Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Twin Spirits

Sting and wife Trudie Styler star in this affectionate portrayal of the tortured love life between Robert and Clara Schumann. Reading correspondence from the very beginnings of their love affair through to Robert's tragic descent into madness, Sting and Trudie do a pretty good job conveying the frustration and tenderness at the heart of the Schumanns' relationship. The letters are interspersed with Robert's music, sung with gusto by Simon Keenlyside and Rebecca Evans, leaving you in no doubt about his agonised passion for Clara.

It's a lovingly made, if slightly old fashioned, piece of TV. As I understand it, the director John Caird, shot it during an actual performance. I can see the practical reasons for doing this, but in the end it did rather hamper the overall look of the film. The already cramped stage didn't allow much room for cameras to move around which rather constrained Caird's shot selections. These tended to linger an awful lot on Sting and Trudie who at times looked like tongue-tied guests at a dinner party. Another slight distraction was the curious decision to air-brush Styler's face. This is one of the problems, if it is a problem, with High Definition film because it doesn't leave much to the imagination. But then I'd sooner see a few wrinkles than a pink puffy cloud which is what Styler resembled by the end of the film.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Maxwell-Davies Prom/RAH

By far and away the highlight of the evening, Maxwell Davies's new violin concerto was a brilliant evocation of a windswept Orkney (I didn't see the programme notes so if it isn't about that it certainly sounded it) full of swoops, swirls and crashes - all sewn together by Daniel Hope's lyrical, sometimes folky violin that ebbed and flowed through Maxwell Davies's landscape of technicoloured darkness.

It's a pity Sibelius's 5 Symphony that followed contained none of the same drama. Of course it does but this account by Gary Walker glossed over much of the score's detail. Dull.

And here's what I said on the BBC Proms blog