30 September 2010


I've surprised Chris, quite unintentionally, before, somehow managing to show him parts of London that he hasn't seen before. Last year he was amazed by Hyde Park and the Serpentine - to me, little more than a pleasant running route. Today I introduced him to Wigmore Hall.

Well, Wigmore Hall is rather surprising by any stretch of the imagination. To enter under that interesting-looking canopy and pass down the corridor to the box office and the entrance to the auditorium is odd in itself - it strikes one as a waste of prime London real estate, although presumably the street frontage is profitably occupied by shops. The corridor is merely the prelude to the most surprising part, the auditorium itself which you just have to go to see for yourself, if you haven't already. The arts and crafts cupola is nothing less than spectacular.

There's also a surprise or two down the stairs, where the reception I attended last week was held, in the Bechstein Room (with Clive Barda's best photographs hanging round the room). There's also a bar and restaurant, where we took a glass of wine and a bowl of crisps and Chris contrived to drop a wad of rail tickets and other small pieces of paper behind the bar. And to leave his programme.

We were there to hear, and watch (because virtuoso piano pieces are as much a spectacle as an aural experience), Mark Bebbington run through an eclectic (to my mind) programme, from Haydn, by way of Schubert, to Liszt, with a premiere performance of Ireland's youthful rhapsody along the way. Being no technical expert, all I can say is that it was uniformly superb, although the piece I looked forward to most, Liszt's transcription of the Liebestod, seemed to me to have rather more notes than it really needed. Even so, a sublime piece of music. Mark was called back for two encores, a piece by Castelnuovo-Tedesco (another premiere, perhaps, as it was unpublished and he told me he had discovered it while studying in Italy) and Feux d'Artifices - not that I recognised it, but someone said that was what it was. I really should know my Debussy better.

I've sometimes felt that Wigmore concerts were put on for the benefit of a closed circle - one member of the group playing for the enjoyment of the others, and perhaps moving round for the next event. To call it cliquey would give the wrong impression, as I didn't feel excluded, but it was a strange sensation - as if they weren't really public concerts. This evening seemed different, somehow, and anyway I am only going on the experience of three visits over a period of some 15 years, so I am probably talking complete rubbish: and each time there have been people there I knew, including the pianist in each case.

A satisfying way to end a very interesting day: a positive (though whether productive remains to be seen) meeting in the morning, and an afternoon of frenetic activity including an hour-long transatlantic conference. Unfortunate that a lunch with an old friend and client had to be dropped, but we'll get back to that soon.

No time to run in the middle of all that, but it's good to know that once again I can run when I want.

Youtube didn't have a lot of relevant choice to offer, but this is worth watching.

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