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Jessica Duchen
Tuesday 16th March 2010
More Chopin...

Yes, more Chopin...

If you missed Tom Service's terrific Music Matters programme on R3 devoted to Chopin, you can download it as a podcast. In-depth interviews with "Maurizio and Krystian" take centre stage, but there's also fascinating material about the exhibition at the British Library 'Chopin, the Romantic Refugee' (free, til May) and much more... I'm not sure if the download works outside the UK, but for those who can get it, here's the link:

Meanwhile "Yundi" - who has dropped his "Li" for reasons unknown - is playing at the Southbank Centre tonight. Changing your name has an unfortunate way of being a dead-end; it didn't work for Nigel, who changed to "Kennedy" but changed back again, and will never really be anybody but "Nige"; and whatever anybody says, Yundi is simply not Kylie. Frankly I'm Chopined out and am going to see our friends Graham and Alice [as per Nige interview] and their new dog instead, but would be very interested to hear from anyone who attends the concert - please send in your impressions!

Ditto for Anne-Sophie Mutter's Brahms concerto with the LPO tomorrow. After I last heard her live, playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto a few years back, I vowed that wild horses would not drag me into a concert hall to hear her again. I don't believe that being a Great Star or an 'Artist of Extremes' or having the world's finest violin technique - as she has - is any excuse for presenting an interpretative travesty of a work like the Beethoven. So for the Brahms, I don't want to know. The concert is, of course, sold out... If you're there, let us know what it's like.


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Jessica Duchen
March 18th, 2010
11:03 AM
@ Anon - alas, I can promise you that my remark is an honest response to the last live performance of hers I attended and therefore is by no means bizarre. I had a similar reaction to her recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Previn. You will find that responses to that on are similarly mixed: some are ecstatic, others raise the word 'tasteless' (speaking of 'out of taste'). This is normal. It would be truly bizarre if people's opinions were always identical.

March 18th, 2010
2:03 AM
I must say that your comment on Anne-Sophie Mutter is both bizarre and out of taste. Wild horses could not keep me away from a live performance, she is a world phenomenon, brillian, soulful and true.

March 17th, 2010
11:03 AM
I made it to Yundi's concert last night. I foresee that it will probably receive bad reviews from the critics; unjustly so. It was clearly always going to be different from the Zimerman and Pollini recitals, but to compare is surely to miss the point. Z and P have had years of experience and thought into Chopin's music. What Yundi brings is more raw; so although the pieces don't sound "there" yet, it's tremendously exciting to hear a pianist making such fantastic sounds and with good taste. The music can't be compared with Zimerman - there were issues here and there with pedalling and a bit of smudging, for example, which I would expect from Zimerman. The structure of the sonata was a bit wayward in the first movement particularly. I didn't get much feeling from the Mazurkas. I also found it a little strange that one would dive into the heroic polonaise directly after the haunting sonata. But all of this doesn't matter yet. This young man is not even 30 - he has time. What should be taken from this concerts were the moments of real depth and beauty, the moments of phenomenal clarity in playing and the clear thought and interpretation given to certain passages that makes the listening audience smile. These are the signs that the critics should pick up on; I don't think they will, but let's see. No, he's not there yet; but how far he's travelled since the last concert I saw him play. And there's much excitement that can be gained from considering his potential. Apart from the skill, he clearly has good taste (which is more than I can say for his certain other Chinese rival). I think this concert will be broadcast on Radio 3, so you'll have another opportunity to listen to it.

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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