Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…
I had promised myself a day off on 1 April (day 15 of my journey), that was until I realised that there was an Eastertide Bach Marathon planned at Royal Albert Hall to celebrate John Eliot Gardiner’s 70th birthday. What is it with musicians, the rest of us are content to blow out the candles on our birthday cake and unwrap presents but these guys want to have their cake and eat it too?!
The day will span from performances of the solo Cello Suites and Goldberg Variations to a B minor Mass and lots in between. A nine-hour feast of Bach’s music and even a panel of neuroscientists, physicists and theologians discussing their responses to Bach. Wow!
This approach of taking an intensive 360 degree look at music is similar to the year-long festival at Southbank Centre The Rest is Noise inspired by a wonderful book by Alex Ross. His recent article in The New Yorker magazine titled The Power of Four about the current success of string quartets in New York is also worth tracking down. He especially notes the ‘explosion of activity at summer festivals’ and the haven of ensemble residencies as positives. He also points to the conundrum of presenting chamber music in halls that are too large.
On their recent tour of New Zealand Kronos Quartet gave a succinct reason for why they only perform amplified, it is because the vast majority of halls are unsuitable for chamber music. Amplification allows everyone in the room to hear the voices they need to regardless of where they’re sitting. In their case the experience is further heightened by gorgeous lighting and carefully thought-out sets and staging.
So we know that good venues are vital to enhance the artist and audience experience.
On Good Friday, I will have the pleasure of hearing Haydn’s Seven Last Words performed by the Doric String Quartet in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford. It promises to be a very special and spiritual occasion
Tonight one of my favourite Schubert pianists Imogen Cooper plays at Wigmore, on Saturday night it is the early-music ensemble Floregium and the following morning I’m back at the Hall for Imani Winds, who are an African-American wind quintet that I’m looking forward to hearing live for the first time.
I am having such a great time meeting old friends and making new ones, it doesn’t matter that the temperatures have barely lifted above zero because where I will be, it’s both warm and inspiring.
– Euan, 28.03.2013