The concert opened with a suite by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. Born twenty years before JS Bach, she performed at the court of the Sun King aged five, published her first set of suites for harpsichord at the age of twenty-two, and was the first woman to have an opera performed at the Academie Royale de Musique. Radio 3 chose her as the Composer of the Week back in 2015 as part of their celebration of International Women's Day, which was when I first came across her. Sadly, their enthusiasm for one of the greatest French Baroque composers didn't seem to last beyond the need to find some female composers for Women's Day and she's had little airplay since, or at least not when I've been listening. I would say I like the French Baroque, except that an unkind person could point out that I have no recordings of it beyond a cassette of Lully somewhere in a drawer, but nonetheless I do like the French Baroque and was delighted by the pianist's choice of opening number.
Then we had some Beethoven that was new to me and also to the friend sitting next to me, Sonata No. 4 in E flat major. It was big and muscular and brilliant, one of those pieces of music I find easier to respect than to love. Beethoven quite often has that effect on me, which says more about me than Beethoven.
After the interval we had a newly written piece by Kim Ashton, a selection from Ornithology, which was inspired by birds and unabashed by the fact that Charlie Parker already used the title. This afternoon's birds were the goldfinch, the kestrel, and a third bird I didn't know. I tried hard to listen with an open mind, while aware that my preconception was that I was not going to like it, but I'm afraid none of it seemed to me to have anything to do with goldfinches or kestrels. If forced to guess I'd have said that it was about Brutalist architecture or collapsing icebergs or a series of lorries breaking down on the M25. I am afraid I am hopelessly middlebrow and modern classical music is wasted on me.