August isn't busy in the usual way, and although I've been productive, I've enjoyed a different tempo. On Wednesday I spent an enjoyable day taking Andrew for a History Open Day at Durham University. It rained and, while Durham wasn't at its best, it was beneficial and we had a good time, talking, eating rubbish food including a delicious Belgian bun in the afternoon, and a more ordinary Burger King on the way home, and listening to the iPod during a nine hour return journey. During the afternoon, while Andrew was in a seminar, I spent a few moments with St Cuthbert at the Cathedral, and a few more just sitting in the nave and enjoying the cavernous yet intimate space of this ancient building.
Yesterday evening was part of Cazz' 50th birthday celebration, with some fine seats at the Royal Albert Hall for a Prom. The performance included Lang Lang playing Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Min. Op. 21. This was sensational and led to an encore of Chopin's Etude Op. 25, No. 1, which for me was one of those eternal moments when I lost touch with time. The second half included an awesome performance of Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony. The orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle, who gave the original performance in 1915, played superbly, and although it's probably of little interest, the principal bassoonist made a wonderful sound that was both huge and flexible. What made the whole evening so good was to enjoy it together as a family.
During the interval we had a lively conversation with a couple who wanted our opinion on whether it was right to applaud between movements. We went on to discuss Traces, which was the piece that began the concert, which led into contemporary music in general, the future of the arts, concluding with Classic FM. Our conversation partners were opinionated in the best possible sense and good fun. He highly recommended Nielson's Helios Overture, which I listened to on Spotify and downloaded from Amazon. It's as he said.
I found the evening hugely nourishing and have lived in the goodness of it all day. I expected the Strauss to be the high point, but was totally ambushed by the Chopin. I'm finding that there are a number of composers I've been dismissive of, or certainly some of their works, and I'm relishing being taken by surprise by them. This happened recently with Schumann's Dichterliebe, which in turn led to becoming acquainted with Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin. And then I heard the Andantino of the Schubert Piano Sonata in A, Op. 120, D644, which is sublime. Chopin played by Lang Lang thoroughly seduced me and has opened up another world within a world.
And for something different, I've been reading Richard Williams' The Blue Moment, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music. This is a fascinating read about great music of another kind.