Hi everyone, again!
This is the second half of the Nicola Benedetti evening report.
It was an odd night. The temperature outside was peculiar which doubtless helped to play havoc with the internal control system. It was hot to the point that I stripped down as far as Cadogan etiquette would allow. One person did not return to her seat in my row after the interval because it was too hot for her.
When Roger anounced he might not go back for the second half I was already thinking the same as he, but I had left all my gear at my seat, including my camera but Roger has compensated for that lack of foresight on my part by having that superb photograph that Steve Abbott took for him.
In the mean time, as I was at the front of the queue to ask her to sign (she signed her page in the programme--I'll try and get a scan up soon) I had to make do with a 'hi, superb performance, may I have your autograph, please?' and move on. She kindly acknowledged my compliment and signed elaborately across the page. Perhaps she'll cope, or perhaps Steve needs to kindly advise her that a less elaborate one might be easier on her hand as her fame spreads!
She'll probably continue simply being herself!
It is only a 20 minute interval and when you are in the best stall seats you lose half of that getting out of the stalls and back into them! As it was, the interval over-ran by at least ten minutes, probably for her signing queue and she had had barely ten minutes to make the expected pleasantries to the orchestra before being rushed out of the Stage door by Steve, along the street (where we have so often chatted with Hayley in the past) and back in to the foyer, where her CDs seemed to be selling well.
So, to the performance proper. The programme started with Schumann's 'Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra', Opus 86. It is unknown to me but proved light entertainment producing superb musicianship from the four horn players whose harmonic compatability was first-class.
Then, Nicola Benedetti. It is the first time I have seen her live and from row CC close enough to really appreciate the girl. She is a very beautiful, well proportioned young woman. 'Statuesque' would be a good word for her, especially in her oyster-tinted, satin ball gown that hid her feet. but was close-fitting enough to intimate the beauty of her form.
The photo of Roger with her shows the colour of her dress more strongly than the stage lights. These made her gown look more'old' ivory with a hint of gold--hence my description of 'oyster-coloured'.
Personalitywise, as I gathered in just that fleeting moment with her at the head of the signing queue, she has as lovely a temperament as our Hayley. A very nice young woman to know.
According to Steve Abbott this was only the second time she had played the Bruch Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor, Opus 26. A very difficult concerto because it is so well known as a result of being in the top ten for so long of Classicfm's annual 100 best loved pieces of music. Even nonclassical people must by now be familiar with that passage, partially introduced very early on but which is first developed towards the end of the first movement.
That haunting theme must surely be in the home key. It brings to my mind that line in Twelfth Night
'That strain again, it had a dying fall.' It is a musical phrase that catches at the heart strings and makes the eyes prick from the simplicity of the tune. To have it played by a young woman, be able to watch her every gesture in her own harmony with the composer's originality added a poignancy unique to the occasion.
Watching Nicola was an interesting contrast to watching Fiona Pears or Chris Garrick. One sensed a greater discipline in Nicola's physical movements, yet a discipline that enabled a greater fluidity of movement. There was superb grace in every aspect of her bowing. To watch the fingers on the strings in the clarity of their individualism, especially through the long and fast runs through the notes was exquisite.
Nicola's hair is fair and long and somehow stayed in its groomed position throughout. It called to my mind that lovely poem by T S Eliot, La Figlia Che Piange
In there is a lovely line, 'Weave, weave, the sunlight in your hair..'
So it seemed with her. Her body, tightly disciplined, yet it was through that 'rigid' discipline that fluidity of movement flowed in her mastery of her instrument, her hair likewise tightly disciplined by its grooming yet emphasising the relaxed freeness of the spirit that drove her response to the music she played.
Nicola seemed to restrict herself to perhaps six square feet of platform. She stood, her legs somewhat apart, her dress outlining her figure in principle but not in detail, moving one or two steps occasionally to one or the other side, but essentially, like a tree, steadfast from the waist down.
From the waist up, it seemed extraordinary that she could bend so far in each direction without breaking. Here was a mind controlling a body to make her violin sing the composer's soul. Superb physical discipline that enabled extraordinary fluidity, except her neck and chin.
Interestingly, when she was not playing, her neck seemed rigid, her chin, with some force, not so much responding to the beat as actually seeming to drive it. Where she was looking in those moments when she was not playing I cannot tell, although she may have been watching the conductor's face or hands. It seemed as if she was gazing into the cello and double-base sections, playing their instruments for them in her mind.
It is a regular stance of violinists to pose prior to immediate playing after quiet passages, holding the violin solely by the clench of jaw against the shoulder. When that violin is a Petros Guarnerius of Venice, made in 1751 and worth three-quarters of a million dollars... and is held in that nonchalant manner--I wouldn't dare touch it, let alone pick it up!--you know you are in the presence of superb artistry. That a violin of that age could sustain modern use is a magnificent statement of the violin-maker's art. In the hands of a beautiful woman whose soul seemed in empathy with the composer's, I could have heard her play the concerto again, as soon as she had finished. She was, of course, as were teh rest of the orchestra, COMPLETLEY UNMIKED!
This was an evening of absolute purity of sound.
The audience not only applauded her warmly but accompanied their applause with quite a few 'hurrah's dispersed around the auditorium.
This was indeed a superb evening. It would have been just as superb if we had only heard Nicola Benedetti. But perhaps better, if we could only have heard her twice!
The second half of the concert started with the slow movement of the Haydn String Quartert in tribute to 'Manny' Hurwitz, a former leader of the English Chamber Orchestra who died recently. Then Schubert's 'Overture in the Italian style' and Mendelssohn's 4th symphony (The Italian). This is a delightfully gay and tuneful symphony which went some way to compensating for the star of the evening appearing in only the first half.
When signing, I noticed she is left-handed. During the second half I wondered if there might be a highesr statistical chance of finding left-handed people playing string instruments, especially amongst virtuosi!
To see Nicola Benedetti perform was sublime. It was as good an experience as having Hayley on stage! I felt, similarly elated.