April 2007 Archives



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I am finding few words in the sudden spring overwhelm. The new greens are soaking my senses: The translucent shoots sprouting at the ends of the vines and, backlit by the sun as it rises up behind the mountain, creating drapes of fairy lights; the smoky blue pools of green wheat making my arms twitch with the beginnings of backstroke; the slight perspiration of a sleepy broad bean freed from its velvet lined crib, or a pea popped from its airy pod. We don't get green for very long here before the heat of the sun frazzles everything, and it is to be treasured as much as a ray of sunshine on a Scottish island.

Everything is out: Irises so fragrant I can hardly bear to smell them, whimsical poppies nodding in agreement with zesty spurge, hawthorne with the faint pissy smell of my childhood in the English countryside, broome, grape hyacinths, fennel, mint.... .

Perhaps it is because I have my quartet head on and that my thinking seems to take the form of melodies and harmonies rather than words at the moment. I will not bore you with "Aaah! THAT'S where the second theme comes from" or "The whole of the development is in hemiolas" despite the joy such a realisation might bring me as I take my morning jog through the cherry trees just coming into leaf. This wordlessness is rare for me.

I may just put pictures up for the moment...meanwhile, if you are feeling sleepy as a broad bean, please go and check these lovely lullabies out.


Blossom and Bells


cherry blossom

Returning from our blossom walk, I set a table in the vines looking out towards the white orchard, the trees like fluffy wedding dresses on golden puddles of spring flowers. The village bell sounded nine in the distance.

I laid out my working tools: A score of a Haydn quartet, a pencil, and some Badois.

Suddenly I realised there was sobbing emerging from the kitchen, and when I re-entered I saw that this article about another kind of bell had had quite an effect on Julian.



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A quick logo Julian whipped up over breakfast for the Morandi Ensemble playing in Domaine de Mourchon at the end of the month:


‘What interests me the most is expressing what's in nature, in the visible world, that is.’ (Giorgio Morandi)

Whilst visiting the Morandi museum in Bologna last year, I was brought to tears by the simplicity of the shapes, and the humility with which one of Julian's favourite artists seemed - even though he apparently went to complicated lengths to make us feel this simplicity - to be following them. So often we interfere with the shape of the music like a painter interferes with the shape of his subject. We dare not let it speak for itself less we do not impress and thus it becomes MY phrase or MY apple rather than the phrase or the apple. The latter is something a person can relate to; the former is not.

In Salzburg last year, over fine wine, parmesan and truffle oil, my colleagues and I discussed our struggle with this question and our aspirations to simply (and this takes a tremendous amount of form and discipline) follow the musical line. Rather than more talking about how we were not able to practice this enough in our professional lives, we decided to play; to put on some concerts in and around the vineyards of Provence. This is our début!

In case you are anywhere near, the second concert is on the 28th April at a restaurant in Venasque.

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home is where the art is

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We have just come back from a holiday ‘at home’ in England. The landscape, though it is not the one in which we have chosen to live, is the one in which we both feel rooted: Yes, there were pale daffodils lit by the morning sun on a bed of Gloucestershire frost and clean fluffy white sheep instead of the greenish skunky ones we get here in France, but it was more than that. Perhaps, we wondered, home is where we have, as Bruce Chatwin writes about in ‘The Songlines’, sung the land into being with the steps of our living and loving.

Artist and musician friends welcomed us into their beautiful homes across the country, from Chipping Norton to Penzance. A quick lunch in Chedworth turned into a pottery and food fest as we drank out of our host, David’s cups, and ate a quiche perfumed with chervil and accompanied by lettuce from Sarah’s garden. David’s extraordinary large pieces – most definitely Art and not just pottery - stayed with us all the way
down to the South-West coast. There, in Cornwall, we had sea spinach collected on Praa Sands by Clive and Ann to go with John Dory caught that morning in Newlyn and baked in the Aga on fennel branches, Clive’s calm wave-scapes melting all the while into the sea view out of the white painted sash window. Above all, we laughed and talked about life and art and, though I get plenty of that on tour, Julian-the-Recluse gets very little of it in Bedoin and it did us the power of good.

For me the most important thing was to be able, at last, to share with Julian seven hours of masterclasses with my childhood hero - Steven Isserlis - in my spiritual home; seven hours of breathing bowing sitting on saggy armchairs and gazing out to sea in the room which had housed and nurtured me as a musician since the age of fifteen, a room in which Sàndor Vègh had criticised my phrasing but praised my blue hair.

“Snout out!” said Steven to the German cellist who had her nose studiously glued to her fingerboard. His left hand sailed up into the stratosphere, his curly head turned up toward the heavens and we all sighed. “You have the whole bow disease!” he continued. “Why are you using the whole bow? You don’t need it. In his next address George Bush is going to announce a shortage of bow and tell us we are all to save bow because if we don’t we will all sound like this..” He twisted the hairs of his bow on the gut string making a squawk.
“Not so much vibrato!” he shouted above the mega wobble of a Frenchman’s interpretation Rachmaninov “This is all about beautiful floating clouds in the mist and if you jiggle them around like that it will pour with rain” In his subsequent demonstration of the perfect phrase (ONE high point, no bumps, left and right hands intimately connected at every moment, the music breathing but NEVER stopping, the vibrato fading with the bow-speed and reigniting as the sound bloomed again…) I felt that Julian might begin to know what I have been banging on about when I try and explain where and what my musical home is.

We walked on round the coast, devoured a Cornish pastie on the beach and wandered back to Cudden point, the sun sparkling on the granite and the water glinting blue as it curled round the coves . This is the place, I thought, where I first fell in love - with man, nature and music - and the place from which, when the time comes, I want to have my ashes scattered so that they might mingle with the sea and the sounds of my musical fathers and grandfathers. Meanwhile here I am, at last, in this place with my beloved.

After a breakfast in our dear friends' field which looks out to sea which had Clive and Julian rocking with laughter, we prepared to leave. Clive was suddenly at the kitchen table and seemed to busy packing something. It was the painting which has been my screensaver and which I have wanted to buy for months, the viewing of which had largely inspired the trip. He was giving it to me.