I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Winter magic

As autumn slides into winter music takes a tighter hold. Two concerts in Birmingham to which we travel by smallish bus, still in daylight, through Herefordshire's theatrically beautiful countryside. Yes, we miss the fizz of being close to London but there's peace here and an expectation we'll live longer. Already have.

Rachmaninov's third piano concerto (well liked by VR, more austere than the famous second) and how difficult it must be to play; for a time Old Man Sergei was the only chap who could. Plus Nielsen's fourth symphony, the slightly risibly named Inextinguishable, long, noisy, a huge orchestra, but it finally hung together for me (the result of hearing it in a hall instead of on CD).

More recently, Mozart's most satisfying piano concerto, played with casual skill as if it was the fifth rather than the twenty-fifth. Followed by Brahms' German Requiem, with the CBSO choir in thunderous good form, even if we were distracted by a kerfuffle involving one of the sopranos.

Last night sad apprehension as BBC4 devoted an hour-and-a-half to an examination of the five Beethoven piano concertos by the Norwegian pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes. Sad because BBC4, clearly a TV channel for elitists, will be a likely casualty following endless ideological sniping by the present Tory government and Rupert Murdoch's commercial desire to see the BBC, in its entirety, disappear.

Glorious anyway in that the first and second concertos, sometimes downgraded when compared with the later, giant trio, are not only wonderful (we knew that) but for virtuosos.

Non-musical note. One of my verses is to be published in a collection, of which more later. This week the collection's contributors received a collective email starting: “Dear Poets”. Mum, Mum, I’ve made it! At eighty!


  1. Fame at last, RR!

    I would miss BBC 4, too. It is about the only BBC programme I watch. If such cuts have to be (A bit like town councils "economizing" by shutting libraries and toilets before other vanity projects)I think BBC 2 should revert to its original concept and incorpoate the 4 stuff.

  2. Hurrah! A poet ... finally they catch on to what we've known for some time now.

    I'm not certain what the numbers mean after BBC. Here I would have access to BBC-America. But it would cost too much to subscribe (I don't have a telly).

  3. Can't wait for "of which more later". Bravo RR!
    There is a CD on You Tube with the full Concerto played by 28 pianists. I never listened to the end because I don't recognize any pianists at the beginning. I like to hear and watch Martha Argerich, young and old and older, playing this and other.

  4. Congratulations! Deserved after much work and skill over an apprenticeship which is never over, even for TS Eliot who said every success is a new kind of failure or words to that effect. Keep up the poems.

  5. I am trying to remember the exact quotation from Eliot. It is something about the constant striving in language which can never be wholly satisfied. I will have to search through and find it....I just felt it fitted your ethos, that your poems deserve recognition and that you have always been a striver in language, never satisfied and suspicious of satisfaction. Look forward to hearing more.

  6. Avus: BBC4 represents about 70% of the telly we watch during the week, especially science, history, various kinds of art, and Scandinavian cop series. The screen will gather dust if it's done in.

    RW (zS): The BBC broadcasts telly via several channels each with a different policy: BBC1 (the popular stuff like Strictly Come Dancing which we - as married snobs - never watch), BBC2 (slightly more serious, often documentaries), BBC3 (something of a mystery to us, aimed at "yoof" I think), and BBC4 (see above). The whole population pays for the BBC via the licence fee, about £150 a year. Other channels, many operated by SKY (Rupe's company), you pay for if you use them.

    Ellena: I share your taste for Martha - a very great pianist.

    Lucas: I know the quote; thought it was in The Waste Land. Not so, apparently; It's in East Coker, from the Quartets:

    So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
    Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
    Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
    Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure.

    I feel slightly uncomfortable finding my name and Eliot's together in the same comment. For me Eliot is the poet I most envy. Thanks for that, anyway.

  7. Many thanks! I was trying to remember and wasn't sure which poem to look in. I appreciate your quick finding.

  8. After our Shostakovich experience in Amsterdam, I thoroughly agree about the value of hearing big noisy stuff live, and preferably so close to the performance that it is literally viscerally appreciated!

    I do hope you're wrong about BBC4, and that the influence of Jesse Norman (that elusive thing, a good Tory?) and the overlap of documentary-watching, Radio Times-buying, BBC-loving middle England with Tory voterdom, will have some weight. For ourselves we'll need something to cheer up our evenings when we huddle, shivering and immobilised, cast out as EU citizens (along with two million others whose existence and possible repatriation is scarcely acknowledged in any of the so-called debates), our healthcare stopped, right to work annulled, state pensions frozen etc, but hanging on like Kipling's Roman Centurion ('Command me not to go!').

    The other night, wanting to watch anything tolerable while recovering from family visits, we sat in front of two documentaries, one on Channel 4 (about whose future I give not a toss) and one on BBC4, neither of whose subject matter was of especial interest. The Ch4 one was shoddy and lightweight, tiresome people with unremarkable levels of knowledge, but worst of all were the commercial breaks and the inane, unremitting repeating and recapping which follows them. The BBC4 one was solid and substantial, building up its material in such a way as to capture our interest and leave us feeling engaged and better for it, despite our tiredness and lack of initial interest.

    BBC3 indeed seems mysterious and unappealing, but I've been quite pleasantly surprised at the amount of education on world and social affairs my (acquired) grandchildren seem to derive from it, while presumably it makes a certain healthy demand on their attention spans in being commercial-free. Its going on-line only probably wouldn't make that much difference to them, but there's a certain old-fashioned family/community thing about the shared telly in the living room. Funny really, when you think how not so long ago the prophets of doom were bemoaning television as it was as the Box of Evil and destroyer of community and family, a role now transferred to the internet and digital screens.

    Anyway, glad you are not culturally bereft in rural Herefs, and congratulations on the pome.

  9. Lucy: I hate to imagine the pair of you cut off as you say but you will have one thing to fall back on: the subtle changes brought about by "going international".

    Notably the ability to view the homeland with a clearer eye which informs both affection and criticism, the elimination of sentimentality that goes with this transformation, the gradual shifting of the criteria by which judgments are formed... You know all this of course.

    It's going to sound pompous and self-regarding but the six years we spent in the USA helped me ask and answer the question: am I an adult? Prior to the US I saw myself as emotionally childish. While I was there I began to have an inkling about adulthood and its responsibilities, back home (still having to re-adjust) the inkling grew. To say I have become an adult would be a step too far but at least I now carry around a more complete definition.

    I'm glad BBC4 reached out. It did it again last night when two Jews, Alan Yentob and Howard Jacobson (together with some remarkably tuned-in academics), discoursed on the values or otherwise of The Merchant Of Venice and just what the play had done for Jewishness. The programme assumed the viewers knew something about the issues; it did in fact treat them as adults.

    I have always said that telly is the inferior medium since its very nature (ie, its pictoriality) restricts the amount of words available to deal with any given subject. Compression can only go so far. But yesterday I had to modify that opinion. The people proffering that information, through their wit, enthusiasm, gestures and reaction, animated the data and added to it.

    Made me wonder whether mine was an adult response; gave me certain minor grounds for optimism.