David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Kozeluch and Glass

Leopold Kozeluch, Piano Concertos no. 1, 5 & 6, Howard Shelley, London Mozart Players (Hyperion)

This all sounds very familiar. Obviously not any of the Mozart concertos one immediately knows so it must be some of the others. You could have fooled me, and it did, so I bought the album.
All the mannerism and style of the much-loved Mozart concertos are here but Mozart isn't. Leopold Kozeluch (1747- 1818) was doing almost the same thing at the same time but whereas Mozart did it just that extra bit better and so became a household name, Kozeluch was famous in their day but precious few have heard of him now.
It's the devil that is missing, and that tinge of melancholy, that makes Mozart special and means that Kozeluch is just the professional showman. He should perhaps be grateful that Peter Schaffer didn't use him as the Salieri figure in Amadeus and thus cast him for posterity as the frustrated rival who was not touched by God because it seems that Mozart and Kozeluch perhaps didn't like each other much and so he would have fitted the role equally well.
The piano tinkles in spritely fashion in the allegros and is gently picturesque in the slow movements but for all that he chases himself up and down the keyboard, the closer you listen, the more you know this isn't quite genius, it is just highly likeable and very companiuonable music, it just doesn't have any darkness, doubt or sense of fragility shimmering under the surface. 
And that is presumably the difference between colossal genius and perfect professionalism.

Philip Glass, Symphony no. 10   Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon (BBC Music)

Even the BBC Music magazine, that doesn't have a bad word for much, has to admit that much of Philip Glass is like a lot of other Philip Glass. Twice during the all-night vigil of Glass works broadcast on Radio 3 to mark the 80th birthday, I tuned in and tuned out again, wondering who was capable of listening to six hours of it. If the USA blasted President Noriega of Panama with heavy metal racket until he came out with his hands up, or Chinese water torture, here was a further idea of driving anybody to distraction.
The solo piano music, the opera Akhnaten and the violin concerto are Glass pieces that genuinely do make him important, enjoyable and one of the grreat composers of his generation but the point of his gradually evolving repetitions are best appreciated as an idea rather than having to listen to it all.
The tenth symphony is, like so mucxh of his music, apparently made up of references to the rest of his music and if Vivaldi can be accused of having written the same concerto 500 times it is hard to see why Glass should not be described in similar terms.
The disc that comes with the February edition of the BBC magazine is augmented with The Dharma at Big Sur for electric violin and orchestra by John Adams and that provides a more atmospheric, other-worldly meditation that is much more satisfying and a welcome alternative to The Chairman Dances or A Short Ride in a Fast Machine, by which Adams is usually known.
But the magazine is worth its price for alerting us to a new disc by Natalie Clein and the fact that where once, some 40 years ago, I was capable of doing the NME crossword, I can now do theirs.   

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Let there be less of it

Having been most disgruntled by Richard Ellman's biography of Yeats, I've had Brenda Maddox's George's Ghosts waiting to be looked at to see if she provides a more coherent account of the life rather than a detailed exegesis of all the supernatural baloney that he involved himself in.
It was a close run thing in the early pages and Yeats was nearly abandoned as a lost cause but I persevered long enough for the book to convince that it is a sane and useful document of the life, personality and relationships and it is most welcome.

With Buxtehude proving a hugely enjoyable companion, mostly in the choral works, as I come to the end of a firrst run through of the 29 disc set of Opera Omnia, the next stage is to retrace my way back through some highlights noted on the way and read more of the booklets and text to formulate a clearer idea of the oeuvre. It is a case of instinctively knowing what is right and not for one minute has it seemed like an overdue extravagance to blow most of last year's horse racing profit on such an investment.

It has also meant a period of restraiut in ordering books and records while I catch up with this backlog of essential reading and listening. January has been a record low point for acquisitions with only one disc arriving, af fortepiano and viola da gamba pieces by C.P.E. Bach, and I surprised myself by ordering the paperback of David Starkey's television series on Music and Monarchy, in which he has been gentle with us, informed and sensible in his telling of the composers who wrote and played for the British royals.

