Wednesday 31 January 2018

In-Flight Entertainment

Well, I'm back in Blighty, after a very wonderful (but not blog-friendly) sojourn in Wellington, a city I like even more with every visit. If only it wasn't so ridiculously far away...
 En route, the in-flight entertainment offered slim pickings on the film front. I watched Goodbye Christopher Robin, a lumpy, often clichéd drama about the relationship between A.A. Milne and the son he cursed with the lifelong burden of being the insufferably winsome 'Christopher Robin'. A.A. does not come out of it at all well, and that is probably fair. The only other films I watched were Logan Lucky, a Steven Soderbergh crime caper that felt as if it should have been a lot funnier than it actually was, and the extraordinary, hand-painted animation Loving Vincent. This struck me as a great endeavour let down by a rather lame, detective-drama-style script. There's also a real problem matching actors' speech to animation of this kind, which looks beautiful but is inevitably wobbly and not naturalistic when it comes to facial and bodily movements. This mismatch between speech and image gives the dialogue scenes an oddly stilted feel. However, Loving Vincent passed a chunk of flight time very agreeably.
 The musical entertainment on offer in the Classical section (I didn't feel inclined to catch up on the latest developments in K-Pop or J-Pop) was the usual mix of the entirely predictable and the unexpected. There was an album of Scarlatti sonatas and another devoted to Szymanowski (some sacred works and the Third Symphony), also much Ravel piano music, and even a performance of Busoni's Violin Concerto. The big surprise, though, was an album called Handel Goes Wild, which I tried out of sheer curiosity; there was almost no information on it, so I had no idea what to expect. My immediate reaction was What the heck is this? Handel meets Jazz/World Music? Surely that can't work – and yet, as I carried on listening, I realised that, at least some of the time, it did, and rather beautifully (though on other occasions it certainly failed and seemed simply bonkers).
 I discovered later that Handel Goes Wild is an album by theorbo player Christina Pluhar and her ensemble L'Arpeggiata, with guest players and singers. They have also made an album in which they take a similar approach to Purcell – I must have a listen... For someone like me who grew up at a time when Baroque music was seriously undervalued and under-explored – and was played very straight, on modern instruments – it's been good to experience the ongoing rediscovery of the Baroque and the development of so many new ways of performing and interpreting the music. It's almost as if Baroque music has come back from the near dead and is fully, vividly – sometimes crazily – alive again. That's got to be a good thing.
 But enough of in-flight entertainment. Now that I'm back on home ground, normal service will resume in due course...


  1. Welcome back! Funnily enough I've got the Pluhar Purcell album and really like it. Will have to try the Handel.

  2. Welcome back Nige. This reminds me of my late father's favourite - Jacques Loussier. Still with us at the age of around 84. I saw him 6 years ago at Chichester Festival Theatre with his Quartet. They were wonderful playing, Bach, Satie and Debussy. I have albums of the Quartet playing the latter two.