I went last night to my second Studio Music concert at Brightlingsea. I knew how the furniture was arranged this time, and by dint of arriving early managed to nab myself a chair on the ground floor giving a view of the musicians without having to peer through the banisters. They were a cello and piano duo, James Lisney and Joy Lisney, who had had a nightmare journey to north Essex after leaving London at three and arriving at twenty past seven. True professionals, they did not let this outwardly ruffle them and appeared to be genuinely delighted to be playing on a Friday night to a tiny audience in what was basically somebody's front room, but I hope that they managed to get something to eat at some stage.
I enjoyed their recital very much. You get something of what the sensation of a nineteenth century salon must have been like, sitting so close to the musicians with the front row practically within touching distance. We got Bach's sixth and most difficult cello suite, two early pieces of Chopin, some Schubert, some Ligeti, and some Brahms. My initial uncharitable reaction when I saw on the programme that the first piece after the interval was by Ligeti was to hope it would be short, and it was, but I surprised myself by enjoying it. It was the first time I ever heard slide cello and it is a fabulous sound. I must confess I had not heard of either musician before this concert series, which signifies little since I haven't heard of all sorts of people, but I see from Joy Lisney's blurb that she is a champion of new music and is currently studying for a PhD in composition as well as performing. I shall keep half an eye out in future.
I liked Brahms' violin sonata transcribed for cello so much that I might even buy a copy (Presto Classical's top choice comes bundled with all the rest of Brahms' entire output for the cello for a correspondingly weighty price, but it's also available on Naxos). I was not convinced by James Lisney's claim that Brahms had played it at Clara Schuman's funeral, though, because I was sure I remembered from a Radio 3 programme that he was late to her funeral, only arriving in time for the actual burial, and I don't see they'd have had a piano standing next to the grave. But perhaps he did.
Despite their hideous journey and late arrival at the venue they even played us an encore, some more Chopin. My neighbours in the audience on both sides were friendly, and altogether I am beginning to warm to Studio Music. It is only a quarter of an hour's drive from home, so the main issue is the need to arrive so ridiculously early to get a decent seat (and avoid getting caught by the level crossing at Thorrington).
This afternoon was the last of this year's lectures at the Suffolk Group of Plant Heritage, which was mainly about orchids growing in the wild, interspersed with other wild plants, lemurs, and assorted South African and Madagascan mountains and forests. Somebody else's holiday photos, in fact, but the lecturer was an authority on orchids and possessed of a dry sense of humour. And I bought a tender salvia with white flowers in dark purple calyces, to be a companion for 'Amistad' next year if I can nurse it through the winter in the greenhouse without it getting botrytis. And I stayed for tea and cake, and chatted to various strange people, which is so much easier at a club meeting when you have a common interest to talk about. Sit two keen gardeners down together with a cup of tea and pose the question 'What sort of soil do you have' and we're off.