20 April 2010

Neeme Järvi and Bruckner 5th

This disc came as a total surprise. To be honest, when I came across it, I had just finished listening to another very nice Bruckner 5th by Janowski, and my desire of acquiring this one was its sheer cheapness (mid-price for an SACD), or maybe a little of curiosity.

For all his experience and credentials as an eminent conductor, Neeme Järvi has recorded Bruckner symphony only once, the 8th. It did not leave a special impression on me, and in fact mine is pretty dim now.

I had waited for a couple of weeks after getting this CD before playing it because I thought I'd had too much of Bruckner 5th recently and needed a "washout" period.

When I listened to it the other day, I was amused. The introduction in the first movement is a little brisk, but as the movement unfolds, it is quite obvious that both the conductor and orchestra enjoy the playing very much. I'd say Järvi the fathter is wearing his heart on his sleeves here. Then comes the Adagio. Oh is it really an adagio? Does it not sound more like an andante? It must be the shortest Adagio of Bruckner Symphony No. 5 in recorded history, clocking in at a little more than 11 minutes. That is less than half of Celibidache's timing. But the wonderful thing is however brisk it is, it never sounds headlong or overdriven. I can immediately sense that someone must frown on this treatment, as all the anguish, uncertainties and sufferings in this "great" Adagio has been replaced by a simple pulse of happiness. It's never occurred to me that this Bruckner Adagio can sound so joyful. This symphony has been transformed by Järvi from a "complicated" experiencing, questioning, and then affirmation of faith to a simple hymn to God, a singing of joy. How wonderful!

The recording sound is excellent. The mellow orchestral palette goes very well with the happy mood throughout. 

Life is really full of surprises. And this CD proves it once more. It may just be an acquired taste, however.

P.S.(23 Apr) Although his tempo is fast, you don't feel that it is fast. Instead it only feels lively. His basic pulse is stable and doesn't wander around like some other conductors who adopted a brisk tempo. This stability and consistency can be appreciated when different themes of the first three movements recur in the Finale, and their tempo is virtually the same as when they first appear in their respective movements. Thus the tempo for the theme from the Adagio is faster than that of the theme from the opening movement, which is so amusing. It makes you rethink.


14 April 2010

Part of the log of a morning with a good mix of ......

I've never written anything directly related to my profession, but today is a little different. My professional clients (I've never accepted calling them cases -- it is so inhuman to do so) this morning provided a good mix of the spectrum of feelings that they evoked in me, and it became natural that I made a little log of them.

AA is a 45-year-old lady who first came to see me in February. Hypertension was diagnosed 5 years ago and she was treated with medication with fair control of BP. In the recent 2 years, her doctors stepped up her medication in view of worsening control. When I saw her she was on 4  kinds of antihypertensive pills. She consulted another doctor because of some side-effects of the pills and she stopped taking some of them. Her BP was disturbingly raised, up to 200/108. I explained to her the management plan: adequate control of her BP, assessment of any end-organ damage, and exploration of any secondary causes. Blood and urine tests were normal but USS kidneys showed a discrepancy in their sizes, one being 2.1 cm larger than the other. MRA for renal arteries was suggested but she'd like to consider. Her BP was quite well controlled at around 130/82 in subsequent visits after I changed some of her medications, and she agreed to MRI adrenals + MRA renal arteries after she couldn't get it done free from her past medical carer. Today the results came back and fibromuscular dysplasia is highly suggestive. I'm pleased to have found a treatable cause for her hypertension and also grateful for her trust in me. What is most important in the end is that I can help her. Not at all a bad beginning to a busy morning.

Then came CC who is by now 19. He is autistic with some behavioral problems a few years back. He was brought in by his father and a domestic helper. I first saw him when he was 9. I've always had empathy to his parents. They have gone through so much hardship and pains to raise him. The long necklace with many attached charms of religious purposes worn by CC just shows how desperate his parents are in their attempt to bring peace of mind to him. Empathy is essential in our profession, but sometimes strong empathy will require a long and difficult disengagement after the consultation to bring us back to our previous self. 

A big contrast followed. DD is now 23. I remember the shy innocent girl of 9 when I first saw her. She finished her university studies in the UK, and is now working as a professional in an international firm. Without realising how much time has passed, I now find before me a pleasant educated young woman. I feel happy for her parents. Life is full of contrasts, but the grim determination of parents to make sure that their children are safe and sound never changes. I thank my parents, wholeheartedly.

12 April 2010

If you are left with only one choice......

The other day I was asked a very difficult question. "If you're left with only one recording for each Bruckner symphony, what would you choose?" No matter how many versions there are for a particular symphony, just one symphony one choice, i.e. a total of 11 picks.

In the past I usually made do with a number of "favourites" for each version of each symphony, but this time it's different. It is ironic that if one has many choices one will usually find it harder to choose. Sometimes a Hobson's choice may turn out to be not a bad thing.

Well, I reckon that my choices will not be based solely on their artistic value at the end of the day. Other factors sometimes become more important, like emotional values or memorable experience or events associated with a certain recording or CD.

But I really need time to make the choices. I've at one time asked myself, "Why force yourself to do such a foolish thing?" Yes, I don't have to, but I can take it as a mental challenge. Life is strange, isn't it?

It's taken me three good days and I haven't even reached the halfway point.