*David, sit down with a stiff drink before you read this…
A friend who sings with a well-known professional choir rang on Friday with last minute bargain tickets to the evening’s performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria. We took him up on his kind offer and hugely enjoyed our surprise entertainment. While the Gloria is not one of the more emotionally charged choral works in the canon, it is still a beautiful piece and it was superbly performed.
However, the glorious Gloria was followed by what I can only describe as a rather self-indulgent academic exercise, viz. The Four Seasons… wait for it… re-scored for the recorder.
Yes, the recorder.
I don’t dispute the virtuosity of the player – she was a veritable recorder demon – but there are parts of a violin concerto which, with the best will in the world, cannot be articulated on the recorder. Quite apart from the fact that the sound was completely lost for significant portions of the piece, drowned out by the wonderful Brandenburg Orchestra.
As I listened I tried to explain the experience to myself in visual terms, since that is the art with which I am most familiar.
Imagine a Rubens or a Caravaggio painting executed in pastel crayons rather than oil paints. The colours and shapes might be similar so the picture would be recognisable – just as the notes and rhythms in the music were similar so the melody was recognisable – but it would lack the richness of tone, the subtlety of light and the textural depth which gives those works life.
The Celtic lament which she played as an encore, however, was perfect: full of haunting longing which spoke directly to my Irish and Scottish roots and reminded me just how far away I am from ‘home’.