Saturday, July 23, 2005

Peter Donohoe recital

Final trek along the canal path. There always seemed to be canal boats passing along during these morning jaunts, or I would see their holiday-making crew working the hand-operated locks. While the locks were kept in good order, the canal path was rubbish strewn and with a number of plastic bags of clothes tossed into the forlorn shrubbery, I wondered if they were tramps' wardrobes or just extracted from bodies thrown into the canal.

However, like cleaner-seeming canal segments in London and Manchester, there were people angling for whatever fish subsisted in these waters. As we walked out from under a road-bridge we just missed a bin load of garbage being dumped into the water. Not much further along, an Indian gentleman dropped something in from the canal path and then quickly disappeared up some stairs and the car sped off as we approached. I couldn't see any sign of what had been dropped and so we continued on.

One of the brochures in the Tourist Centre advertised the Tolkien Trail, building on some weak links between local sites and Middle Earth imagery (Tolkien lived nearby as a child). I don't think Tolkien would have been terribly pleased - any reminders of the rustic Shire have since been replaced by Blakean visions of an urban Mordor. If he had written a bit later in the century, Minas Morgol might have looked like a Jeffrey Smart cityscape, with the ugly BT tower as Sauron's Eye, and destitute Gollbrums preying on canal fish.
"Hey mate, is that dog a Japanese Cheetah"?

The concert was at the Adrian Boult Hall, attached to the Birmingham Conservatoire, and - handily for any preparing concert artiste - a McDonalds and a nail salon. Peter Donohoe gave a brief onstage concert talk about his all-Russian program: Tchaikovsky's Dumka, Prokofiev's 6th Sonata and Rachmaninov's C# minor Prelude with the Op32 Preludes. The program reflected 3 faces of Russian pianism: Czarist, Soviet and expatriate; the playing showed a long familiarity and advocacy of this repertoire (Donohoe was cowinner of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1982). I don't know any of the program pieces well, aside from a couple of the Preludes, they veer from Brahms to Ravel with a whiff of Rimsky-Korsakov exoticism. A first encore sounded like Tchaikovsky (from "The Seasons"?... I guess correctly: "November") and then another pair of earlier Rachmaninov preludes, followed by (I think) another Tchaikovsky Season.

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