Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Cabbages and kings
Or rather, onions and emperors...
all in last Thursday's stately progress from Borough Market via the British Library to Ivan Fischer's exhilarating performance of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Food and drink first: that little row of trendy eateries on the edge of the expensive but still unique Borough Market which so appeals to us BoBos (= Bohemian Bourgeois; it could equally well be BohBous). Second only to St John, where we took my blogging New Best Friend Will and his partner Laurent after a Barbican concert for pig's spleen, snails and Eccles cakes, is the Wright Brothers Port and Oyster Bar. It was full up on a Thursday lunchtime, however, so we found a pure Boh organic burger space along the same street where we sat in the semi cold and watched life passing like that seasons-alter scene in Notting Hill. Then to two-thirds of the usual ritual: a cake from Conditorei and Cook, a latte (J's; mine is an espresso but doesn't photograph so picturesquely) at the Monmouth Coffee Company.
Next I became a snapping tourist in the market. Couldn't resist reminders that somewhere in Kent, albeit forcibly, something - rhubarb - is growing
and there are plenty of fish in the sea, as yet
though probably not this one, not in these waters, at any rate.
I've already waxed about the Alice cases at the British Library. But we also stumbled across a cast of Chopin's hand
and, only connect, moved from daguerreotypes, of which this portrait of a none too happy looking Chopin shortly before his death is one of the earliest,
to the photography exhibition. Although I've been to Lacock Abbey, I'd forgotten how artistic a picture-taker was Fox Talbot. I especially love this homage to a Dutch domestic scene, captured at Lacock.
After killing time in bookshops and cafes, we slumped in the RFH and wandered over to the QEH for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's latest instalment in their Beethoven cycle, this time with the inspiring, always unpredictable Ivan Fischer (photo by Marco Borggreve).
The Second Symphony had its surprises - the wild coda of the first movement, which given this band's shock of the new, one could understand first-time listeners being discomforted by; and the way Fischer turned the last of the slow movement's clutch of themes into a bouncing little Landler. But of course it was the Eroica which was bound to astonish.
The Funeral March became a private utterance, with overheard upbeats from the splendid double-basses led by the ever-expressive Chi-Chi Nwanoku; and I think I found loveliest of all that moment in the Prometheus variations when the tune very briefly turns bucolic after a patch of turbulence. The horns held fast, and of course produced a sound no modern equivalent can match; besides, the valveless originals give a competely different meaning to Beethoven's line and choice of strong/weak notes.
There are, of course, heaven-storming sounds you don't get with a period-instrument band, but by way of compensation how much colour can be shifted in a single chord. And it was all as invigorating as I'd hoped, my mood having been occluded by personal grief and a harrowing sit through Maw's Sophie's Choice on DVD (which does work for me, ultimately, in the last act, touched by grace). I'd wanted more of the same brio on Saturday from the BBCSO/Minkowski Pergolesi and Stravinsky double bill, found myself exiled to the Bavarian RSO/Jansons concert but discovered it to be equally uplifting, thanks to Mariss's dancing mobility and a rather unusual, buoyant view of Shostakovich Ten, duly noted in detail in my Arts Desk review. And, yes, the BRSO IS one of the world's best orchestras, no doubt about that.