But a considerable list is accumulating of further requirements and, in preparation for next year's biography of Charlotte Mew by Julia Copus, a collected Mew will be necessary; there's piano concertos by Leopold Kozeluch, which could be Mozart in disguise; I see that we are due some Simon Armitage poems in March, which is also when The Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir reveals its rich cargo and that is without essentials such as volume three of Danny Baker's memoirs, Sean O'Brien's stories in Quartier Perdu and the very long awaited Clive Wilmer's selection of Thom Gunn. Luckily, the last few days have seen some horses doing the required business to pay for them.

But there are events to mention, too, for anyone in their vicinities. Feb 11th is Pauline Hawkesworth's book launch, with a supporting cast of readers from Portsmouth Poetry Society (see below), of which I'm delighted to be one; The Jess Davies Band have a date forthcoming in Southsea in March, where it's possible one or two songs in the set might be co-authored by me and, further ahead in July, and different again, my nephew goes straight into time-trialling at the deep end, with plans to ride the Welsh CA 12 Hour, which now incorporates the WTTA event that I used to ride in the 1990's, in the Monmouth area for which I will be glad to support and advise in the inevitable obliteration of the one family cycling record I ever held.

So, while there is plenty to be involved with, and I can report that Time After Time, my novel about club cycling in 1969, is 78% done in its first and only draft, and will be ready to be printed off, photographed and then put away in a drawer, there is likely to be less of this internet broadcasting. It's not good for me and it might be better for those who read it if I do less of it and appear no more than once a week or when there is something worth the saying.       

Monday, 16 January 2017

Stephen Burt, the poem is you

Stephen Burt, the poem is you (Belknap/Harvard)

Abandon hope all ye who enter here. This is what happens when poetry is annexed by academia. The professor at Harvard has to explain the many and various ways in which poetry defines itself as not such a commodity.

The 60 American poems begin in 1981 with John Ashbery and a poem, almost needless to say, about being a poem. It's the first of many where the main theme is its own 'ars poetica' and while I'm very much in favour of poems being aware that they are poems, one would soon tire of a chair that only concerned itself with being a chair or an aeroplane that defined itself as an aeroplane very specifically but never actually flew.

I thought it an excellent opportunity to survey 'contemporary American poetry' and I'm glad of it per se but while it is impressive in its breadth and depth, it is inevitably still a partial view by an industry insider and, however bewilderingly diverse, I wonder if it is missing something. Surely 60 is enough but if I, from this side of the water, question that his 61st poet might have been Anglo-American, Thom Gunn, but he finds no place for Timothy Steele, Marilyn Hacker, August Kleinzahler or the best-selling Billy Collins, it already looks like a personal view. Robert Pinsky is only present as a translator and the usual debate about who is in and why needs to be halted before it gets out of hand.

Burt is a sympathetic and comprehensive guide in his commentaries and is often able to 'sell' poems that on first reading might have struggled to sell themselves but at other times one could be suspicious that he is making special pleas for niche campus interests that illustrate what poetry is happening in these inward-looking faculties but have less appeal beyond. I am expecting to read the next few books I pick up with more relish and enjoyment than I so dutifully did this one.

But I'm glad to have been introduced to, and enjoyed, a healthy quota of the poems featured and that must have been the object of the exercise. Six poems in, John Hollander arrives just in time even though we have already seen Richard Wilbur by then.
There are names that can be trusted with poems to admire, like Adrienne Rich, reasons to be found to pursue Louise Gluck, a convincing case made for Rae Armantrout, Laura Kasischke's Miss Weariness, and the abundance of Albert Goldbarth's 'ultra-talk', and if a magazine brought together a dozen such poets it would be an issue to celebrate and so each reader will come away with their own shortlist of poets to follow up.

