Monday, 9 July 2012

Full houses at Pittville

The Pump Room was full both this morning and yesterday afternoon - all to the good for the Cheltenham Festival finances. And for the first time after a lengthy gap, we once again get free tea or coffee included in the ticket price - though seeing how much they have gone up, it's just as well.

This morning's programme opened with the Escher String Quartet playing mid-period Mendelssohn (32 minutes, but it felt longer). Piano prodigy Benjamin Grosvenor - only one day out of his teens - then gave us Gaspard de la nuit: this must be hard enough to play at the best of times, but made more so when a phone goes off: this happened four times - does anyone else harbour murderous thoughts as I do on these occasions?

After the interval, the five performers combined to give us the Brahms Piano Quintet, which will surely have sent our royal patron off to lunch in a good mood: I was wondering why police were there directing traffic before the concert.

Yesterday's event that I attended was altogether more unusual: the period instrumentalists Florilegium combined with the Arakaendar Bolivia Choir to give us a nicely varied programme of Bolivian baroque pieces. From the first entry by the choir, processing to the stage, it was clear we were in for something different - a sound we don't get from European singers, even those open-throated Bulgarians.

Not everyone was rushing back to watch Federer v. Murray: an impressive percentage of the audience stayed for the post-concert discussion: Piotr Nawrot SJ and Ashley Solomon (Florilegium's director) gave a riveting account of how it has all come together. Hearing these newly-discovered religious settings removed, at last, the nasty taste left by Swayne's Missa Tiburtina the previous morning.

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