Wednesday 14th October 2020

When the Queen met Harry Rollo she said, ‘Music is very important.’ Out of horror, even as we suffer now, such wrong and nightmare as who would imagine we would ever suffer, some good comes. The Sunday before last music was given at the Ragged School Museum in London’s East End at 3pm. I heard music once before, as you know, at Glyndebourne out of doors which was frail and wonderful but my attention wandered for no good reason. And also in July. Perhaps then I was not so fully engulfed, so enraged and desperate as now.

This time the soloists were international, of world fame, usually at Carnegie or Aix, now at the Ragged School, which is the original Dr Barnardo’s Home for Orphaned Children and looks it. Bashed up. Floor boards, metal rafters, unforgiving glazed tiles on the walls. Not much else. But there they were, these international stars. Elisabeth Leonskaja on piano, Alina Ibragimova on violin. Pavel Kolesnikov who gave the July concert. Madame Leonskaja played the A for tuning and it was supreme. The Yamaha had been hauled up the side of the building to the former Boys’ room of the home, where those Boys were orphans. ¬†Somehow Bruce McBain’s friend, the Director of the Ragged ¬†School Museum, had raised the funds. Two figures from Yamaha were present. The Brahms late Clarinet sonata was played, then the Brahms Waltzes for piano with four hands, finally the Shostakovich Piano Trio. Leonskaja had known Shostakovich of course. It was shattering. Music. The cellist was Romanian, Andrei Ionita, played the cello in a sexual way as if it were a being he was writhing with or or frankly his own body, merged. Then an additional free concert was announced and we assumed it would pop pieces. But no. Three more massive works – the Beethoven cello sonata, the Mozart and the Brahms violin sonatas, and finally the Schubert. I’d dreamed that they’d play the Schubert, the Fantasie F minor and they did, Pavel and his partner, Samson Tsoy, who had the most gorgeous sockless look with big flat shoes. These two young men, with all before them, played the Schubert Fantasie in F minor which I’ve heard so often before but never like this. I usually sing the opening but it is rarely recognised, a rill of notes, not really a tune. You might think it ethereal or elusive but also a lullaby but incredibly present. In music it goes with Barbarina’s aria about the lost pin and Beethoven’s piano sonata opus 90. Just a moment of pure liquid loveliness yet sad, that won’t come again, so rare. This Schubert though manages to transform from this so delicate and high into a massive sonorous terror. The whole work lasts for 20 minutes. Then, there’s the moment where from vastness it returns to the floating opening rill that perhaps you’d never thought to hear again. In many performances you barely notice it, but the way Pavel and Samson played, playing out of the horror and wrong and crisis of now, it was completely and utterly devastating. Everybody was in floods.

The thing is, you see, the Queen didn’t get it quite right. Not her fault. How was she to know? How were any of us to know? Concerts, often marvellous of course, but always outfits, the dinner after, who’s present and how seated, the concentration never sadly perfect. But now at last we see. Music isn’t merely important, or a civilised extension of life as normally known, music is life itself. These superb international players, they had to play. Maybe they wouldn’t quite have played in a plague pit, but they had to give 4 hours of music. There was no choice. And we had to listen.

Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2020 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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