Being in chronological order, and finishing with Brandon Som's Oulipo, French for 'where is Li Po', and Ross Gay's Weeping, not long after the Inupiat, dg nanouk okpik, one is tempted by the idea that some strands of contemporary poetry have found their way out of language poetry and offer things to look forward to, which of course there always will be, but it is difficult not to close the book wondering at the special pleading for diversity, the dysfunction and alienation felt by so many and thus how come the Democrat vote collapsed to such an extent that Donald Trump got in.
There is simply no point poets congratulating themselves on the integrity of their esoteric work if meanwhile the lunatics are taking over the asylum.
No, poetry probably doesn't make anything happen but that is to be regretted rather than rewarded.           

Top 6 Game for the Radio

Perhaps I should pitch my Top 6 feature to Radio 3 and see if my pension can be augmented with the rights to it.
The idea occured to me when bracing myself to find the Top 6 Buxtehude from the Opera Omnia.
As you will see, below, the discs there come in colour-coded categories- organ music, vocal works, harpsichord and chamber music. I thought it best to represent Buxtehude by allocating the six in an appropraite allocation of six pieces from the four categories.
With Buxtehude being best known as an organ composer, there should be two of those, and with one from the harpsichord discs and one chamber piece, that leaves two from the choral section. Or, does it. The chamber music is perhaps so little regarded and there is so much more choral work that perhaps one should go 2 organ, 3 choral, 1 harpsichord and leave the chamber music out, except my very favourite piece is a trio sonata. We will see, but it leads on to a panel game, or discussion, for 45 minutes, on a different composer each week that goes something like this.

One of the R3 presenters is the chairperson- Suzy Klein or Tom Service, say, and three guests are a conductor, a musician and an amateur enthusiast. Let's say the first show is on Beethoven and we can get Kirill Karabits, Tasmin Little and anybody but Alan Titchmarsh. It won't be long before Stephen Fry wants to be on but he can wait for Wagner so we'll have Johnny Sessions.
They first need to decide on how to allocate the six pieces. Should it be 2 symphonies, 2 concertos, a choral piece and a string quartet.  
Ah, but, what about the piano sonatas. 
Well, I can't sacrifice either the Emperor concerto or the violin concerto.
So, we can't have Missa Solemnis or Fidelio, then. You've got to have a late quartet.
And no Diabelli Variations?
No, probably not. 
But we are going to need three symphonies.
And have nothing to represent Beethoven's choral music?
That'll be in the ninth symphony.

So it's 3 symphonies, 2 concertos, a string quartet and a piano sonata until they realize that's 7 altogether. A symphony or a concerto has to go with it already implicitly agreed that Symphony no. 9 is playing an all-rounder role in two categories.

They do the relatively easy bit first by going for the Hammerklavier over the Moonlight or Appassionata sonatas. The Grosse Fuge is the chamber music.
Four choices remain from symphonies and concertos with Symphony no. 9 apparently given a bye.

So, we must have Fifth Symphony, Emperor Concerto and Violin Concerto.
And no Eroica? No Triple Concerto? 
I think the Violin Concerto has to go.
I'd like to make a case for the Seventh Symphony.
It's a bit late now.

And so on, with the radio audience making astute points via the website and saying things like they don't even want any Karajan recording of the ninth at the expense of Carlo Maria Giulini's Pastoral, and it's me that said that.
It is a sure-fire hit, bringing all the partisan acrimony of Question Time to the civilized sanctuary of Radio 3 in place of one of its interminable jazz programmes on Saturday tea-time.

And here's my Top 6 Beethoven, for the record,
Symphony no. 5
Symphony no. 6
Violin Concerto
Emperor Concerto
Moonlight Sonata
Grosse Fuge

because I'll misrepresent him and include no choral music at all, if only because it's not to Beethoven I go for singing.   

