thinking about casseroles
Bob and I went for a walk on Wimbledon Common. A film crew must have been working nearby, because several of their vans were parked there. Outside the catering van, a large table had been set up in the open air, beautifully laid with plates of cakes and muffins, pots of coffee, and even two large vases of exotic flowers. At the side of the van was a serving hatch outside which hung a blackboard with a hand-chalked menu of the day, including tasty soups and stews. We briefly wondered if we could saunter up to the hatch, pretend to be actors, and ask for a plateful of feta cheese and butternut squash casserole, but we didn’t think we could muster the right intonation.
As we walked down into the woods in the autumn sunshine, I fantasised about how great it would be to be followed around on concert tours by such a catering van. Instead of running out into the nearby streets between rehearsal and concert, searching for somewhere that’s open and serving the right kind of food at the right speed, we would be looked after by a dedicated team of chefs waiting in the wings with vases of lilies and plates of nourishing snacks. Lucky film actors!
the historic 'Green Room' at Wigmore Hall
A memorable evening last night at Wigmore Hall. We’ve played in a few less-than-ideal acoustics recently (some too resonant, some too dry) so it was a real pleasure to hear the sound ringing through the air of the Wigmore Hall. Such an acoustic actually makes the performers feel inspired to dig out every last detail, because they know it will be heard.
There was a wonderful piano, a great audience, and the world premiere of Huw Watkins’s piano trio – a new contemporary work which, for once, everyone liked on first hearing. This doesn’t happen very often, at least not in my experience. The audience was as quiet and concentrated for the new piece as they were for the two Beethoven trios on either side of it. Indeed, people later commented that having heard Huw’s new piece, they heard connections between it and Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ trio which we played afterwards, and one or two people even said they heard the Beethoven in a new light because of what they’d heard in the new piece. Surely that’s a fine compliment to Huw.
We had supper afterwards, and Huw thanked us for including him in what he called ‘a Beethoven sandwich’. But, as I pointed out, it was actually a Watkins sandwich. After all, a sandwich is called after the filling.
dusk was falling as we arrived
We went to Cambridge to play a concert in Peterhouse, the oldest and smallest of Cambridge University’s colleges. Our travel plans had gone awry, and we arrived an hour late and a bit agitated. Dusk was falling, and by the time we finished our rehearsal it was dark. We went out for a bite to eat before the concert.
As we made our way to the street through a succession of small, dimly-lit stone courtyards, the fellows of the college were emerging from various staircases and heading towards dinner in their mediaeval hall. It was a windy night, and as these shadowy figures appeared from one archway and disappeared silently into another, their long black academic gowns rose up and swirled about them in the lamplight, making them look like a Mervyn Peake drawing come to life. Lights glowed gently in study windows. It was easy to imagine that the scene had scarcely changed for the past few hundred years.
Sometimes a sight like this makes me impatient because it seems unreal and anachronistic, detached from the hurly-burly of ‘life outside’. On this occasion, however, I stood at the gate looking back at them with a feeling of envy.
The critics of Gramophone magazine have been choosing their favourite discs of the year for the December issue, and Peter Quantrill has chosen the Florestan Trio’s latest disc, of Haydn Trios (volume 2), as his personal favourite of 2009. He writes:
‘I can’t remember a disc of more good, serious fun than the envoi to Haydn Year from the Florestan Trio… Not a phrase is left to chance. It’s a disc full of bushes and briars, and the cold fresh wind of sense on a sunny winter morning.’ We’re slightly perplexed by the reference to bushes and briars, but we’re also mysteriously pleased by the image.
We were rehearsing this week in the home of a friend who keeps a pet canary in a cage in the kitchen. The canary was silent as we arrived and sat round the table, chatting and drinking coffee. But as soon as we went next door, picked up our instruments and started to play, the canary greeted our first notes with a fusillade of energetic chirping and high-pitched coloratura. At first we thought he was competing with the high-pitched violin, but later, when I was practising the piano on my own, he behaved in exactly the same way. He responded to my opening chords with an outburst of excited comment. When I fell silent, he fell silent.
I would love to know whether, as I first thought, the canary was thrilled by the sound of live music in his home, or whether in fact he was alarmed by what he perceived as rival chirruping. Perhaps his vigorous calling and singing was actually a display of territorial power, a warning to us to get off his patch. What sounded like lovely music to us may have seemed to him like a coup d’état.