Thursday, 8 October 2009

Atmospherics after dark (with apologies to Tom Robinson, who may not even like Janacek)

Last night I discovered that the concert I had been to last week was on the radio, so I settled down with my plate of macaroni cheese to listen. The reception was terrible for about the first fifteen minutes – the start of “Sinfonietta” sounded as if it were being played in the shower – and I had to keep springing up to fiddle with the tuning. Every time I touched the dial, the reception improved dramatically, only to go off again the moment I let go. It made no difference if I had actually altered the dial or not – the improving factor was physical contact with me.

I am forced to the conclusion that my body is a gigantic radio aerial, an idea I find vaguely worrying. I am not made of metal, and I am not terribly technical (anyone who does know about radios is probably laughing at my naivety at this point). Besides the slightly disturbing “radio waves are dripping all over me” feeling, this also meant I had to stand up constantly, which interfered with my appreciation of my supper.

But then, oddly, the reception suddenly improved. The shower noise stopped and I could appreciate the rest of the Janacek, and the whole of the Lindberg and the Stravinsky, in comfort. It really was an excellent concert – I hope they consider releasing it on their own recording label. After all, clearly a recording has been made, by the BBC, so why not make use of it? As well as the quality of the performance, it was a superbly chosen programme, with two modernist masterpieces and what I feel on second hearing is certainly a natural successor. The three pieces complemented one another beautifully; like one’s handsome cousins at a wedding, they were delightful as individuals and as parts of a family relationship. It was particularly good to hear the Janacek played with such clarity and what I can only call lack of sugar. It was a great illustration of just how wide is the gap between that thick viscous layer of sweetness, like cheap salad dressing, that is sentiment, and powerful feeling, expressed with sincerity and commitment but without ostentation.

The upshot of all this, though, is that I have decided to treat myself to a decent new radio. It was so much more pleasant to be able to sit and eat, and then get on with my sewing, without having to keep tweaking the tuner.

I am working my way through a large pile of items of clothing that are nice but that don’t fit me, turning them into slightly different (& sometimes slightly odd) items of clothing that do fit me. If I had a digital camera and the means to upload pictures I’d do a fashion-shoot sometime – some of the results are actually quite good, and they bring me both the satisfaction of creative needlework and that of demonstrating an efficient household economy.

After the concert I put the sewing away and sat up till 2 am finishing “The Birds Fall Down”. I’m slightly pie-eyed today as a result; and tonight I am off back to the Festival Hall for “Wozzeck” (pauses to take deep breaths). I fully expect to be pulverised, both aurally and emotionally.


Agnieszkas Shoes said...

I first discovered Janacek on the soundtrack of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and fell instantly in love. Heard a wonderful Prague-based chamber group playing the same piece many years later. Janacek is about as good a reason as it's possible to get for having a super-wizzzy radio

Imogen said...

I don't know about super-wizzy - I think I'll settle for a DAB-for-dummies type from Roberts! Going to have a nice browse in the Chiswick branch of Richer Sounds tomorrow...