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Indeed he’s such a traditionalist that it seems as though his musical imagination has been caught

Posted on 14 October 2010

Indeed he’s such a traditionalist that it seems as though his musical imagination has been caught in a timewarp. The Violin Concerto was composed – 10 years ago – with the particular sound and skill of Ranjbaran’s old Indiana University classmate Joshua Bell in mind, especially his combination of “the brilliance of the modern sound and the intimacy and romanticism of the old world”.The old world wins hands down here, since, disappointingly, there is little to challenge or engage the listener in any new and interesting way, and only the merest hint of the Persian modes or rhythms, or the sound of the kamancheh (bowed lute), on which Ranjbaran apparently drew. A patchwork quilt of pastiche, the Concerto combines a contemplative tonal quality with some warmly expressive solo violin writing to which Bell applied his accustomed immaculate intonation and thoughtfulness of interpretation.The RLPO gave a crisp account of their accompaniment, responding incisively to the work’s rhythmic drive, particularly in the glittering finale. While the Concerto served its purpose in getting Bell to Liverpool, introducing a composer whose music Schwarz is known to champion, and chalking up a world premiere, it certainly wasn’t the crowd-puller an orchestra needs in the aftermath of the festive season. In Chausson’s gorgeous Po? Bell sounded less preoccupied with getting his fingers round the notes and just let the sound soar, releasing some much-needed warmth into a rather chilly Philharmonic Hall. There was no lack of heat, either, in the orchestra’s account of Falla’s witty account of love, lust and farcical goings-on in midsummer Andalusia.

From their opening vigorous claps and heartily shouted “Ol?”, the orchestra played up the virtuoso elements of The Three-Cornered Hat, bringing all the story’s incident and colour to vibrant life. In the charmingly exotic Spanish folk songs and dances which make up much of the score, the transparent string textures, chunky brass comments and beautifully pointed wind-playing showed off the RLPO in excellent form and captured the sheer spontaneous joy of Falla’s entertaining ballet.. Premi?d here in Anna Mackmin’s efficient production, the play is calculatedly split. Davies has the motor-mouth stand-up role: she (played by Margaret Tyzack) has the largely silent, lie-down one.

As season follows season and Auntie spoons down pudding after pudding without evincing any sign of expiring, he rabbits on and on about his elaborately dysfunctional childhood.I laughed out loud several times at this sorry saga. Kemp’s father was not only a failed magician, but a manic depressive one to boot. Longing to brush women’s hair and romping around in little red velvet shorts, Kemp is very much his mother’s boy. But unfortunately she didn’t go the whole way and turn him into a fully fledged homosexual: she merely left him sexless.I also guffawed at various points when Tyzack’s Grace hints that she isn’t all that she seems.

There’s a moment when Kemp, bored stiff by the relentless regime, falls asleep and she pads over to get a sheet to cover him. But instead of wrapping it lovingly round him, she unceremoniously dumps it on him, as though he were a bit of furniture.This is the kind of play that has a Big Surprise in store for you. Myself, I saw it coming a mile off and, rather than calling for a deep reappraisal of what has gone before, it makes a nonsense of it. The play gradually veers towards Beckett, when you want it to plunge towards Hitchcock Auntie and Me is fun, all right, but completely phoney. I’ve had, it’s true, worse nights out at worthier events.It is, however, not the greatest compliment you can pay to this piece to say that one would have no qualms about attending it in the company of an elderly relation.. London

Ann Mitchell is pretty much perfection in this deeply eloquent revival by Daniel Kramer of Through the Leaves, a 1976 play by the German dramatist Franz Xaver Kroetz. She plays – and brings out all the inner beauty of – Martha, a plain, self-employed tripe butcher (and there aren’t many of those roles in the female repertoire) who, in her lonely fifties, starts an affair with Otto, a boorish, chauvinist, and slightly young-er factory worker, ripely embodied by Simon Callow.
Punctuated and propelled forward by Martha’s diary entries, the piece creates a strange mood – its poignancy strengthened, rather than compromised, by its unflinching eye for the grotesque comedy of the situation.

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