Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
August 31, 2005
Stress City

We're moving into September now and all my bids are in for new and renewed work. It'll be at least another 3 weeks, probably 4 before everything becomes clearer. The uncertainty feels rather like the experience of finishing one's exam papers and having no idea as to what the result will be.

We took advantage of the 33 degree heat to enjoy a barbecue on the balcony (yet again), washed down with some Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. We enjoyed the sight of a tremendous electrical storm with lightning forks dashing across the sky.

Posted by nathan at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)


August 30, 2005
Mahler on Prozac

A dismal journey on Scumline Trains via Liverpool Street saw us at the Proms this evening for a performance of Mahler's 3rd Symphony. The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst.

The first movement was very odd and quite offputting - the Cleveland SO has a clarity of tone, and precision especially in the brass and woodwind, but not the richness or dynamic range of the VPO or Concertgebouw. But Möst kept bringing the action to a full stop - and I mean a full stop - after each 'episode' within the movement. This meant that the movement lost momentum and instead of sweeping to that great, vibrant cliamx a third of the way through the movement, it seemed like an isolated peak, rather than part of a range of emotional experiences.

I felt however that the lyrical tones worked best from the third movement onwards and started to enjoy the performance at that stage. The mezzo-soprano soloist Yvonne Naef was excellent. The CSO seemed best to work in lightly-textured melodic mode and found the joy in nature of Mahler's great work, but not the densely woven arras of conflicting desires and struggle that lies behind the programme.

But compare all of this with the performance of M3 at the Proms 3 years ago, with the Concertgebouw. It should have been conducted by Chailly (heaven!) but he was unwell, so Eliahu Inbal stepped in for him. That was a sublime performance that had me breaking out in goosepimples throughout! Others commented on the flaws in that performance but it was redolent with tension and melody that made me wish that Möst had laid off the Prozac this morning.

What a stunning contrast in the interpretation of Mahler by different orchestras and conductors. There's no such thing as an 'adequate' M3.

There's a decent review in the Times.

Posted by nathan at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)


August 29, 2005
R and R on Parker's Piece

After another Bank Holiday Monday morning working, we spent a pleasant afternoon reading in the sun on Parker's Piece. We must have been there for about two hours. The weather was perfect, bright but not fierce sunlight and an occasional breeze.

I've started Atomised by Michel Houellebecq for our reading group. It's a pleasure to read a book that can lurch from its narrative to philosophy, physics and sex from page to page. By the end of the day I was nearly halfway through.

To round up the summery mood, we had a barbecue on the balcony. Lots of meat and salad, washed down with a juicy, rich plum & chocolate Australian Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon. That reminded me that we need to register for the wine tasting course that starts in mid September.

Posted by nathan at 10:49 PM | Comments (1)


August 28, 2005
A funeral in the sunshine of North-West London

On a bright, sunny Sunday lunchtime, I attended the funeral of my great aunt Hettie. She was in her nineties when she died on Thursday.

Hettie was an intelligent woman with a sharp mind. Nothing passed her by. She was devoted to her husband Jack, who died about 18 years ago. The familiar ritual of the burial service was all the more poignant for, despite my lack of closeness with her, it was the passing of a generation - the last of my grandmother's siblings. For me, a moment of interest was the presence of Bridget, a pleasant cousin of mine, who I have not seen for many years. We didn't get the chance to speak - I was, selfishly perhaps, more concerned to look after my mother than to converse with anybody else. Mum had called her every week and kept in touch despite Hettie's crotchety reaction to her advancing years.

The whole day brought home to me just how distant I am from my family, and how that remoteness contrasts with the situation only a couple of generations ago.

Posted by nathan at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)