A performance in its self, this popular Georgian city has a succession of festivals that attracts many visitors and entertains those of its citizens who can afford to share in such pleasures. The Music Festival in the Spring of each year has been a major event, ever since the days of Yehudi Menuhin who from 1959 to 1968 performed with a Festival Orchestra using players he had worked with. The Mozart Festival, ending at the weekend, is shorter and less eclectic.
We have been to three concerts, each of which has been enjoyable in different ways. The Nash Ensemble consists of a core group of twelve players and has been around for more than 40 years performing a variety of classical and contemporary music. I had never heard them before. Their concert in the Assembly Rooms included compositions by Chabrier, Ravel, and Mozart.
But the hit of the evening was Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, with Samuel West reading the satirical narration by the American Ogden Nash.
I went to a lunchtime concert given in the Guildhall by the London Haydn Quartet, mainly going so that I could hear the Dvorak E flat major which was new to me, but I got more pleasure from the Haydn G major that preceded it. These were spirited performances on instruments with gut strings. I found the sound surprisingly hard and unyielding.
Yesterday we were back in The Guildhall for an afternoon concert based on the letters, memoirs and interviews of Myra Hess who died in 1965.
During the war years and at her own initiative, with concert halls blacked out in the evenings for fear of attracting enemy bombers, she made herself responsible for lunchtime concerts. They were held in London’s Royal Academy, five every week with numerous soloists and groups performing for a nominal fee playing to audiences starved of living music. There were 1700 such concerts, spanning a period of six years, starting only a few weeks after the outbreak of war. She herself played in 150 of them, putting her international career on hold as this became a dedicated mission.
I was aware of all this as an adolescent and perhaps attended one of the concerts, but it may have been an intention that was never realised! Patricia Routledge took the part of Myra Hess with aplomb and superb timing.
Piers Lane was the energetic pianist. It was quite delightful, the memory of war only too painful against the worsening crises in the Middle East, as Syria self-destructs and Israel attempts to pound Gaza into submission.
I have a brochure for the Bath Bach Fest due in February, with its invitation to become a founder member, the gold version of which requires a donation of £1,000. We are well into the Bath Film Festival, The Literature Festival and the Guitar and Beer Festivals have yet to come. Help!