Even Sybil Fawlty could not have complained about Brahms’ Third Racket last night, one of the most memorable performances the Anghiari Festival has known. With the outdoor concert thrown into marginal disarray by a mid-interval shower that then developed into a full-on thunderstorm, we transferred audience, orchestra and all the associated equipment to the nearby church and continued therein. While the Schumann Konzertstuck would not, I think, have worked in that acoustic, to have the Brahms performed in there and with the audience in such proximity to the performers was simply revelatory. It helps that it is a piece of the very first order, of course, making me wonder yet again why some people are still so sniffy about so modern (yes, modern) a composer as Brahms, but that is to take nothing away from a performance that left many in tears of delight, and it was a delight too to see the players having the proverbial whale of a time. Lessons need to be learned as a composer about providing performers with music they enjoy, also about how difficult it really is to write something as fully developed and scored as that symphony.
Earlier in the weekend, on the Saturday, there was that magical combination of sounds, a Puccini opera here, a Baroque cantata there, as one wandered around the town, and the memories just keep on being created, such as the Haydn Op.76 Quartet played in the Monterchi square after what was apparently a tense face-off between two nonagenarian nonnas, now renamed Bad Nonna and Good Nonna. I missed it, but it was interesting, by all accounts, and I remain baffled at that kind of behaviour, many kinds of behaviour in general. We’ll all go at some point, may as well go smiling and having made things better.
Talking of which, somebody said to me on Saturday “I’ve read about that piece of yours we’re hearing on Thursday, it sounds terribly dreary”, which rather took me aback. I suppose that honesty is the best policy, but perhaps a composer as irascible as Gesualdo, say, would not have taken such comments lightly, but I did not happen to have my sword on me, alas. I know it is a cliche to say that there are some people who see the glass half-empty and some who see it half-full (frankly, I just see somebody who needs a top-up), but the gravity of misery can have a dreadfully destabilising effect if you are not of the sunniest disposition. Still, we try to improve, every day and in every way.
So onwards. Despite this being the second of the new breed of Anghiari Festival with fewer concerts but of higher general quality, it still feels as if there is way too much to fit in. My introductions have been going down fairly well, but like other areas of the organisation, if you weighed up the opinions on either side you would end up going ever so slightly mad. Person A thinks something should be to the left/louder/slower while Person B thinks the same thing should be to the right/quieter/faster. What was that thing about all the people all of the time?
Which beings me nicely back to Brahms. I was discussing the role of the conductor yesterday with David Corkhill, who also directed the concert last night, and we both agreed that at least past of that responsibility is to listen to everybody’s opinion and then do it the way you were going to do it anyway, like a benign dictatorship. As always, it is the result that matters, as proven by the racket last night.