I woke up at 1.30 AM and immediately turned the computer on, to find I was just in time for Jessica Yates' remarkable and provocative Oxonmoot paper attempting to reconstruct the topic of the lost lecture on Hamlet that Tolkien delivered at the Oxford English School in 1937, and about which she has been regaling me for the past few months.
I also started to watch a talk on The Hobbit which won my allegiance initially by pointing out that the story doesn't begin until the sixth paragraph, but instead of treating the previous paragraphs like the expository introduction they are, the author evidently was trying to sort the text out by internal chronology. Plus bad sound quality and I gave up on that one.
Also saw part of a proposal for a Tolkien museum. This got lively when the presenter showed a slide featuring a photo of what looked like Tolkien, with a pipe, examining plants in a greenhouse. "That's not Tolkien!" shouted some members of the in-person audience. "Yes it is!" replied the presenters. "No it isn't!" repeated the audience, and their will prevailed.
Meanwhile at the string quartet competition, the finalists were announced as the Balourdet, Isidore, and Opus 13 Quartets. Interesting, I thought: those are the three groups that played Brahms in the Romantic round, and my thoughts went back to an earlier competition when the three finalists were the groups that played Ravel in the Romantic round. At least, I thought, Isidore and Opus 13 did above-average Brahms: his quartets do not often come off well.
My own choice as the best ensemble was the Dior Quartet, followed by the Karski and either the Abeo or Terra.
The finalists get to play a major middle or late Beethoven quartet of their previous choice, and this time we wound up with all three of the most prestigious of the 5 late quartets, just about the most epic and intimidating music in the standard quartet repertoire: Op. 130/133, Op. 131, and Op. 132. Each took close to an hour.
My favorite of the three is Op. 132. I thought the Isidore Quartet did very well with it, but I've heard other performances I found more sublime. The Balourdet Quartet perhaps did better with Op. 131, which I find a tougher nut, and the Opus 13 Quartet attacked the enormous Op. 130/133 with gumption.
Regardless, the competition winner was the Isidore. Well, their Brahms was very good, and their Canadian competition quite stylish, and their Beethoven at least reached for real quality. Reasonable show; sorry I couldn't be there in person.
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