“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man’s faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.” Giacomo Puccini.
February needs all the inspiration we can muster to quicken our faculties and who better than Puccini himself to demonstrate high artistic achievement – tomorrow is the 125th anniversary of the premiere of Puccini’s La Bohème in Turin, Italy.
Puccini’s epic opera is based on Henry Murger’s novel ‘Scenes de la Vie de Bohème’. Basically four struggling bohemians – a poet, painter, musician and a philosopher (perfect for ‘artistic achievements’!) are living together in Paris. On Christmas Eve, when all was looking rather bleak (manuscripts were being torn up to burn to keep warm), the musician arrives and saves the day – well of course! He has got a job and brings goodies for them. They decide that they should all eat out in a cafe that evening to celebrate. Just as they are about to leave, their landlord, Benoit turns up asking for rent. Well I ask you – a bit mean n’est ce pas? The four ply him with wine, get him drunk and send him packing. Three of them proceed to the cafe, but poet Rodolfo, stays behind to finish what he was doing and yes, you’ve guessed it, there’s a knock on the door. Enter Mimi – a neighbour from downstairs. She is cold, weak and her candle has gone out. Of course, chivalry lives and Rodolfo does the honourable thing and helps her to light her candle. She hurriedly leaves but immediately returns as guess what? The wind has blown out her candle again, aaaah. Rodolfo has other ideas. He thinks that he might be falling in love with her so he quickly blows out his candle too and Oh Whoops! she drops her door key. In the darkness, Rodolpho picks it up and slips it into his pocket. In this beautiful aria, ‘Che Manina Gelida’, (what a cold little hand) Rodolfo (Luciano Pavarotti) tells Mimi that he is a poet who loves life. He tells her all about himself (of course) and then asks about her. Mimi, Fiamma Izzo d’Amico, tells him that she embroiders flowers …..and so it goes on. Click here for the full synopsis. It has a tragic ending – comme d’habitude. I liked this particular version as it has beautiful sub titles giving us delightful poetic words.
Time for the coffee concertissimo. This time, Peter Hewitt performs the magical middle movement from Beethoven’s Les Adieux Sonata – No 81. Peter tells us, “Here Beethoven paints the perfect sound picture of what it is like to be without being able to see and enjoy the company of friends or family. What music could more perfectly suit our feelings at this time while we are all locked down?” It is a very beautiful piece of music which to me, expresses feelings that simply cannot be expressed in words. Grab that coffee/tea and let yourself be carried away.
Now how about a good ol’ sea shanty to get those chores going? Their recent revival by the Scottish postie has rekindled their true value in quickening our faculties for those chores! Many of the sailors were thought to be illiterate and certainly had no idea of music which just goes to show that if we sing whilst doing those tedious chores, it really doesn’t matter what we sound like, what matters more is we get into the rhythm. In 2018 Gareth Malone made a programme for BBC Four ’The story of Britain’s maritime past has a hidden history of shanties and sea songs’ Brilliant for lifting the spirits.
Talking of rhythm and quickening of our faculties, here is a touch of George Gershwin introducing and performing his ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ variations. Absolutely wonderful.
As we are unlikely to be able to hold a safe concert for quite a while, Nil Desperandum. For a stonkingly good one to quicken those faculties, listen at home, tucked up in front of the fire and viewed on your television screen, an All Bach concert performed by Sir András Schiff Live from the Wigmore Hall. Sir András gives us the most wonderful insight and understanding of the works he performs “To me by far the greatest composer who ever lived is JS Bach. Those who disagree – they don’t have to listen” he tells us. I am not sure for how long this will be available – they do invite a donation, but this is definitely one to listen to, so grab that connecting cable, plug in your tablet, or phone (help with this from Will Maitland Round) and be transported as only music can, into a truly inspiring and beautiful world. Many many thanks to CM Champion, Sarah, for bringing this to our attention.
Another great concert series is the ‘Fresh Horizons’ series from St. Martin-in-the-fields, in London. A concert each week between January and April. The concerts feature many of our favourite musicians from our patron, pianist, Peter Donohoe, to Stile Antico, the early music ensemble which began their stellar career with a concert for CM. Also performing are: Gesualdo Six + Owain Park, Chineke – the orchestra featuring the Kanneh-Mason family, violinist Ruth Rogers with the London Mozart Players and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields. If you have missed any already, they will continue to be available for 30 days. Click here for an interview between Ruth Rogers and the wonderful composer, Roxanna Panufnik to whet your appetite. Ruth discusses Roxana’s new composition, Four World Seasons’ takes us on an amazing journey to key seasons in Japan, India, Tibet and Albania. It is performed by Ruth with the LMP as part of the series. Having listened to the interview I can’t wait to hear this work now!
AND FINALLY. Who can resist this Youtube clip of an amazing little blossom. Aged just 6 years and on a school outing to London, she hears a piano being played at a station. Out of the blue, she walks up, confidently puts her bag down and starts dancing.
Keep safe, Happy and Healthy. Jan