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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 25 December 2011

No one loves a critic

Christmas Eve isn’t proof against performance defects. Starting with our Messiah: Colin Davies conducting, Harper, Watts, Shirley-Quirk singing, a smaller (but highly professional) choir than was then traditional.

Marvellous, but the singers were asked to improvise curlicues at the ends of their lines. A skill beyond them.

King’s College carols/readings. A lovely building which slightly blurs the choir, greatly blurs the congregation. The organist cannot, as in most public performances, adjust his tempo to the slower speed of the congregation since he must consider the choir and the soloists. Also, the congregation cannot beat physics: sound, at ground level, travels at 600 mph and what comes out of some mouths is way behind (in distance and therefore time) what comes out of others. A thrillingly descanted carol at the end, with the congregation joining in, turned into an aural plum pudding.

Such problems can be resolved but only for commercial recordings. Definitive large scale choral performances do not emerge from places like Kings College chapel but (typically and very often) Walthamstow Town Hall.

Salzburg Festival DVD. Magic Flute. Vivacious VPO under James Levine. The best Queen of the Night (Gruberova) we’ve ever heard. A Papageno (Christian Boesch – whatever happened to him?) who reconciled the comic with the poignant – the key to Flute. Defects? Not many – easily the best Flute we’ve seen. Except that Peter Schreier, whose version of Schubert’s An Die Musik is an LdP musical keystone, is slightly too harsh for Tamino’s great love-song Dies Bildnis.

Should I have shut my ears to, or at least not publicised, these failings? Am I a frost on everyone’s frolic? Might I be showing off? Answers: Tone Deaf tries to do its best. Perhaps. Not this time.

Here’s a definitive Dies Bildnis. (But not perfect - one tiny defect near the end. Sorry.)

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