Here is one of the more unusual piano pieces that was played last night. It might take a minute or two to work out how it was played.
They were both marvellous concerts, and if you’re in possible distance of the Aldeburgh Festival, start hunting for return tickets, do, because you’re missing a great treat. It doesn’t matter if you don’t already know and love the specific music of the programme, soak up the atmosphere, learn and let yourself grow.
In the afternoon, I was quite close to the clarinettist, and I watched his score and his fingering, and I realised that I could, at one time, have played the Schubert piece. Not for the first time, I regretted having let slip a pretty good level of ability. I had worked hard, but then I was too busy and stressed and let it go. I might have carried on if I’d ever joined an orchestra or a small music group at the least, but … oh, I don’t know, I thought about it and if I’d ever received a specific invitation I might have acted on it, but it was the awful inevitability of a performance that put me off. I just don’t like it. My mother brought me up not to show off, and it still lingers, the feeling that it’s vanity that makes an amateur want to play in public, whether for money or praise.
There is no logic in this, in that I have often attended and enjoyed performances from amateur musicians, but – oh, it feels all wrong for me. So I never joined any sort of group and now I would need a year’s practice to get anywhere near the standard I used to be at.
The evening concert was a delight. The pianist, who is also the Festival’s artistic director, said a few words about each piece before playing it. He is French, speaks English with a slight accent and was entirely charming. After the interval, which seemed to be on time, he spoke at greater length. The Cage, 4’33”, he explained at some length – it’s in three movements apparently, who knew? As he said, they’re remarkably similar to each other. He concluded by saying that there are many different ways to perform this piece, by letting it speak for itself, for example, or maybe by playing another piece at the same time, whether by John Cage or by another composer – or, you could explain the piece to the audience. Most of us had twigged by this time, but when he glanced down at his watch, the hall erupted into applause and laughter.
After that, he became really expansive, responding to an audience who clearly loved him, with the result that the concert overran by 45 minutes. Not that anyone cared.
A revelation to me was the realisation, when The Banshee was played, how feminine a grand piano is. Seeing him delve into the innards of the wide-open grand piano was a surprisingly intimate experience. I don’t say erotic, but it was certainly sensual – well, that’s what I found, anyway.