Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beautiful times among the Titians

A touching and tender day at the National Gallery for the Dame Myra Hess commemoration. Tasmin Little and Piers Lane (pictured) gave the evening concert, with powerful performances of Elgar and Poulenc; in the middle, Piers performed Hess's arrangement of 'Jesu Joy' which had everyone in tears - not least because he sounded not unlike Hess herself. The Gallery commissioned a new piano piece from Nigel Hess - great-nephew of Dame Myra and an award-winning film composer who wrote, among other things, the score for Ladies in Lavender (including that gorgeous pastiche violin concerto that always leaves everyone wondering what it is and why they don't know it). He produced an 'Improvisation on Jesu, Joy' which Piers played with the same tenderness as the Bach itself. Beautiful - pastel-coloured, nostalgic, heartfelt.

Lunchtime saw an extraordinary performance by the Contiguglia Twins from New York, who played the socks off Howard Ferguson, Schubert and Beethoven. They came to Britain to study with Hess as young boys and played the Schubert Variations on an Original Theme for their Wigmore Hall debut. And... I've heard of identical, but this was quite something. I'm reliably informed that you can tell them apart when you know them well.

Celebrations followed among the Titians. On days like this, listening to world class music in historical surroundings then sipping rather good wine next to iconic Renaissance art, it's great to be a Londoner.