So what have I been doing during the first week of the holidays?
Reading in & around Francois Jullien's fascinating book on Chinese painting - The Great Image Has No Form or On The Nonobject Through Painting. I'm at Chapter 10 having gulped my way through the slimmer volume - The Book of Beginnings - where he explores the opening 'sentence' of the I Ching via two other sentences (representative of the Bible & Greek philosophy). Inevitably this leads me back to the Tao Te Ching & into the volumes of Chinese poetry I've accumulated over the years. All with a view to developing notes made in Turin during the calligraphy course back in September. (The orange notebook has been looking at me reprovingly from the shelf for some six months & so - finally - I sit down to type up the entries.)
Here's one that might be of interest to my poetry afflicted readers (whoever you may be ...)
Dream: of being in a huge bookshop (Waterstones, Borders) with several floors & sweeping shelving. I chance upon what is clearly New Poetry & run my eye along the titles. Immediately I notice that pale green of the Frank O’Hara Selected & pull it out as I realise this is a kind of follow up volume. I leaf through & discover it’s not a Volume II more his manuscripts & drafts. Whole pages filled with an expansive handwriting including blotches & cancellations. Sometimes torn pages, ink stained, etc. as well as more professionally reproduced typewritten sheets with much underlining & revision. On the back (very similar to the preceding volume) is a blurb by O’Hara himself – an obvious impossibility – explaining the rationale for this new book. He was concerned about the previous choice of poems as well as widespread misunderstanding that his poems all arrived in one go without any drafts or second thoughts. His voice comes strongly off the page ...
I had also resolved to do some concentrated listening. As when winter approaches my ears turn to Schubert so, as Spring begins, it has to be Mozart.
I made a good start with disc 5 of the Mitsuko Uchida/ Tate set of the Piano Concertos, enjoying no. 20 in D minor K466 & then moving on to no. 21 in E flat major, K482. Then, of course, there were interruptions & I strayed off into the Piano & Violin Sonatas (Pires & Dumay), the Clarinet Concerto & Flute & Harp Concerto (both Bohm & the VPO) which are all full of wonderful stuff. Then, last night, I remembered I had bought the Argerich-Abbado DG set while out hunting for the fabulous Stravinsky Rite of Spring duet with Barenboim. At the time I thought I was being fobbed off by the woman in the shop. I was wrong.
Lovely as the Uchida performance is (of K466) the Argerich takes things to another level. Goodness me ... First, there is Abbado's astonishing work with the Orchestra Mozart (if I understand it correctly, his 'dream team' picked expressly for the purpose). Second, there is - there are - the fingers of Martha Argerich. It's pointless trying to do justice to such playing in words. I know everyone says she is special. I know everyone agrees Mozart is G-R-E-A-T capitalised to the point of bored familiarity. I know I know I know. But ... this really is an outstanding 30 minutes of music. It gives you the shivers. At least it did me.
Buy it. Listen to it. Live it.