Saturday, September 30, 2006


What a *&%$^&(&* week. Computer virus. Blown fuses in the light circuits on the 1st floor (not that I object to candlelit baths, but you can have too much of a good thing). Proof-reading that proves, as always, endless and frightening. And Solti is having trouble with a new neighbour - a Russian Blue named Maurice (no kidding) who has moved into No.1 and is causing serious diplomatic incidents among the local felines. Imminent change of name from Solti to Scarface...

And so I have missed doing my 'full report' on Le chant at St Nazaire; I've also missed writing up two amazing concerts. First, the Razumovsky Ensemble at the Wigmore, turning their hands to Schubert's 'Death and the Maiden' Quartet and the Mendelssohn D minor Trio, to their usual roof-raising standard. And the other was the LPO's opening concert at the QEH which featured Leonidas 'chocolate fiddler' Kavakos in the most astonishing performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto that I've ever heard. Plenty of violinists play like angels, but Kavakos plays like God.

Worth mentioning, too, some breath-of-fresh-air programming from Vladimir Jurowski - the second half was Schchedrin's Carmen Suite, a Carmen-goes-to-Moscow take on Bizet, clever, funny, powerful, and a fabulous orchestral showpiece, especially for the percussion. Brilliant.

Monday, September 25, 2006

good intentions scuppered by computer virus

It seems my attempts to blog St Nazaire are doomed. A computer virus somehow got through our expensive security systems and has ****** Tom's system, which means broadband is down. Our amazing and glorious webmaster was here until midnight fixing the machine last night - it's now working again - but new internet system isn't, so am relying on laptop with dodgy WiFi and slow dial-up connection for access. talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous, but there we go. I guess this is one thing Pauline Viardot didn't have to deal with.

A short report about Le Chant and a gallery of photos can be found on my permasite, however.

Friday, September 22, 2006

famous last words.... much for my laptop's WiFi, which packed in on our second day in St Nazaire.

Back now, walking on air after an experience of the is-this-really-happening-will-someone-please-pinch-me-to-check variety. Briefly, 'Le chant de l'amour triomphant' raised the roof. It proved better than I'd ever hoped or expected - entirely thanks to the phenomenal team of musicians and Marie-Christine Barrault who performed it with absolute empathy.

A fuller report to follow - watch this space..

Monday, September 18, 2006

Letter from St Nazaire #1

And here it is: my first post from anywhere other than my study. Magic, this WiFi business, once you work it out.

Here we are in St Nazaire, fresh off the train from Paris and preparing for evening no.1. Paris was wet, misty, oppressive - though, of course, beautiful as only Paris can be - but here the sea air manages to be crisp and mellow at the same time. The hotel has been wonderfully refurbished since my last visit 2 years ago and now Tom is practising his Mozart quintet. Avec le mute de practice, just in case some of the other string players are within earshot...and there are a few... We arrived just too late to catch the first concert of the evening - two per day, 6pm and 8.30pm - so acquaintance with the Quince Quartet will have to wait for the moment - but the later concert includes Philippe with his regular trio, Jeremy Menuhin and Raphael Wallfisch, in Beethoven's Op.1 No.1 and to close, the Dohnanyi Piano Quintet, which I haven't heard in decades.

My third visit here - so St Nazaire feels almost a home from home. It doesn't win on the Picturesque French Seaside Town stakes, since the Brits carpet-bombed it in the war trying to get rid of the German submarine base - the great concrete hulking eyesore of which has proved indestructible to this day. But there is atmosphere nevertheless; friendliness, enthusiasm for the festival and a flock of volunteers who support the festival with transport etc.

What I'm not used to, though, is feeling nervous. 'My' concert is on Thursday and with any luck I may meet 'my' actress, Marie-Christine Barrault, in about one hour's time. There's not much I can actually do, since the script is written, has been tweaked to accommodate the songs that Francois wants to sing and has now been translated into fine French too. Will the reality remotely match my mental image of LE CHANT DE L'AMOUR TRIOMPHANT? Or have I perhaps written - er - utter claptrap? Will Philippe actually want to walk from the back of the hall up to the stage, playing the fiddle, or is this unworkable? How are they going to get the string quartet on to the platform without holding up the action too much? Will Ruth like the Viardot song I sent her last week? It's all very scary, but up to a point all I can do is leave it to its own devices now....