Splendid Red meets Splendid Symphony

Those of you who read my blog may have concluded that I am an uncultured, often inebriated, sport swilling mad man.

However I do possess a softer poetry reading soul… well, I own a few Byron and Houseman anthologies.

And this Thursday was one of those lovely evenings when I was able to take up the kind offer of tickets to Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting Mendelssohn at the Barbican.

It was very much more a night for the velvet and cravat than the reds and tweed. Symphonic music is an art form to admire – yet I’m bestowed with a minuscule knowledge of it – apart from the big players of yesteryear.

I dare say, for me at least, ignorance is bliss because I tend to be astounded by the skill of the performers and allow the melodies to wash over me like a late night Mediterranean sea breeze.

The night began with a Mendelssohn overture dripping in violins. This was followed by a cello concerto, played by a wonderful celloist who looked remarkably like the footballer Falcao. This left me less than inspired – though I have to concede this may owe something to my uncouthness.

After coming on and off stage more times than a tart’s drawers, Falcao returned again to rapturous applause. He played, without an orchestra, a jaunty two minute ditty that he appeared to have penned himself. He ended with cheeky shrug and diffident smile, scuttling away with his cello tucked proudly under his arm.

The Barbican centre was part of that brutal architectural fashion of the 1960s and 70s which also delivered the series of buildings on the South Bank, including the National Theatre.Thank God for the music as the building does little to lift the spirits.

Ever the assiduous social visitor I pre-ordered my claret for half time. Barely had I started drinking my glass and exchanging a few “wasn’t that a nice halfs” when the tannoy announced that we had five minutes to return to our seats. That is an unsavoury amount of time, for even two experienced booze hounds like me and my colleague to long arm the remainder of the bot.

Libations aside, I do feel the large spaces outside the auditorium could be used with a bit more imagination. The inhospitable nature of those bulky grey walls is not a pleasant counterpoint to the romantic music I just heard – compare that to the symbiotic nature of the Royal Opera House’s decor.

The second half consisted of Mendelssohn’s 5th symohony, which even I had heard of. The second movement is a real toe taper that is often found on those Classic FM CD’s that clutter music collections.

I had never heard the other movements so being able to hear a symphony in its entirety is for me a key reason for listening to a live concert. I was not intimidated because I knew the second movement; however the movement that resonated with me was the third. The beginning was beautiful and perhaps made the peepers a little bit glassy at times.

If you buy into the whole event, it is ultimately rewarding, an evening that expands one’s brain and horizon. However I do feel the Barbican centre should make the place more accessible, unless they want to continue solely hosting a sea of grey.


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