A high old time was had by one and all last night at the Chopin Society's Christmas fundraiser - a gala recital, dinner and ball at London's historic Guildhall, amply attended by the great and good of the UK, Poland and the piano world.
For such an evening, you will need for your Chopin Liszt:
1. An atmospheric, beautiful and historically significant venue such as this one:
2. A tireless, dedicated organiser such as the Chopin Society's Lady Rose Cholmondeley who can muster a guest list of princesses, dignitaries, the Polish ambassador, great pianists and more.
3. At the back of your cupboard, a ball dress that you bought in Vienna about seven years ago and have never had occasion to don; plus the good fortune to find that it still fits you; and a bunch of Facebookers all saying WEAR IT!
International Piano Magazine. (Pic: me in black, Claire in purple.)
5. A gifted young pianist - the multiple-prizewinning Mateusz Borowiak - who steams in, cool as the proverbial cucumber, to play Bach-Busoni, the Liszt Mephisto Waltz and, of course, Chopin. Mateusz is Polish-British; his parents are both music teachers, he has a music degree from Cambridge, and has been studying in Katowice with Andrzej Jasinski. Incidentally, Chopin's last public concert took place at the Guildhall in 1848, less than a year before his untimely death. Stepping into his shoes is no small order.
6. A sumptuous dinner and the excellent company of friends and colleagues old and new; a wonderful chance to catch up with pianistic luminaries, the likes of Angela Hewitt (in a beautiful furry wrap) and Piers Lane, the latter in fine fettle on the dance floor. Plus, of course, the good-humoured spirit that can enjoy hearing the Poles and the British roundly mucking up the pronunciations of one another's surnames, while getting along excellently in this celebration of longstanding Polish-British friendship - and manifold anniversaries, not least 10 years of Poland being an EU member.
8. A mysterious stroke of fate. After all, what are the chances of wearing that Viennese ball dress only to find that at dinner you are sitting next to an actual Viennese man, moreover one who learned to dance in the great ballrooms of his home city, white gloves and all? Please take a bow, Ulrich Gerhartz, the legendary chief technician of Steinways, who I'm glad to say whirled me off my feet all the way from 'The Blue Danube' to 'Dancing Queen'.
9. A good cause. The aim of these high jinks is to raise money towards buying the society a new piano for its excellent series of recitals, most of which take place at Westminster Cathedral Hall. Recent performers have included Abbey Simon, Yevgeny Sudbin, Benjamin Grosvenor and many more (including me and Viv in 'Alicia's Gift' a few months back). Until now they have used a beautiful, warm-toned instrument that once belonged to the Polish virtuoso Witold Malcuzynski, but as you can imagine, it is getting on in years. With an auction of artworks and holidays, led by Philip Moulds, a "silent auction" and a raffle, one suspects that the new piano will no longer be such a distant prospect.
10. Getting home in the wee hours with ears ringing, head spinning and a slightly bloodied toe.