So, a whole nine months and no posts… maybe it’s time to give up on this blog? I so enjoyed 52 Poets – I don’t know why this one’s been so hard to keep up…
Here’s another try, though. I went to the most amazing concert last Friday, for my birthday, and it seemed just the thing with which to resurrect this blog. We went to see the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall (a home match as it were – they’re the South Bank’s resident orchestra). The programme was Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead – here‘s a fantastic introduction to the piece which you can listen to on the Radio 4 website; Mozart’s Piano Concerto no 23, and Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra – which apart from the opening part, was the one piece I wasn’t familiar with.
We had two boxes at the front, and it was so wonderful to have a view. Symphony orchestras are just so fantastic to watch – something like seventy violins, plus the rest! – and what a sound… Nothing compares to seeing music live, and that’s just as true of classical as any other genre. It was just – wow. The Isle of the Dead was probably my favourite piece – it’s so atmospheric. The opening notes had the hairs on my neck prickling.
The Mozart was a real treat too, of course. It’s a very familiar piece of music to me; I like listening to classical music when I’m working, in particular piano music, and I have a few cds of Mozart’s piano concertos, including the one we heard. The really exciting thing for me was getting to see a concert pianist play – I’ve seen symphony orchestras perform, but never a concert pianist. And this one was extra special – it was Leon Fleisher. Now in his eighties, Fleisher was a celebrated pianist until he lost the use of one of his hands, for something like thirty-five years. During this time he played the (somewhat limited) repertoire of one-handed piano music and established an alternative career as a conductor. Five or so years ago he got the use of his hand back, thanks to pioneering treatment (botox injections, apparently), and now he’s performing again. I first heard of him by listening to his lauded ‘Two Hands’ recording – his comeback cd from a few years ago, and it was so exciting to be able to see and hear this brilliant musician. There’s a lovely story in the Times here.
The Strauss was good fun (and of course has that fabulous opening) but I did find my attention wandering a few times; it’s actually not a piece I know at all, and sometimes familiarity helps. Anyway, hurrah for fantastic live music – and thanks to my lovely family for joining me, and making it a very special birthday.