Saturday night offered me music fit for an Elector – specifically the Elector of Saxony in 1610: one Christian II – the one time owner of rather a fine rapier, which now finds itself in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (they are a little coy as to how). As a neophyte singer myself, I attempted to pay more than usual attention to the Esterhazy Chamber Choir as they delivered the works of Hans Leo Hassler and his contemporaries, in the hope of picking up tips should I have to sing in German or Latin. Certainly, I will be careful not to fudge my choice of definite article in the lingua franca of Dresden – it is very much a case of der or die (or, I suppose, das).
Tuesday also provided a veritable smorgasbord of musical offerings. The weakest came first with my weekly singing lesson (or, as my diary has it, sining lesson – Freud and his slips are alive and well, chez Poisson). I still struggle to control my body’s natural rigidity (it tends to resemble two short planks, assembled one on top of the other to resemble one long plank) – but my rendition of “Where’er you walk” from Semele is now starting to vaguely resemble the work written by Herr Handel. With a bit of luck, I will be ready for the centenary of its first Cambridge stage performance in 1925. Apparently, the opera caused a bit of a scandal when first performed with its secular theme (at least considered from the Christian viewpoint) and explicit content of a sexual nature. Yes, I am studying X-rated opera (or at least X-rated in 1744 – probably considered safe for CBeebies by now).
Next came the regular Tuesday lunchtime concert – but this week it was with the Britten Sinfonia rather than the traditional student performers. This meant that at least some of the musicians were my senior (or perhaps my contemporary, but having endured a particularly long paper round in their youth) and all had finished full-time education. The programme began with a Till Eulenspiegel for our times – very much einmal anders (another way). Strauss’ piece normally requires an orchestra of over 100 and takes 15 minutes – but this “budget” version took only 5 players and a mere 8 minutes (1500 person-minutes reduced to a mere 40!). If only Franz Hasenöhrl were still counted among the living, he could apply his talents to similar cost-cutting in other spheres. Recession would be but a distant memory with such massive productivity gains.
The second piece by Charlie Piper, a composer substantially my junior, was based on impressions of the hypnogogic state – or so I deduce from the composer’s own notes. It was very successful as it did lead me to the Borderlands of sleep (in a good way, I hasten to add). The concert will be broadcast at some later date on Radio 3, and I must acquire a recording as I think this piece could well be the answer to my insomnia (or at least an answer).
However, it is the final piece which returns me fully to our title. This was Max Bruch’s septet – lost for many years (132 in fact) – but well worth re-discovering. This was written by Bruch when he was 11 (eleven!). I fear if any of my work from 1977 is found in 2109, it will not make for a comfortable comparison. I thought I was used to being eclipsed by the local students and by many a classical composer (let’s face it, quite a number had been dead for several years by the time they reached my age) – but to be so comprehensively out-matched by an 11 year old and not even Mozart but, the decidedly less-famed for his precocity, Bruch. A chap could start to feel terribly inadequate – I really need to start some achieving smartish.
More music in the evening with Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski. Not only some splendid piano playing but also, and a first for me at a piano recital, some Macedonian folk singing from the pianist as well. Quite complex rhythmically, and linguistically, so I’ll probably stick to the English classics for now…
Still, after my recent gorging on culture, I think I’ll restrict my intake to that provided by the yoghurts of the Yeo Valley for the next few days: I don’t want to take any risks with addiction or overdose.