This morning was spent recasting a section of the Carta Cantata. I am going to have to disagree with Allen Ginsberg here and state right away that, for me, first thought is very rarely best thought. It might work with poetry, perhaps, but rarely with music. If recasting the same material in some cases more than fifteen times was good enough for Beethoven and a constant endeavour of revision and refinement was a characteristic of Johann Sebastian’s output, then I hardly think I am in a good position to take the point of view that version one is the version. Besides, looking again at my sketches makes me feel distinctly uneasy and I like to think that I know enough about what is going on from my work as teacher and, therefore, critic of other people’s work to apply those same standards to my own scribblings.
The post-Anghiari lull is something I always took forward to, for various reasons. There are smatterings of work to come before my summer break but, after the rehearsals, arrangements, refinements, writings and translatings of the past month, it is a deep and delicious joy to get back to a slightly more sedate rhythm. It is one of those times of year which, for me, is used partially for taking stock, but also it is a time for catching up with things which might have fallen slightly by the wayside.
One of those things is bringing Simon Over’s work at the Anghiari Festival to people’s attention, in case they have missed it. An unobservant visitor to the Festival might think that Simon merely conducts concerts and, presumably, spends the rest of his time doing very little, but the reality is that he is on the go non-stop from morning until evening and those moments when he is actually playing or conducting represent little oases of calm when he can concentrate on music making and creating great performances.
I try to disturb the maestro as little as possible during the Festival, in contrast to the rest of the year when I am probably on the end of his email way too much, for I know that he is constantly busy and indefatigable in his efforts to promote Festival, orchestra, colleagues and many other things as well. Of course, he has gone out of his way many times to do good things for me and my music, and I owe much of my current position to him – I hope that the Prelude, Fugue & Epilogue, slight though it may be in compensation for all his efforts, is at least some indication of the esteem in which I hold him.
I think it needs to be pointed out that hundreds of young musicians have now passed through the wonderful Southbank Sinfonia, and that many of tomorrow’s and today’s players owe their careers to Simon and his colleagues. He has brought golden opportunities to hundreds of players and joy to tens of thousands of audience members, all the while juggling the huge demands of steering organisations along fine lines which are both musically and financially viable. In my heart I hope he is tucked up away from the madding crowd enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, but really I suspect that he is at this very moment answering emails or making something happen. He is also far too modest to bring himself to people’s attention, and much of the superb work he does is hidden from public view, but that does not mean that it does not happen.
In terms of the Festival there are huge organisational efforts going on behind the scenes, but Simon is the person to whom the journalists come, whom the TV crews film, to whom musicians turn with problems ranging from the mundane to the bizarre (trust me, I know). He is also the person whose hand people want to shake, to whom praise and criticism about whatever aspect of the Festival tend to be said, and who needs to be in four places at once. Add in rehearsals and concerts and that’s some going without even mentioning the other organisations who need his input and are not going to stop asking for it just because something is going on in Tuscany.
This might sound like some back-slapping exercise, some fawning tribute to a musician who has done so much for me, to which I say this – the simple truth is that I am in no doubt that I am completely incapable of doing even a fraction of what Simon does, and I, like so many others, have much to thank him for. It seems impossible to imagine the Anghiari Festival without him, and the town, of which he is an honorary citizen, has recognised this as well as the many other things he has done for them.