Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pectorals and Poulenc

Dateline Berlin 21 May 2014.

My physical cavalcade towards health and (?) beauty continues, with a daily 2-3 hours at Holmes Place. I’m heading off there for my now regular session. It’s Nik day tomorrow, and I want to impress him with my progress.
I have made some progress. When I saw my friend Jens, for the first time this season, on Monday he was most taken with the improved Kurt. Especially when I didn’t order wine with dinner. Just, hehe, cocktails.

The G√§nzl workout has stretched to 45 minutes (gym) and 15 mins (pool) now. And I’ve stretched quite a bit. Full extensions, except pointed feet which still bring on cramps, the squat weights increased without pain to 8kg, and yes! I made those 6kg lifting weights! It’s a struggle but I’ll get to a complete set today. 25kg on the rowing machine, increasingly effortful floor exercises (will I ever be able to do sit-ups again?), and a full set of straight-knee aquatic arabesques. The guys round the pool are a bit amazed to see the fat oldie doing ballet exercises, but I know a couple of them have tried it after I’m gone!
You don’t really expect to see visible results after 3 weeks of training, but I really can. The posture, the glimmer of a waist and – yesterday a triumph. One of the things that I hated most about my 2010s body was – well, you can only call them saggy tits. Its one of the ghastliest signs – along with the roll of belly fat cascading over a shrivelled penis – of decadence in an ageing man. And I was getting saggy tits. I’ve never really had a chest, but there was enough of it still in the right place to sag. Horror! Well, I don’t know which exercise is doing it, but I’ve ‘perked up’! There are still threatening marks in the armpits, but the chest is almost back to 2009 level. I just about have pectorals! Weeny ones, but they’re pectorals! And perky.

Achievements deserve treats. I have stuck religiously to the ‘kein Wein’ rule, but Monday night we had a visit to the Katz Orange – always a treat – celebrating Livia Degerolstein’s win in Tasmania – which obligatorily includes Olli’s latest cocktails, and last night we went to a concert at the Pianosalon Christophori. They have free wine with their concerts, but I stuck religiously to little bottles of beer. Filling.

The concert was a delightful one, by the duo Kang/Kusnezow; a not very imaginative nomenclature covering the combination of violinist Byol Kang and pianist Boris Kusnezow. The Pianosalon has lots of concerts of this type: what made us choose this one was the repertoire: Debussy, Poulenc, Ravel and Beethoven. Just my cup of wine. I mean, beer.

There is really nothing to say about fine, established artists such as these. What can you ‘criticise? I – who know nothing of this repertoire, had my general-musician’s opinions, Paul, sitting next to me, has performed three of tonight’s four sonatas in public concert. I knew not enough, he perhaps too much. Can one know too much?
Well, here we go. I was simply blown away by the second half of the concert. The music and the playing. The Poulenc sonata is one of the most glorious pieces of violin music I’ve ever heard. Lively, tempestuous, tender, soaring … the whole world in three movements. The second movement gave me a lump in my throat. I love this under-appreciated composer, and the two young artists clearly do too. The piece, pricelessly played, got easily the biggest ovation of the evening.
The Ravel was kept for last. It, too, is a wonderful piece, quirky and bluesy, wonderfully played, but it couldn’t top the Poulenc.
The first half was nice, too, the Beethoven was played beautifully, but I question the wisdom of opening with the Debussy. Either they or I didn’t quite get ‘in’ to it. Especially the first movement. Paul says it was impeccable played, and he liked the first movement best. But somehow it didn’t catch me up and carry me along until half way through.
If an old showman may suggest: open with Ravel, tell everyone what a fun time they are going to have, and conclude with the Poulenc!

A couple of Pianosalon observations. When Ms Kang started playing what we informed was a Guarnerius, I was a little disappointed in its sound. Not very lavish. And the pizzicati were inaudible. But I found the reason. For the first time, we were seated down the side. When I slipped out to the loo at the end, I re-entered just as the encore (Thais) was starting. Standing at the back, the sound was perfect. Make sure you get a seat in the centre block!
Secondly and sadly. We love the Pianosalon, its entertainment and its attitude. But last night, we noticed a change. What is this audience? I said. Not students and half-penniless music lovers, come for an evening of music for ‘what you can afford’, there was a decided blue-rinse tinge in evidence. So that’s why Johannes wouldn’t come. And it got worse.

We brought five students and young music lovers with us, including one lass who had never been to a classical concert. At the end she proffered her few euros and was nastily told that there was a 14 euro minimum. Really? Since when? It doesn’t say that anywhere. I can afford to pay. I usually give anywhere between 30 and 50 euros. I don’t mind subsidising the young folk. Well, I sha’n’t any more. I shall give fourteen. And I fear a delightful era has come to an end.

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