Friday, 24 June 2011

More than half in love...

…with Christian Tetzlaff. Who I heard last night at the Royal Festival Hall, playing Bartok’s second violin concerto with the Philharmonia. Seriously, incandescently good stuff. Mr Tetzlaff looks uncannily like a miniaturised version of my cousin Richard (Richard is a very handsome cousin, but he’s also a very tall guy, and Mr Tetzlaff, erm, isn’t). Richard, however, is no musician, and Mr Tetzlaff is a dazzlingly good one.

I’m very lucky to live in a place where I get to hear lots of marvellous violinists; in the last eighteen months or so I’ve heard Christian Tetzlaff, Joshua Bell, Sergey Khatchatryan, Gil Shaham, Benjamin Schmid and Frank Peter Zimmermann, and that is quite a feast, I can tell you, even if they aren’t all quite as easy on the eye as Mr Tetzlaff. Mr Shaham is I suspect part hobbit (& part fiddle-playing demi-god), while Mr Zimmermann looks like a policeman in a borrowed suit, but every one of these men is an absolute joy to hear in action. Bearing in mind that I can also get to hear the world’s great pianists, the world’s great singers, the world’s great orchestras conducted by the world’s great conductors; London may have its down side but the up-side is a pretty big up.

That brings me neatly to the Proms. I’ve been trying to choose which ones to book this year. I’ve worked out a shortlist of six, but I really ought to cut that down a bit. All six have at least one really, really good reason not to drop them; favourite pieces, favourite musicians, things I’d just love to hear live (I mean, come on, the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony, in the RAH, on that socking great organ of theirs? This I cannot miss)… I’ll have to skip “Elijah”, despite the superb line-up of soloists, as it’s on my mum’s birthday, and mum’s birthday is sacrosanct (and is always a day at the beach followed by a good curry or paella supper). But Tetzlaff playing Brahms? Shaham playing Bruch? Stuart Skelton singing Mahler? Britten’s Spring Symphony? Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Janacek, Sibelius? How am I to choose? I don’t think I can…

If I can get the cheapest seats (at the top at the side, or choir seats are okay), then it won’t kill the wallet. And there’s always the radio, after all, my great digital radio that has transformed radio-listening for me; and lots of the Proms are televised these days – I should check what’s being shown on BBC4 before I get down-in-the-mouth about the expense.

Here is my latest I-have-a-purple-crush poem:

To Christian Tetzlaff, playing Bartók

Vibrant disharmony, a pierced sunset
And the wide skies burning like a battlefield.
Slicing between discord and dancing, between
Lyrical terror and song, nothing’s so bright
As this plane of flame, which is sound, which is you
Wheeling undizzied as a gull in the gulf
Of air, with music pouring from your hands.

Bee caught in amber, golden-voiced, longing to dance,
Half of your blood is fire; you plunge
Humming, exploding into furrowed waves
And rise to arrow the dazzled heart. Your wings
Which are hands, are strings, phoenix of sound
Incandescent with energy in your burning field.

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