Friday, January 2, 2009


I go through phases, I always do. They needn’t be seasonal in any intelligible way, even though some go off at given times of the year, such as the Wish For Paris Phase, which I only go through every April to July, or the Long for New York Phase, which is a November to February affair, or the Asparagus Phase, which closely follows the availability of the crop itself and is a May to June biological bell. Then I’ve got plenty of returning phases that surface throughout the year and entirely at random: the Knitting Scarves Phase or the Reading Comics Phase or the Baking Bread Phase. There is one phase though that is both seasonal and random, for it always takes place in January and also at other times before the calendar year is out; the Strauss Phase.

I listen to all sorts of music and I should probably thank dad for my eclectic musical tastes. Dad has sung in a choir ever since before I born and so it was inevitable that my first forays into musical humming were along the lines of Nabucco, Traviata and Aida, long before I discovered Living On A Prayer and the Spider-man theme. Waltzes and polkas were so catchy to my untrained child ears that their appeal began early in life and never left me. The Strauss Phase descends upon me randomly but always, always, always in January, for there is no other music as joyful and joyous, as romantic and unapologetically happy to be itself as the one produced by the two Johanns, Edi and Pepi.

Today I went to the Bridgewater Hall to listen to the Johann Strauss Orchestra directed by violin virtuoso Daniel Rowland upon the backdrop of the Johann Strauss dancers. I’ve always been in two minds about the violin you know; much as it tunes up the whole orchestra, I never warmed up to it. I always thought it lacked the ethereal qualities of the harp, the humorous flashes of the clarinet, the magical connotations of the traverse flute and the singing capabilities of the trumpet. Oh I could go on, I was no violin appassionata.

But then everyone knows that the magic is so like falling in love and happens when we least expect it. Live music is like that at the worst of times, and believe me, bad violins can be really awful, yet one can come across a performance that is both fired up and restrained if at all possible. Finally, even I get the violin. Daniel Rowland is capable of great subtlety and virtuous flair; his playing in turn coy and possessed, strings flying as the melody runs away with lyrical drama. Meanwhile, contrasting emotions wash upon me, tears I cannot ignore prick my eyes with the same tenacity of nagging children. He returns to the Bridgewater Hall with the Johann Strauss Orchestra on 6 February; I won’t miss him and neither should you. And from now on, it won't be a dark-and-handsome one serenading me with a guitar in my daydreams.
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