Unfortunately, the videos to which I’ve linked in this post seem impossible to embed on WordPress and, anyway, they will disappear after a month, but I wanted to share them, because they are beautiful. I recommend clicking on the links.
The First Night of the Proms was spectacular. I listened to it while writing yesterday, and I recommend it, if you have an evening to spare. I knew the Beethoven in its outline, but it had never grabbed me. This performance, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Igor Levit on piano, made it seem like something I’d never heard before. I may have done some crafty ripping of the stream, for educational purposes only, you understand. I want to listen to it again and again.
My feelings about Brexit are still in turmoil. I voted against it, not being a moron, but I have tried really hard to understand and sympathise with the concerns of the leave voters. Alas, those who continue to be committed to Brexit as some sort of identity politics are REALLY annoying, mainly because they are so divorced from reality. Yesterday, reading a Guardian comments thread, I lost my presence of mind for a few moments and finally put down my deepest feelings about Brexiteers. Here’s the result:
I didn’t press post. I was worried about the community guidelines. However, this fury might explain why Igor Levit’s encore performance has touched such a nerve. The way he extemporised towards the end to bring the piece to a lilting, mournful close, goes a little way to healing some of the wound. A little.
Anyway, enough of politics. The other treasure of the Prom was John Adams’ Harmonium. I used to have a bit of a thing for American minimalism. In Philip Glass or John Cage’s music, it seems to be the perfect expression of post-modernist, amoral uber-capitalism: the wry and uninvolved observation of horror, emotionless and affectless. When I was stoned a lot, Glass was a huge favourite and, last year, having made friends with another Glass fan, I got hold of a couple of the operas.
Adams is a different proposition. As Edward Gardner explains in this video, in his mature work, Adams combines the structural tropes of minimalism with a convincing emotional voice. I would add that he can also do tunes. I got the issue of BBC Music magazine that had Shaker Loops on the CD last year and thought it was interesting and almost pleasant, but I really like Harmonium. Give it a play. It’s half an hour of surprisingly beautiful formality.