To put you in the picture – several weeks ago I booked tickets for a concert to take place this past week at the Wigmore Hall.
It appealed to me for all sorts of reasons. There was history, discovery (some of the programme was so obscure I thought I’d probably never hear it live again), drama, even youth studies. There was a band I love.
And then there was a sort of deep satisfaction in participating in a major enterprise that would last as long as Mozart’s life.
If I took a deep breath and blew my nose hard, my ears popped. But then I went back to feeling as if my aural cavities had been vacuum-packed for travel and I couldn’t hear the front door bell. Couldn’t hear myself think.
Improving – but slowly
Christmas was lovely. I almost forgot I was hard of hearing.
As a result I turned round and walked into a number of innocent shoppers whom I hadn’t heard come up behind me. Before Christmas they were all either too jollied up or too exhausted to snap. Forgiving anyway. After Christmas, not so much.
Writing was a different matter. I kept playing the radio and turning the volume down, bar by bar, to see whether I was hearing any better. The doctor had shown me the faces I should pull while brushing my teeth. Nope. Still pretty much uni-eared.
So then I had to keep jumping up to check phone, kettle, cat flap, even the front door, didn’t I? Concentration? Forget it.
And it was January. Dark. Cold. The latest sunrise of the year. Did I really want to go out, even for music?
Friends, Well-Wishers and Writers, Thank You
Every single one of you urged me to go. And then a friend who was in actual recovery from a really nasty infection volunteered to accompany me. A combination of competitive endurance and simple shame got me to the Wigmore Hall.
Not with high expectations, to be honest. After all, how much was I going to be able to hear? It might turn out to be the music of the spheres – a long, long way away.
Musicians, Thank you
The title was 1770 – a retrospective. It was part of conductor Ian Page’s musical journey through time, in this case Mozart’s fourteenth year. (His birthday was 27th January.)
He spent most of it in Italy, but the music in this concert also comes from other great musical centres of Europe – Vienna, London, Naples, and Esterháza – as well as the two arias from Milan which saw Mozart’s first great operatic success, Mitridate, re di Ponto.
Thanks to Music
And there were revelations. Haydn, setting Goldoni texts for the first time, delivered his wonderful humane sympathy and humour – and a peach of a naughty character for soprano, Samantha Clarke, a born actress.
Gluck (left) ignoring war and telling the story of conflicted love from the point of view of the lovers, Paris and Helen, was spellbinding.
Rather strong meat for a Georgette Heyer heroine, I suspect. Or a hero either, for that matter. Even the most fashionable of them don’t seem to be musical. Or am I wrong?
But the duets were the absolute jewel of this evening. By Haydn, Gluck, JC Bach, Jamelli (of whom I’d never heard, though he was both talented and prolific) and Mozart himself! All gloriously sung by Samantha Clarke and mezzo Ida Ränzlöv, half Cherubino, half Farinelli (left)!
Both acted beautifully too, restrained but so expressive you didn’t have to follow the translation to know what was going on.
And Additional Thanks to the Music…
There were tears more than once, I admit. This music does after all, coincide with the first stirrings of the romantic sensibility. And Mozart sure knew how to wring the heart with a horn solo, even at 14. Blast him.
And whether it was the cold, or the exercise, or having to blow my nose quietly, or simply the gathering of tears in the first place – my ear is no longer blocked. I heard perfectly throughout the concert. Not so much as a hiccup since.
Writing, here I come.