Haydn among the asparagus

4th May 2009 | Florestan Trio, Travel | 0 comments

Up at 6am to fly to Frankfurt and then on by road to the Schwetzingen Festival, where my trio is opening a series of concerts celebrating Haydn’s wonderful piano trios. Arriving suddenly in Schwetzingen on a Sunday lunchtime makes me realise that I carry my London tempo around with me, and that it grates in other places. Bells ring lazily, people stand chatting in knots on the pavement, and locals are gathered for leisurely Sunday lunches in cosy old inns along the cobbled streets. I burst into the dark panelled restaurant of our inn, in search of a quick lunch before our rehearsal. People glance round, their attention caught by my air of hurry. And why am I in a hurry? There’s new asparagus, white and succulent, to savour in a dozen different sauces. Bees drift in on the sunlit air from the terrace. I’m the only person dining alone, but no female reader of MFK Fisher allows herself to be daunted by the social challenge of lone dining.

Our concert is in the stunning palace with its formal gardens laid out rather like a German version of Versailles. Playing Haydn feels perfect in the dove-grey beauty of the Mozartsaal. We’ve been asked to contrast two of Haydn’s piano trios with twentieth-century masterpieces by Ravel and Charles Ives. In this setting, the crazy Ives Trio feels even more iconoclastic than usual, yet an elderly German lady tells us afterwards that she found it the best piece on the programme. The audience is extremely warm towards us.

The director of the festival kindly invites us for a bit of supper afterwards, but somehow the combination of early flight and enormous, demanding concert programme has done for me. I feel so weary I just want to lie down on the floor of the restaurant and go to sleep among the plates of asparagus.

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