.

A happy little West End production of Stephen Sondheim’s show that houses such standards as “Old Friends”, “Not a Day Goes By” and “Our Time”. The music is surprisingly potent and the book packed with vicious one-liners in the New York style. Transferred from the intimate performance space of the Chocolate Factory, Maria Friedman’s revival production looses a little intimacy to the tiers of the Harold Pinter theatre, formerly the Comedy Theatre.

Merrily We Roll Along is a show I’d forgotten about, despite knowing several Sondheim fanatics at the time, I didn't see it when the show didn’t run for long in London when it first opened here in 1982, not following on the popularity of Sweeney Todd. But there was recording of the Broadway production; this didn’t flatter: my memories are of scratchy LPs played to distortion in friends’ squats in Brixton. Several numbers became classics in their own right, not least because of their gay resonances in the era when much of even the London gay community was still emerging from the closet. It's been a emotional treat to hear these numbers in context and in first rate performances.

Read more: Merrily We Roll Along - Sondheim

Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest at the Concertgebouw

Alexei Volodin, piano, delivered a brilliant performance of Beethoven Fourth concerto, thrilling the Concertgebouw audience but eclipsing the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest. The Amsterdam orchestra came back after the interval with a Technicolor vision of the high Alps in the symphony by Richard Strauss.

Franz Liszt could have been playing the Steinway at the Concertgebouw this evening so brilliant was the piano work, in fact it was Alexei Volodin who dominated the stage of the Concertgebouw for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. A hesitant start had Marc Albrecht and the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest on the defensive right from the first page. Alexei Volodin outshone with pace, accuracy and the detail of his interpretation. His mastery of the scope Beethoven’s writing and understanding of the detail of the lines together with the flexibility and suppleness of his interpretation simply outclassed the orchestra.  Poor passing between soloist and orchestra added to the orchestra’s misery. Alexei Volodin played one of the most brilliant and extended cadenzas available for the first movement, the orchestra picking up limply following the customary trills.

Read more: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest - March 2013

“Extraordinary” is the promise on Royal Opera’s marketing and George Benjamin’s new opera takes us into a world that is out of the ordinary. Based on a thirteenth century tale told by the troubadours, Martin Crimp’s text takes us to extremes of human experience including lust, blood lust and cannibalism.

Written on Skin creates its own world by a distinctive grammar for the text and - in Katie Mitchell’s detailed production - by moving between modern time and medieval time. The lighting snaps between conditions to assist the transition. Costume changes take place on stage: it’s a two-level staging with a number of windows, a “quad split”. The action takes place in a highlighted window and there’s stage slow motion in the windows that are currently “background”.

Read more: Written on Skin - The Royal Opera

Erotically charged Tosca at Covent Garden from the Royal Opera; the core singing trio worked well together: Amanda Echalaz (Tosca), Massimo Giordano (Cavaradossi) and Michael Volle (Scarpia) are all “emerging talents” and playing characters of very similar ages to their own. The result was a dramatically credible performance with more subtle characterisations than is usually the case with a more blockbuster cast. A benefit of the now ubiquitous surtitles is to be able to follow the development of the plot in detail, line by line, as Puccini’s chilling melodrama unfolds.

Read more: Tosca - The Royal Opera