Saturday, 4 July 2009
The 65th Cheltenham Festival of Music
John Manduell - who ran our music festival for many years - used to contact local Air Force bases in advance, to ensure there would be no low-flying planes to provide unwelcome obbligati during concerts. His meticulous successor, Meurig Bowen, was confronted by a different source of extraneous sound during tonight's Smith Quartet recital: a firework display - marking end of term festivities at Cheltenham Ladies' College, one gathers. The College, not content with adding to the warming of the planet and burning money, marred our enjoyment of Philip Glass's concentrated 5th Quartet. (Their display would have been better timed for rather earlier in the evening when Handel's Royal Fireworks music was performed in the same building.)
This apart, the Smith Quartet galvanised the audience with exhilarating renderings of George Crumb's Black Angels and Steve Reich's Different Trains. A pity we couldn't hear them in a better space, though: the Pillar Room's sightlines are appalling; the acoustic lacks resonance and we all sweltered in the heat.
Earlier, I had visited Pittville and glimpsed the Festival's Fiesta in the Park: as you can see from my photograph, a good time was being had by all - or all who turned out: the Park deserved to be packed on a sunny Saturday afternoon, given the effort the organisers had put into the occasion. (I hope to write more about what's on display at Pittville shortly.)