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"The Prophet of Light"

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Jessica Duchen Jessica Duchen | 16:22 UK time, Saturday, 9 May 2009

Solti_sml.jpgWe're halfway through Day 1 of Mendelssohn Weekend and I am ridiculously happy because I've just heard Peter Maxwell Davies call Mendelssohn "the prophet of light". He described Felix in terms of 'claritas' - more than clarity, he said; rather, a quality of being lit from within. Alongside his words we heard an extract in which two clarinets raised their voices together above a shining halo of strings... Felixcitous indeed.

This was part of Tom Service's special Mendelssohn Music Matters in which he traced the composer's footsteps to Scotland, notably the Hebrides, with Fingal's Cave as culmination. We heard lots of wonderful accents, the roar of the sea, the rumble of the boat's engine, and Tom's eloquent descriptions of the scenes around him. 'Max', who lives on the Orkney Islands, described the impact that Mendelssohn's music had on him - those shining chords taught him a thing or two, apparently - and a soprano sang one of those heartbreakingly simple and expressive Celtic folk songs. You can see Tom's photos on the Music Matters web page.

Also this morning, we had CD Review, on which I learned that my favourite recordings by Murray Perahia, from way back, have been re-released - a disc of Mendelssohn's piano music including the terrifically beautiful sonata, which is inexplicably never played these days, and the two piano concertos, Perahia's accounts of which are pretty much unsurpassable. Building a Library chose the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as top dog in the Octet. Beautiful it was, too, though I must admit to a great fondness for the Naxos recording by the Auer and Kodály Quartets, which sadly got rather short shrift...It was also quite amusing to hear my commenting colleagues trying to be tactful about Anne-Sophie Mutter's recording of the Violin Concerto. I'd like to refer you to one of my favourites: Viktoria Mullova with John Eliot Gardiner, an account on originalish instruments which brings out all the music's delicacy, pathos and magic.

Unfortunately I missed last night's Elijah. I have a problem with Elijah: other people switch it off. The first time I tried to hear it, I was about 14; it was on TV. My grandfather, who was head of his synagogue in Johannesburg, was visiting us in London; he came in and said pejoratively: "Why are you listening to church music?" Click. Last night, my husband came in not very fresh from a six-hour rehearsal at Glyndebourne, and said "Why are you listening to that?" Click. He likes Elijah - indeed, he likes it more than I do - but you can't argue with the desire for quiet from a man who's found his section unexpectedly shunted to an experimental spot in the pit, landing him bang in front of the horns.

Last but not least, BBC Blogomaster forwarded me this report from Derbyshire about the local choirs who have signed up to the Wings project:

FELIX TO HELP CHOIRS PROVE THAT THEY ARE THE CAT'S WHISKERS

Extra pleurisy painkiller, a quick purr from Solti (my very pleased resident feline) then back to the radio...

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