Monday, 13 July 2009

Poles together

A splendid innovation at this year's Cheltenham Music Festival concerts at Pittville is an additional central aisle between the seating. With my long legs, I have felt myself lucky to get a place beside it nearly every time. The view, in one of the most beautiful chamber music venues anywhere (not just my opinion), is as good as it gets from where I have been sitting.

One rather disconcerting feature, however, is the way in which the large, central chandelier sways slightly from side to side - a cross between the huge Botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (I hope to see it one day) and an outsize metronome. The fact that the swaying does not happen in time with the music may or may not put off those on the platform: it certainly didn't seem to do so this morning, when we were treated to what for me was one of the best recitals in this Festival to date.

After hearing American, Russian and Finnish Quartets, today I listened to the Royal Quartet from Poland performing their compatriot, Szymanowski (the second of his two quartets), together with early Mendelssohn and Mozart's sublime Clarinet Quintet. It all seemed just right, particularly the Szymanowski - quite new to me. Emma Johnson stood between the seated strings, playing her part from memory. Having struggled to learn to play the clarinet at school, I have an inkling how hard it is to play so sweetly.

And sweetest of all was their encore, a quintet arrangement of the Mozart Ave verum corpus. A Royal occasion indeed!

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