Tuesday, 22 December 2015
Brave new (musical) world
I mean that in the genuine original sense of Shakespeare's Miranda, not ironically like Huxley. Among the many good deeds in a naughty world - and it's never seemed more horrible, in my lifetime, than this year - are the enterprises of young musicians like violinist Ben Baker and conductor/cellist Jonathan Bloxham. It's been my greatest pleasure to follow the trail from the East Neuk Festival, where, having arrived the night before the Retreat players' second concert, I only just met Ben, via Pärnu, where he was playing in the superlative Festival Orchestra along with Jonathan who was also on the conductors' course, to Southrepps and several Wigmore Hall recitals.
In all of which there was no need to talk of promise: the complete, sophisticated musicianship is totally there already. And it made a nice farewell to a great musical year earlier this month to attend their 'Christmas Charity Concert' in The Warehouse, Waterloo (both photos of orchestra, conductor and soloist by Boris Bizjak). Voluntary donations were to go to as fine a charity as any worth your attention, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), to which I'm also going to give all the money we save on stamps and cards by sending e-season's greetings.
The young - in some cases very young - orchestra of students and graduates made as fine a job as any I've heard of Mozart's Figaro Overture, Barber's Adagio for Strings and Haydn's 'Surprise' Symphony, with Sibelius's Valse Triste as an encore (Jonathan following in the footsteps of master Paavo Järvi in Pärnu). All the more remarkable on three hours' rehearsal that afternoon. Jonathan has an elegant conducting style and is getting to grips with the individual rubato so essential to conductors of quality (several famous ones don't have it, and never will). Ben played the second of Beethoven's Romances for Violin and Orchestra, usually a bit mundane but not in the hands of this supreme, understated master. Friends I'd invited along were wild with enthusiasm at the quality.
I'm not sure that goddaughter Mirabel (pictured above with Jonathan, Estonian violinist Marike, mum Edwina and friend Caroline) would have gone quite that far, but in attending her first grown-up concert - an hour without interval seemed manageable, and so it proved - she took it all in, especially the 'surprise' of Haydn's slow movement, such a brilliant symphonic treat. Having won the hearts of several girls in the concert with the big eyes noted by Jonathan and Ben, she was also perfectly socialised in the after-concert drinks, running up to the box and putting in extra pound coins, chatting to perfect strangers. She's also more recently, courtesy of John Savournin, had 'Happy Birthday' sung to her by the cast of Charles Court Opera's panto Mirror Mirror at the King's Head Theatre, about which I've heard great things and which I can't wait to see in the interstices between Xmas and New Year.
Ben will be playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto at the next Warehouse concert, 28 February, 6.30pm.