Is it possible to get Festival fatigue? I am not entirely sure, but I am certainly veering towards tiredness as this week has gone on. Despite a day off on Wednesday (which was spent writing parts and introductions and some of my own music) yesterday was long, hot and tough, and the fact that evening concerts begin here at around nine fifteen and do not end until gone eleven makes for some very late nights indeed.
For all that, the hospitality has been generous and continuous, and the music has been of a consistently high quality, and I am particularly glad that Ligeti’s Bagatelles went down so well yesterday. I have written before of my high opinion of his work, and am only sorry that another engagement kept me elsewhere, although I was consoled by performing some Monteverdi in the kind of huge acoustic which really does it justice.
There have been problems with more noisy neighbours at home, a polite request to turn the music down apparently being met with the charming rejoinder “Are you asking me or telling me?”. For all that I love the hustle and bustle of the city, I think that the time has come to put the wheels in motion to take me out of London to somewhere within reach but slightly more secluded. This is going to take some time and mean undergoing the ordeal of finishing the work on my current abode first, which in itself is going to require a hefty financial outlay, but without a plan one generally doesn’t have a prayer, so I think today is the first day to begin the journey which will take me somewhere quieter by the time I am 45. These new noise merchants have transgressed before, making the windows shake and the walls reverberate as their music crashes out of the back door, wide open, so loudly that they cannot even hear my knocking at their door. That they live an entire street away gives some idea as to how aggressively disrespectful their behaviour is.
In any case, London has always been a means to an end for me, a chance to measure myself against the big musical boys, having realised back in 1995 that staying in Cheltenham might make me a big fish, but in a very small pond. The challenge now is to be able to forge a lifestyle I can sustain from further out, keeping the work I would like to keep. Planning is everything.
I managed to do a decent stint of work on my latest choral piece on Wednesday afternoon, tucked in a corner of the bar with my house white, and, although it is still in bits and pieces, Elgar-like, I feel that it is at the stage of coalescing into some kind of coherent whole. I am going to try to get some more work done on this today, also proof and correct the final version of Everyone Sang, which has been put away for the last fortnight. Returning to it with fresh eyes and ears will give me a far better idea of how it actually works (or does not work) as a piece.
The opportunity to work at close quarters with the young musicians of Southbank Sinfonia is, for me, the most valuable aspect of this week, very, very closely followed by the genuine sense of friendship one picks up not just from the locals, but also from the many generous supporters of the orchestra, many of whom follow the orchestra out here. It is at times like these that I remember accepting some very badly paid work many years ago, to the chagrin of my then girlfriend, who chastised me for leaving her for such a paltry fee. I remember saying to her “You never know where this might lead”, but I surely did not expect that it would lead to Anghiari.
Once upon a time my I saw myself as an Italian trapped in England, but now, for all that my blood is 50% from here, I see myself as an Englishman in the fortunate position of being able to dip his toe a little further into this culture than most others. Illo tempore I imagined myself holed up in Sardinia for six months a year, scribbling away with my two Ferraris in the garage (one in rosso corsa, one in black, of course). Now, though, I see myself squirrelled away somewhere in East Sussex, maybe, and, although it may take some time to make it happen, it is surely worth a go. Still with the Ferraris in the garage, of course.