I have just got back from another concert, this time a piano trio at Brightlingsea Studio Music. I'm afraid it wasn't an unqualified success, as I am jolly cold, and heard too much of the piano and not enough of the strings. After giving the venue three goes, which seems a fair sample, I'm beginning to feel it is a bit too hit and miss.
The ticket said 7.30 for 8.00 and as I arrived at 7.30, wondering if I should have gone earlier to get a decent seat, I was taken aback by the length of the queue. After last time when I managed to tuck myself in a corner with a view of both musicians and had a nice time, I was afraid that this time I was going to be back to peering through the banisters, or worse. On the other hand the queue didn't start moving for another five minutes, which was quite long enough to be standing outside in the dark next to Brightlingsea Creek.
I thought for a moment I would still get a seat in the back row, as three were empty, but as I approached from one end I saw that the chair nearest to me was already bagged by a cardigan, and meanwhile a woman with a companion in tow had got in at the other end. The stairs looked full, and I opted for the garden room opening on to the main studio, which was lined with green plastic garden chairs. An elderly chap sat down in one of the other green plastic chairs and began to fuss about where various youngsters could sit so that they would be able to see. I wasn't going to be able to see either, but that didn't seem to be an issue. The organiser came and addressed the room, asking us not to allow our handbags to scratch the piano. Since the elderly chap didn't have a handbag I presumed he was talking to me. For good measure, he told me not to lean on the lid when I went out. I told him that I wasn't going to touch his piano and began to feel that wasn't much of a way to spend Saturday night.
At eight he began to address the room while a couple of women talked loudly, telling us how much work it was each time to rearrange the furniture, and I began to feel slightly more unwelcome than I had before. Yes, hosting any kind of event is generally hard work, but it is incumbent on the host not to say so. Your guests may express their appreciation, if they are nice, and tell you how much work you must have done and how grateful they are, and you may gracefully lap up their thanks. At five past the trio appeared, and at ten past eight we finally got going.
When the musicians sat down the cellist had his back to me, and all that I could see of the violinist was his hair and his shoes, and once they began to play it was clear that the sound balance was all wrong, as except in the quietest passages I was getting too much piano. In the loudest passages I was getting really quite a lot too much piano and almost no violin at all. Then I began to realise quite how cold the annexe was. On closer inspection it appeared to be made out of perspex and plywood, while the floor looked as though it had been a patio until somebody put a home made garden room on it. There didn't seem to be any heating, and in the interval I put my hat on. An elderly lady came and told the elderly chap she had found a seat for him, and off he went. I didn't know anybody there to chat to, so I stayed put.
We were joined in the second half by a young man and his grandmother, who had evidently found sitting on the stairs in the first half too uncomfortable. The twenty minute interval ran to twenty-five, and my heart sank slightly when the pianist's introduction to the Tchaikovsky programmed for the second half mentioned that it lasted for forty-five minutes. As soon as the musicians had taken their second bow I fled, handbag held at knee level and on the opposite side of my body to the piano, ignoring some faint squeaks from the host. I didn't care whether he was going to close the piano lid or make more speeches by that stage. I was cold and wanted to go home.
As to the musicians, they were the Busch Trio. They played late Haydn, Dvorak, and Tchaikovsky. They tour extensively in Europe and have played in the Wigmore Hall and I think they are up and coming and are probably good, only I was sitting in the wrong place to hear or see them properly. I'm not sure I'll persist with Brightlingsea Studio Music. Being able to hear live chamber music only five miles down the road ought to be a good thing, in theory, but if I've got to arrive forty minutes before the concert starts to get a tolerable seat and maybe spend fifteen of those minutes queuing outside in the cold and the dark, it all starts feeling too much like hard work. For the cost of a ticket I could buy a new CD, with balanced sound instead of a preponderance of piano, and listen to it in a warm room sitting in a comfortable chair.