Sandor Vegh Memorial Concert – St George’s, Bristol

Sunday 13th January, 2019

The last gig of 2018 took place at St George’s and it was the venue I went to most often last year, so it seems right that the first place I visited for live music in 2019 would be there too. I’ve not been to a January event in the last 2 years, but going out to live music is now such a habit that I couldn’t contemplate going a whole month without! So I had a good look around and found this concert at St George’s. A beautiful venue, music from 2 of the greatest composers, Mozart and Beethoven, in the late afternoon for only a tenner, it seemed too good to miss.

I am struggling with what to say about this concert. That is partly because I lack a grounding in classical music, but also because I rather stupidly didn’t pick up a programme to give me guidance. All I know is what is in the St George’s booklet tells me! A 16 piece string orchestra, made up of as many of the original players as they could, who recorded together in the late 1980’s. All former students of Sandor Vegh they have come back together to play the pieces he conducted in tribute to him. A rather lovely and touching way to remember him I thought. There were 4 cellos, a bunch of violins (what would be the collective noun for violins? A cacophony?) and violas, although I couldn’t see half of the stage. They played a Mozart Adagio and Beethoven’s string quartet no 14 as well as a Beethoven Gross Fuge (no, I’ve no idea either). I don’t know in which order, which piece was which, and in many ways that’s irrelevant. What I do know is how the music felt, which was mainly quite intense. These are physical pieces to play, there was a lot of movement and dynamism from the violin and cellos. The cellos in particular, where 2 of the 4 were very rhythmical and gutsy in their playing, the other 2 no less intense, but in a quieter way. Think of the difference between Gary Oldman chewing the scenery off, or Cate Blanchett brooding quietly in a corner. Both moody and intense, giving everything, in different ways. That was the cello section. Being up on the balcony allows you to see the movement of the hands, the finger placement, the concentration etched on the face of the player, and all of that aids my enjoyment and understanding. When the eyes are screwed up tight in effort and emotion, when the jaw clenched in tension, when the smile lets out relief. I really do need to see music as well as hear it.

The first half of this concert flew past, and whatever the second movement of the second piece was, I loved. That took flight and soared, like a migratory bird across a wild landscape. There were changes of tone and pace aplenty across all of the pieces, gentle and calm music it was not and yet I felt very relaxed. A mid afternoon start time, making it free (under the Cavatina scheme) for under 25’s so that there were lots more young people and families than you would usually find, added to that sense of ease.

Overall this was a pretty decent start to 2019’s musical adventures.

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