A fishy musical linguine delight
Despite my best efforts, the eleven minute dash on my bike from the studio after last night’s Channel 4 News to London’s Royal Festival Hall, only graced me with the echoes of the last chords of Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto.
To have missed Daniel Barenboim’s exuberant performance so closely, felt like an act of sacrilege.
The programme promised a second half of the concert devoted to Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra, Op.31. There was something identified as an “illustrated talk” on the programme, before the performance of the work itself.
Barenboim bounced onto the stage and proceeded to talk his Staatskapelle Orchestra from Berlin into illustrative splashes of the theme as he led us humorously and imaginatively through each of the variations.
I have always found Schoenberg a bit like a dense sea food linguine – a mass of tangled chords leavened with delicious moments of scallop-like highlights. In short, I have never understood a bar of the stuff.
But last night transported in the hands of this amazing man, the scales fell from my ears. First the cellos ground out the four note theme, then the double bases. Somehow there it was, to be retrieved in every variation whatever the cacophony of sound that surrounded it.
Come the performance itself, the packed thousand-strong audience was spellbound, craning to detect the musical path Barenboim had prepared for us.
And there it was, large as life, augmented by what had once sounded like a series of high decibel road accidents, the music finally made sense.
Electrified, the entire audience leapt to its feet at the end in a most un-British standing ovation.
It dawned upon me that Barenboim, whose endless orchestral pursuit of bridge building in the Middle East, manifest in the West East Divan Orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian players, would be a very fit recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
It’s a long time since I last interviewed him, but it seems in the years since I last saw him close up, he has lost none of his energy and commitment. He would leave a few other Nobel recipients in the shade.
By the way here’s an unprecedented cross promotion – you can catch the entire Barenboim four night run of Beethoven’s piano Concerto’s and works by Shoenberg on BBC Radio 3 starting tonight!