French trilling



Rehearsals for Rameau's Les Boreades are managing to fairly distract me from the uninspiring city of Mulhouse where the only good thing I have found so far is a little Italian cafe in which I take my morning shot au lait.

Meanwhile....I always knew French kissing was good but you should try French trilling!

Immersed in our little world of gavottes, loures and contredanses, we are indulging in a variety of trills and ornaments including, as far as I can understand, the 'plaintive accent' - the hiccup at the end of a poignant note when the lump in the throat almost gets out - and the 'thrown tremble' - an orgasmic quiver in both hands. I am finally learning the musical language that goes with the verbal one I have spoken and loved for so long.

French baroque style is a revelation. Bowing forearms are thrown from loose elbows and return like boomerangs. There is no fear, only controlled abandon:

active - passive
long - short
inspire - expire

Most of the notes, though written straight, are swung (this is called 'inégale') and neither jazz nor celtic music are very far off, which is why it is not surprising to see our Japanese section leader hanging out with the bass player swinging his hips as he learns a new slap 'n groove riff in the break.

The violin section is Rolls Royce meets Camper Van at the Brittany folk festival - the heads and bellies of the instruments stirring the air whilst those of the players nod round and round like the Indian 'Yes/No' gesture of non-judgement- all the while immaculately placed yet totally free gestures are being released in miraculous unison.

The sound that emerges from the orchestra is homogenous, by turn rustic and refined, but it is never "me, me, me; my sound that I made and therefore I own; you can't have a piece of it and besides it's better than yours". It is egoless, given, created and blown into the atmosphere like a mandala.

At the beginning of the session I meet a woman who ran Glyndebourne for sixteen years and who now lives in France. She is head of the Opera here, spending half her time in her apartment in Strasbourg and half with her husband doing up an old farmhouse near Montpellier. She has lost about two stone, is dressed in fine casual à la Française, and she is radiant. We nod too in French baroque acknowledgment of the good life.


I think this is one for your book - love the photo of your (I presume?) cello, and what you write, which is a revelation, and Rameau's music, and the swift sketches of people and place... hope I will get to hear you one day.

When you write about playing, Ruth, I want three things: to hear you play, to have my violin in my hands right now, and more more more of your writing.I agree with Jean that this is one for the book. (Has Julian ever painted your cello, or you playing?)

well yes it is my cello, though not my most beautiful one, and you can hear me in mulhouse, strasbourg, salzburg, bremen or madrid this summer but hopefully in a homogenous mix with the orchestra and not standing out like a sore thumb! one of the portraits on julian's site is of me. i think it says ruth. (that was another question from last entry!).....

Yep, one for the book. Keep 'em coming!

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