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Pauline Hawkesworth, Life-Savers on All Sides

Pauline Hawkesworth, Life-Savers on All Sides (Indigo Dreams)

Pauline Hawkesworth’s new pamphlet arrives as a result of success in the Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition. Her work has appeared in many places over the years but there was a long gap between her first published collection, Dust and Dew (1969) and the more recent opportunities to have her poems together in one book.
If some poems aspire to the condition of music, Pauline is a visual poet, one of observation, and more like a painter. Her language never reaches, or needs to reach, for anything extravagant. She is never going to be undone by trying too hard or straining for effect.
In They Will Come, which does a great deal in its seven lines, puddles join together to become seas,
and the shapes 
of drowned fishermen
float to the surface.

In so few, economical lines we have moved from something mundane to a suddenly haunting image and the poems here are often worried by something troubling like local or domestic miniatures that are metaphors for the larger, precarious world.
Themes of swimming, running or flight recur as if they are a search for release from such anxiety. Sometimes it is resolved but not always and it is the search for release that is the point rather than any guaranteed, comforting resolution.
Trick of the Eye leads us out of one chilling possibility only to disconcert with a different doubt about what we think we are looking at; the language of Not Looking Where You Are Going breaks down and fragments as the snail in it does. The Night ‘groans as daylight/ rubbed it away’ and in Cutting Through, the wish is expressed to ‘muster all the sadness in the world’ to cure it with a song of healing.
It is healing that these poems would like to be able to offer but they are wise enough to know that is too much to ask. It has still been worth the effort.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Buxtehude Opera Omnia

Dieterich Buxtehude, Opera Omnia, Ton Koopman et al (Challenge Classics)

It isn't going to get any better than this. From now on, it's surely downhill all the way.

29 CD's, one DVD and several booklets comprise Ton Koopman's account of the complete Buxtehude on which he plays organ, harpsichord and conducts the choir and ensembles. For me, it represents a summit in all those years of buying records that began with the 7 inch single of Mozart 40 in the respectful arrangement by Waldo de los Rios in 1971, through Lindisfarne, Steeleye Span, Beethoven symphonies, going into town to buy new Sex Pistols records unheard as soon as they were released, Chic, an extensive portfolio of Gregory Isaacs LP's and Al Green, the belated gathering of T. Rex luxury edition CD's, Sibelius symphonies, Handel, Bach, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Monteverdi, R.E.M., The Magnetic Fields and Motown and Northern Soul compilations. Don't talk to me about diversity.
I never expected to buy anything as lavish as this, though. Not until I realized that a disciplined approach to betting on horse racing could make it possible for money legitimately taken out of bookmakers to pay for such things.

As you can see from my photograph, the box set contains four sets of discs in colour-coded sleeves- the organ music, choral work, harpsichord music and chamber work, a booklet for each containing the sleeve notes from each separate release, a DVD and a book of 'lyrics'.

How amusing would it be to begin by being critical. There is a typographical error on the box, which is disappointing when you'll be lucky to find this anywhere for less than £200, depending on how the pound stands with the Euro, (but it is generally much more than that) and do we really call the words to these cantatas 'lyrics'. Are they not the 'text'.
It was also disappointing to find that the DVD is about Ton Koopman and not Buxtehude, Lubeck in the late C17th and Lutheranism. With no disrespect to Ton, who is devoted to his work, it is Dietrich I'd prefer to know more about.

