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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

As a retired classical guitar virtuoso (and people always look at me strangely when I say that, but it is just the simple truth) I am fascinated by the stories of other musicians who have drifted out of public life. And here is an article on that very topic: ‘That’s it? It’s over? I was 30. What a brutal business’: pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on.
In her classic memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, Viv Albertine recounts not only the time she spent as a punk during the 1970s in her pioneering band the Slits, but also documents her life after the band had ended. This is unusual. Most music books don’t venture into this territory, tending to stop when the hits stop, thereby drawing a veil over what happens next. The unspoken suggestion seems to be that, were it to continue, the story would descend helplessly into misery memoir.

“The pain I feel from the Slits ending is worse than splitting up with a boyfriend,” Albertine wrote, “This feels like the death of a huge part of myself, two whole thirds gone … I’ve got nowhere to go, nothing to do; I’m cast back into the world like a sycamore seed spinning into the wind.”

Classical musicians may not make the huge amounts in their youth that pop musicians do, but the compensation is that their careers usually go on a lot longer. Andrés Segovia played his first concert in Grenada in 1909 when he was sixteen and his last concert in, if I recall correctly, Los Angeles in 1987. He died just a few months later, in Madrid. That is seventy-eight years of giving concerts, which is almost a record. Another musician with a long career was pianist Arthur Rubinstein who played his first concert in 1894 when he was seven years old. His last concert was in 1976 at Wigmore Hall in London. That's a career of eighty-two years! I saw Rubinstein play a concert in Alicante, Spain in 1974 and Segovia play a concert in Montreal in 1976. Both amazing experiences.

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Here is a different take on an ongoing discussion: Fashion, fabrics and fishtails – why we need to talk about what female classical performers wear

Last November, pianist and scholar Dr Samantha Ege gave a recital of works by Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Vítězslava Kaprálová at Milton Court Concert Hall. It’s music that’s rarely heard on UK stages, and critics welcomed “the emotional pull to these works” while Ege was praised for her “finely honed performances born of deep study and analysis.

What none mentioned, though, was Ege’s outfit. She was radiant in what she described to me as “a muted red fishtail dress, influenced by west African styles.” The bodice was nipped in at the waist with a customised appliqué belt that glimmered under the spotlights, emphasising hints of silver in the large ammonite-like swirls covering the fabric.

‘I think about colours and moods’ Samantha Ege performing at Milton Court in November 2021. Photograph: Mark Allan/Mark Allan/Barbican

For Ege, as for many other soloists, her outfits are an important part of her performance. “It gives me even more of an opportunity to express myself”, she says. “I think about colours and moods, and how those will make me and the audience feel.”

The writer goes on to discuss other performers including Yuja Wang.

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I don't know whether I should post this or not--I usually try to avoid journalistic sensationalism whenever possible. But I admit to being curious: The Maestro’s ATM. This is a report by the Russian opposition about the finances of conductor Valery Gergiev.

According to the investigation, most of Gergiev’s extensive properties are located in Italy, including a villa in Olgiata Country Club, a luxury apartment complex located an hour outside of Rome; land in the coastal city of Massa Lubrense near Naples; a little over an acre of farmland—plus an amusement park, basketball court, and restaurant called the United Tastes of Hamerica’s—in Rimini; a 200-acre estate in Milan; and the Palazzo Barbarigo, another 15th-century palace, and the Grancaffè Quadri, established in 1775 on Piazza San Marco, in Venice.

Lots more there if you are curious as well.

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The Wall Street Journal has a piece for audiophiles: ‘The Perfect Sound’ Review: Quest for a Groove

He continues to experiment. Listening to Handel’s “Semele” through a pair of deHavilland KE50A monoblock amplifiers, it pays off. “Fleming struck a crazy coloratura note, ornamented and vibrant, lyric and sweetly piercing, testing the upper reach of the amps’ extension. The KE50As nailed it—no spike, no glare, no hole in the voice, and no ornaments of melisma and vibrato disappearing and breaking up Fleming’s supple rendering of the aria’s most dramatic moment.”

I used to have a pair of Cerwin Vega speakers that were pretty nice...

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Here is a bit of music reviewing from The Spectator: The awfulness of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has always felt weirdly personal

Squaring up to the prospect of a new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, I’m reminded of a vintage quote by Nick Cave: ‘I’m forever near a stereo saying, “What… is this garbage?” And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.’ I can empathise. I don’t habitually harbour animus against artists I dislike, but something about the sheer scale of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ awfulness has always felt weirdly personal.

Well that's certainly a brisk opening! And?

The music is an ugly Frankenstein’s monster constructed from all the least likeable, least groovy bits of rock, funk, psychedelia and hip hop, with an added patina of plain stupidity. Singer Anthony Kiedis radiates the kind of braggadocious bro vibes that, aurally speaking, make me want to cross the road for my own safety. Kiedis writes terrible lyrics, flatlining melodies and has a horrible shouty voice. It goes without saying that he possesses the kind of swaggering confidence inversely proportional to all these impediments. Do the sums and you could reasonably claim that Red Hot Chili Peppers have waged a 40-year campaign of brute bone-headed idiocy upon the world and yet somehow emerged triumphant.

That's clear enough, I suppose.

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We haven't heard a lot about Franz Liszt recently: Franz Liszt: Superstar, Sinner, Saint

For a long time, Franz Liszt had been two men. In his days as a touring pianist, he was a hedonist, a scoundrel, and a homewrecker; he was also a generous soul who always pined for a life of peace and prayer. Now, on this sacred hill, things were simplifying themselves. For the first time, he was becoming one person. Underneath his years of superficial celebrity lay a desire still deeper than that which drove him after fame.

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So-so sound quality, but here is "Endless Pleasure" from Handel's Semele in a concert performance by Renee Fleming:

 Here is one of the most popular late pieces from Franz Liszt: "Jeux d' eau a la villa d' Este"

And I think, just for today, we will skip the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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