Monday, August 15, 2011

Off to memory country lane

As part of the seasonal runaround, I'm off shortly to the place without which I wouldn't be here now, writing this: the Dartington International Summer School of Music, near Totnes, Devon. It's going to be my first visit in...well, I wouldn't like to say exactly, so please accept 'quite a while' as the time-frame. This year it has a new artistic director in the eminent form of John Woolrich, and among delights that await is an oboe recital by the one and only Nick Daniel and a chance to listen to Stephen Kovacevich, aka "The Bishop", giving masterclasses. (A mild digression sparked by masterclass-panic memories: in another of my musical dreams t'other night, it seemed that I had to learn to play Chopin's Piano Concerto No.1 in four days flat, and I knew I had the music, but I couldn't find it anywhere in the music cupboards, or the attic, or under the piano, or my study or...oh phew.)

So I will leave you with a treat: here is Andras Schiff playing Bartok's Third Piano Concerto at the Proms a few weeks back, with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder. They're repeating this in Manchester in October. But it was at Dartington that I first encountered Andras in person. Back then, he was an unstoppable rising star who loved to play the piano from sunrise to moonset - and inspired us all to want to do likewise. The week of his Dartington masterclass knocked my teenaged self sideways (so, too, did a few lectures by Hans Keller). The place, the atmosphere and the amount I was learning seemed magical beyond belief.

Yet it's only now, looking back, that I know fully how lucky I was to be there, and to meet the people I met and experience the musical contacts that followed in the six or seven years subsequent to that. It's not often - in life - that you tumble completely by accident into the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Enjoy the Bartok.