Mar. 31st, 2017

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My free day in London (about 6 pm Saturday-6 pm Sunday) allowed me to squeeze in two concerts.

Saturday evening, after an improbably spicy dinner in one of the less touristy parts of Chinatown, I wandered down a couple blocks to the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, one of the least field-like open spaces in the western world, for one of their regular "[Baroque composer] by Candlelight" concerts.

This one was "Vivaldi by Candlelight," but though there were lots of candles around, the house lights were not entirely down, and strong beam lights glaring down from the sanctuary windows kept the musicians' parts illuminated. Nor was the music entirely Vivaldi, but a mixture.

The generically-named ensemble was nowhere near as good as the church's famous namesake Academy. They played Pachelbel's Canon as if it had been written for mechanical clock, and there was something rancid in their Bach Adagio. I doubt anyone else noticed.

Sunday morning I got to another one of the 11:30 AM coffee concerts at the noted recital venue, Wigmore Hall. This time the program was one I'd be likely to attend anyway: pianist Tamar Beraia performing Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Schumann's Carnaval (two attractive and varied suites which have in common that Maurice Ravel orchestrated both of them, though most people only know about the one).

Beraia played with a strongly heavy hand, or two, with emphatic and thundering emphases. This suited the Mussorgsky fairly well, but led to some incongruities in the Schumann, plus a couple of conspicuously wrong notes.

I was waiting in the queue at the box office to purchase a ticket, and the man in front of me was trying to exchange his not-able-to-attend companion's ticket for one to a future concert. When the attendant said they can't do that, he just bought the future ticket, then turned to me and said, "Are you looking for a single ticket? You can have this one." Fortunately I had the presence of mind to offer to pay him for it, and he the courtesy to accept. He then said, "See you in the hall" and disappeared for the moment. But apart from his saying "Thank you" when I stood up to let him in to his seat, we did not exchange a single word for the entire course of the concert, because this was England.

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