For me, it is the honesty of Paul Cezanne’s painting that binds his huge output together. Less obviously ‘great’ than many of his contemporaries, he could be serious and lighthearted, fevered or detached, and although it is worth remembering that he is considered the father of modern painting, it is more difficult to trace where in his work, save Cubism, that his influence was later felt. Although he worked in and around Paris during his mature period, he was born and later returned to the steamy heat of Provence, and it takes but a small leap of the imagination to conjure-up that sultry atmosphere when listening to Debussy’s wonderfully evocative Prelude a L’apres-midi d’un faune, inspired by Mallarme’s poem. The suggestion, by Pierre Boulez no less, that this score marks the birth of modern music, ties neatly with Cezanne’s patriarchal tag.
Rameau Rocks? Well, I find it quite difficult to keep my feet still listening to this – doubly so when I remember that it was first performed nearly 300 years ago in Paris. Les Indes Galantes was revived in 2004 by the American pioneer of Euro-Baroque Bill Christie and his band Les Arts Florissants, and this production from Palais Garnier in Paris surfaced later at London’s Barbican and stunned all who saw it. Eagle-eyed Dabbler-junkies will spot the flame-haired minx Patricia Petibon, this time impersonating Zima, an Indian Princess with a pipe…
Although Jacques Brel was a huge star on mainland Europe and around the world, here in Blighty we didn’t quite ‘get it’ – famous Belgians have always been good for a bit of light persiflage. His songs were covered by dozens of artists but, arguably, they didn’t travel well, and Brel’s biographer Olivier Todd advocated that they were ‘untranslatable’. How could he suggest such a thing when we consider these few words – ‘let me become the shadow of your shadow, the shadow of your hand, the shadow of your dog’ ? But he had something – and that something came across the footlights and devastated audiences, both men and women, before the fags finished him just short of his half-century.
The Russian pixie Daniil Simkin has Brel’s ability to reach out and move an audience. Here, still a teenager, he dances to Les Bourgeois. He had no formal training, being taught by his parents, both ballet dancers, but here he shows us that this is no barrier to his expression of a unique talent.
A belated treat here for Carshalton’s finest, following his recent trip to Claude Monet’s house at Giverny. Monet never painted a nude. His world was the out-of-doors, the vast sweep of nature, the ebb and flow of water, with mere humans relegated to walk-on parts in the dominating landscape.
It was the great critic of the Manchester Guardian Neville Cardus who said that if a piano could compose music for itself, it would sound very like the music of Frederic Chopin. TB claimed him before his 40th birthday, but this year we celebrate his 200th, and his stock has never been higher. The acme of good taste (there is not a single bar anywhere that sounds ugly), his best music seeths with the febrile intensity of a true poet – Keats perhaps. There is also the sense that his romantic sensibility informed him that time was indeed short, and it is amazing to consider that most of his huge body of work was compressed into the 20 years leading up to his death in 1849. The piece we have here is the heaven-sent slow movement Romanza from his first piano concerto (actually composed after the second, but that is another story), as perfect an example as any of his uncanny ability to distill a simple tune, that could be picked out by a child, into something utterly enchanting, and delivered in a completely natural and unforced way.