Musicians from the WNO – St George’s, Bristol

Friday 4th September, 2020

I almost missed knowing this was on! I only found out about it the night before and was very lucky to grab two of the last remaining tickets. 

St George’s garden is almost as lovely as the hall itself and making use of the space to hold distanced concerts has been such a welcome return to live music. 

The last live music I heard before lockdown was the Welsh National Orchestra, I went to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Hippodrome only a few days before the world stopped. That night the atmosphere had been a bit strange, tonight was a lot lighter and more joyful. The quartet of WNO players were emotional about being able to play for a live audience for the first time in so long, I wanted to cuddle them (which of course I couldn’t, even if I knew them).

They opened with Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik “ah good, I’ll know this one, then!” whispered my companion.  It may have been the first time I had heard it played live, despite being one of Mozart’s most famous pieces and it sounded wonderful.  Playing outdoors brings different acoustic challenges, and at times this was a duet between birdsong and strings.  It was lovely to hear nature joining in. 

One of the next two pieces made me cry, but I can’t remember if it was Crisantemi – Puccini, or Meditation from Thais – Massenet, I’m guessing the second one, which is a from a lesser well known and performed opera where a Priest convinces a harlot to give up her life of sin for one of devotion. Whichever it was I found myself shivering and not just because I was starting to get cold.

It isn’t all that often that I hear a new instrument, but I did tonight, with Mirek Salmon on the bandoneon, guesting for a pair of Piazzolla pieces, Oblivion and Libertango.  An Argentinian adaptation of a German instrument it looked unwieldy but sounded fantastic. My foot was tapping along on the grass. 

It may have been drizzly and a bit chilly, but it was still a lovely, lovely experience. To be sat in St George’s garden, hearing live strings in the hands of superb players, well it almost felt like coming home. For all those of us for whom music is an intrinsic part of our identity, the past few months without have been very challenging. It will be a slow, gentle and distanced return for live music for some time to come, for audiences and musicians, but we will get there. One day we will sit together in a concert hall and hear full orchestras play again. We will. Mozart’s music has survived through so much more than this, and will endure forever. The greatest music does.  There is much hope in that if you are inclined to look for it.

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