Matthew Bourne – Victoria Rooms, Bristol

Friday 23rd February

The University of Bristol Music Department host free lunchtime concerts on Fridays. Who knew? Not me until this week, when Mathew Bourne posted that he was to be a last minute fill in for the one happening on Friday. He was stepping in for an ill Keith Tippett, to whom I wish a speedy and full recovery.

The Victoria Rooms are beautiful, a strange hybrid of over the top Victorian architecture (it is very grand, UoB is posh) and institutional fading (if you’ve ever worked in the public sector you’ll know what I mean). I just sneaked in before Matt started to play and had to run off at the end to get back to work, but the interior of the hall is large. A lone Steinway (baby grand I think) sat at the front of the big stage and the surprisingly comfortable seats were pleasingly filled with a mixture of folk like me on their lunch breaks, students and retired people.

I’ve seen Matthew play once before, at the wonderful Daylight Music at Union Chapel in London. Perhaps I’m only ever destined to hear him at lunchtimes! That was an improvised duet with organ, whereas this was solo piano. And it was glorious. Matt is an inventive and versatile player, some pieces were quiet and considered, waiting for each notes reverberations to end before playing the next note, others were loud and violent in approach. He puts his hands inside the belly of the beast to pluck, strike and drum, making wonderful percussive sounds and rich, deep bass tones. Then he sits back down at the piano, shoeless, and works the keys and peddles like a man possessed. Or deeply in love. Or reflecting. Often times all 3 at once. He is brilliant and if you ever get the chance to hear him play you should absolutely take it.

I’ve had a shitty week, work has been full on, taking the time for this felt almost naughty (even though I’d gone in early and stayed late), many of the pieces Matthew played reflected what was going on in my head. That’s the wonderful power of music, its ability to reflect emotional states and help make sense of a jumbled mind. When he played infinitude and then Isotach I was welling up and my mind was calmed.

Piano’s are amazing instruments, about the only one you go to hear played alone, and in the hands of someone gifted with this kind of talent they are magnificent.

Before I embarked on 40 gigs I would never have found my way to loving music like this and my life would have been the poorer for it.

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