A taste of Paris & some Beethoven back at Wigmore

Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…

This journey hasn’t all been about hard work and when presented with the opportunity to spend a few days with my wife and daughter in Paris in springtime, who could blame me for taking it?

Euan in front of The Louvre in Paris.

Euan in front of The Louvre in Paris.

Paris really turned it on for us. Beautiful weather, great food and wine, amazing architecture and wonderful galleries and museums. As a musician it is impossible to switch off from all the sounds around us. There was a street musician directly below our hotel window in Saint Michel playing his oud, accordian and saxophone combos most places we went around Paris- even with us on the train, and some great ensembles taking advantage of the generous acoustics in underground walkways. Add to this the abundance of street performers of all types and long balmy moonlit evenings, and you have the recipe for a cultural (and romantic) experience par excellence. My personal favourite was the small group of fire dancers and jugglers outside Notre-Dame Cathedral each evening that mesmerised us with their extraordinary skills under the night sky. The most surprising act was a juggler who performed with a goldfish bowl on his head (yes, with live goldfish swimming around oblivious to the potential danger) and at least while I watched, there was no loss of life!

Paris street performers

Left: Street musician below Euan’s hotel window in Saint Michel
Right: Fire dancers and jugglers outside Notre-Dame Cathedral

We walked most places often poking around the back streets, spent lots of time people-watching in the Tuileries Gardens, explored the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral celebrating its 850th anniversary, toured L’Opéra and Musée d’Orsay, and had a full day at Versailles visiting the Palace and its gardens. The beauty and scale of these places is staggering and if you haven’t been yet, you have a real treat in store.

Euan Paris jardin

Euan enjoying some people-watching in the Tuileries Gardens

I could rave on for ages but back to the business of Beethoven and one of my favourite string quartets. Opus 130 with Grosse Fugue (Op.133) is another life experience that everyone should have. In the hands of masters like the Hagen Quartet we knew that something special was in the air. Before the interval at their Wigmore concert last night they presented Opus 59 no 3, a piece that the St Lawrences had played on my first day in London over one month ago. However the highlight for me was the masterful way that the Hagens led us through the complexity of Opus 130. There are so many layers, so many tricky corners to negotiate and so much power in this music that it is often overwhelming to listen to. Last night every voice was clear, the dynamic contrasts were shocking and the work was revealed in high definition and splendid technicolour.

They’re performing three more Beethoven quartets this evening as part of their full cycle at the Hall. Of course I’ll be there and then back again on Sunday evening to hear our good friends the Eggner Trio from Vienna. How clever to present two ensembles back-to-back each featuring three family members. Masterful programming or just a coincidence..?

The way this wonderful institution is run, it is hard to imagine that this wasn’t part of the master plan!

– Euan, 20.4.13


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