But, those minor points aside, the recording is sumptuous and spacious, as I discovered when going straight to the Trio Sonata in B flat, in Opus 1. The lute and continuo are higher in the mix than expected but can afford to be and the exuberance of the violin part can't be overshadowed by it.
It is not Buxtehude's fault that he lived ahead of Bach any more than one can blame Buddy Holly for not being Lennon and McCartney. Although there is a tremendous range of emotion and formal discipline to be found in this music, nobody is going to pretend that Buxtehude produced anything like the quality or quantity of the most complete artist yet to emerge from humanity but if we all need to be helped up by giants that preceded us then J.S. might not have done what he did without Dietrich's example to build on.
Best known in his lifetime as an organist, it is fitting that Ton Koopman is the instigator of this monumental account and there is much bright, spectacular music to be enjoyed on the five organ discs, rather than a choral music specialist even if there are seventeen in the 'vocal' section. But it is the choir pieces, with ensemble, that will leave the most lasting impression, and not for the extravagant glories of such baroque masters as Handel, who was Anglo-German but always affected by his early education in Italy, Vivaldi, or Scarlatti, in whose music is the sunnier climate of Southern Europe and the less inhibited Catholic urge to celebrate, but for a cooler, sparser demeanour of piety and devotion that comes with North German Protestant rigour and restraint. The long aftertaste of the Buxtehude cantata is that of the solo violin wandering, often lamenting, in and around the vocal line.
None of which is to suggest that Buxtehude is dour. The light and redemption is more earned than assumed, though, and the darkness more guardedly contemplated than made as sensual as Monteverdi, so gorgeously, does. The organ music is similarly at least as memorable when demonstrating that not everything that is best about church organs is the swelling, all stops out, magnificence of those famous bits by Widor or Bach's Toccata and Fugue. There are other, quieter performances available to the organist beyond the trumpet sound and wall-blasting capability.
Best known among this ostensibly lesser-known composer's works are the cantatas, Membra Jesu Nostri; the harpsichord variations, La Capricciosa, and, naturally, the organ works that are a part of the repertoire for any worthwhile church organist but the advantage of the complete works is that it is egalitarian in giving everything the space it requires with nothing either emphasized as 'top of the bill' or hidden away. The chamber music is not what he might have been known for but is wonderfully inventive, suggests a personality within the baroque style and is by no means the only place that one has a sense of Buxtehude as immense good fun, taking us by surprise, and, as I'm sure we would all like to be, alive in his work more than three hundred years after the fact.
There will be plenty more to say. I haven't actually listened to all 29 discs yet but a few have already been played more than once. One big undertaking will be the Top 6 Buxtehude, reviving this website's old feature, with no excuses for missing anything because it is all here.
So, thank you to all the horses that paid for this treasured possession. They not only paid for it but compensated for the disastrous gambling losses on the referendum and the American election, where the complacency of the political classes and the failure of the assumed liberal majority to get up and stand up let in the likes of Farage and Trump. Be that as it may, it's going to take those hooligans a while before they can ruin things like this.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Pauline Hawkesworth book launch

A review of the book will appear here soon.                                                              

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

It is good to reflect how accurate one's choice of books and records to buy usually is when one goes astray.

It is necessary, though, to recognize that a reviewer's recommendation isn't always going to mean that another reader will appreciate the same book in the same way. Thus, I had an outright fail by following up a book of poems listed in one of the many Books of the Year features that occur in December.

I'm not going to identify the title as it does nobody any good to issue downright scathing reviews and the book will surely find an appreciative audience in a demographic sample that doesn't include the likes of me.

But poetry that is mainly political in its intention is off to a bad start. Some will say that everything is political, and that's fine, but I'd prefer poetry to be somehow above that and be political more by implication than explicit intention.
Diction also achieves longer-lasting appreciation and integrity if not making internal rhyme and alliteration its primary tactic. Murray Lachlan Young, the subject of a long-gone publicity campaign was a shallow performance poet who came and went a long time ago, a bag of such facile tricks that his poems were never going to sustain much interest.
The book that I regret buying is aimed at the Kate Tempest sector of the market, which could be a good place to sell a few books, but I will be more wary in future. One continues to turn the pages more in trepidation than expectation and soon, with one's fears justified until half way through the book, one has to abandon it.
Luckily, it doesn't happen very often and one can't expect everything to be an unconditional success. That would be dull.