I went to London today for one of LSO St Luke's lunchtime concerts. I booked the ticket months ago, one of five chosen at carefully spaced intervals and to catch the artists or repertoire that I really wanted to hear. Today's artist was up-and-coming violinist Jennifer Pike, who appeared a year or two ago to great acclaim as part of Colchester's music festival Roman River. I was not organised enough then to get myself a ticket, and all my music loving local friends said how good she was.
The trouble with booking ages in advance is that sometimes other competing calls on your time come up afterwards, or you find on the day that you aren't well or it's raining or you are terribly busy at home and all things being equal you wouldn't bother going to London. The advantage of booking ages in advance is that you don't find you've agreed to do things on the day of the most interesting concert that could perfectly well have been done on some other day, or keep postponing your visit until you are less busy, or ill, or the weather is better and the trains more reliable, with the result that the season ends and you have never been at all. I have meant for the past two years to sign up to the monthly concerts held in Brightlingsea, only to find that I'm already doing something else for the first, ill for the second, don't so much like the programme for the third, and suddenly they've finished for another year.
Jennifer Pike was accompanied by Peter Limonov on the piano, and they were great. They played Elgar's Violin Sonata, which I couldn't recall having heard before and I listen to a lot of Radio 3 and Classic FM while I'm weeding. The friend I went with had not heard it either, and he used to be an avid concert goer. Then they played the original version of The Lark Ascending. I hadn't realised it was first written for violin and piano, since on the radio you always get the orchestral version, but that came later. Then they played Elgar's Sospiri, before moving swiftly on to an encore because as Jennifer Pike said, she wouldn't normally be so presumptuous about doing the encore straight away but she knew some people needed to get back to work.
I really like the format of the lunchtime concerts. An hour of top quality chamber music is a good amount. I can concentrate properly for that long. There's time to have something to eat and catch up on the news beforehand if meeting a friend, as we did today, and you're out and finished by just after two, giving a full afternoon to visit a gallery or whatever else you were thinking of doing.
I'd been thinking of visiting the British Museum's Sicily exhibition, but discovered when I got there that I'd jumped the gun as it hasn't opened yet. Ah well, never mind, I can go after the next concert, which is my last ticket for this season. It's not as though I'm going to run out of things to look at in the British Museum. I went to see a free temporary display about a vast woven Hindu textile illustrating episodes from the life of Krishna, which I didn't know was on until I saw the posters, and the Waddesdon bequest, which I'd read about in the papers as it has recently been rehoused in a refurbished dedicated room. Then I wandered through a display on the Enlightenment, housed in one of the oldest parts of the building, which shows the sorts of objects our eighteenth century forebears collected displayed in the sort of ways they displayed them, with some of the criteria they applied and the conclusions they reached, thus functioning on two levels, as a display and as an exercise in historiography. The Waddesdon bequest is magnificent, quite mind bogglingly lavish, though the Rothschilds had a good eye on the whole. There are some fakes, faking having begun as soon as collecting did, but not all that many. And no, I couldn't tell the difference. Given a choice between owning a collection of Renaissance rock crystal and a Rothko, I personally would plump for the Rothko, but it's fun to be able to go and look at all of that gold and enamel and carving and over-the-top bling.