Musical travels

by Roger Pratt

One of the disadvantages of being retired, and having family scattered around the world, is that it always falls to me to do the travelling when I want to see them.  I try and fit in a variety of musical experiences on each trip, to enhance the experience . My recent one was no exception.

Some things are best organised in advance, and others are impromptu events, depending on what’s on. An organised one, thanks to sound advice from another choir member, was to book a seat at a concert at the quirky, beautiful and acoustically sublime Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona. As luck would have it, Daniel Barenboim was conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle orchestra and chorus in Verdi’s Stabat Mater and Te Deum, a truly emotional experience.

It’s good to see and hear a variety of musical styles. In New York my son took me to an old Harlem Jazz club, where the music hots up around 2:00 in the morning. Strangers literally came out of the audience carrying an instrument, and jammed along with the professionals. It reeked of the 1920s.

In Madrid, I spent an evening listening to a Memphis blues band as I sipped my Cava, and in Lisbon the hotel had an hour of piano recitals in the lobby every evening – Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy.

I was in London at the time of the Proms, and managed to get in to see a symphony concert at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall. Along with traditional fare from Rachmaninov and Prokofiev was a very strange and avant-garde new piece by Chinese composer Qigang Chen. It was interesting for the first 5 minutes, bearable for the next ten, but after 50 minutes of it I began to get restless!

The musical highlight of the trip was probably an opera in London’s Holland Park, by a composer I’d never heard of – Italo Montemezzi. He was one of the last of the Romantic composers, writing in the style of Puccini. His opera L’amore Dei Tre Re has been described as the ‘last blast of Italian opera’, and was stunning in the semi-open air setting.

Between the wonderful musical experiences, I did actually manage to find a bit of time to spare with the family….

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