April 9, 2014

The list of subscribers to Edward Miller’s (1735-1807) Six Sonatas for the Harpsichord with an Accompaniment to Three of them, for a Violin, or German Flute, published in London, ca. 1760, by the author (RISM A/I M 2784), included:

Mrs. Acklom, Wiſeton
Miſs Awdos
Miſs Polly Barry, Hull
Miſs Barſtowe, Leeds
Mr. Bawlzaeck [really]
Mr. Blogg, Norwich
_______ Cuſtance, Eſq; Trinity-Hall, Cambridge
Mr. Clemetſhow
Mr. Cahuſac, in the Strand, 7 Sets
Miſs Sophia Daſhwood, Wells
Mr. Daſti, Mancheſter
Brigg Fountaine, Eſq; Narford
Miſs Fountayne, Melton
Mr. Foules
Mr. Frudd
Miſs Great-Orex, Leiceſter
Miſs Kitty Holbourne
The Rev. Mr. Hatfield, Vicar of Doncaſter
Urban Hall, Eſq; Park-Hall
Mrs. Hallows, Glapwell
Miſs Kitty Hildyard, Wineſtead
Mr. Henry Hargrave, Nottingham
Miſs Betty-Ann Jarrat
Sir Digby Legard, Bart.
The Rev. Mr. Luſhington
Miſs Linſey, Brick-Lane, Spita Fields
The Right Hon. Earl Mexbrough
The Hon. Mr. Monckton
Charles Melliſh, Eſq; 4 Sets
The Rev. Mr. Marſden, Chaplain to the Archbiſhop of York
Mr. Charles Mace, B. A. Clare-Hall, Cambridge
Miſs Milbanke
Miſs Fanny Macfarland, Hull
Mr. Robert-Wylde Moult, Rotherham
William Majendie, Eſq; Calcutta, in Bengal, 6 Sets
The Rev. Mr Negus
Mr. Nettleſhip, Norwich, 2 Sets
Miſs Mattey Ottley, Hengrave
Her Grace the Dutcheſs of Portland
Miſs Perkins, Lime-Street, London
Miſs Parvis
Mr. Pigot, Doncaſter
Mr. Ruſh, Compoſer of Muſic, 6 Sets
Miſs Stovin, Doncaſter
Miſs Stiffell, Doncaſter
Mr. Leonard Seeley, Newport-Pagnel, Bucks
Mr. Shann
Mr. Scovell
Mr. Snetzler, Organ-Builder
Mr. Shudi, Harpſichord-Maker
Mr. Scamardine, Grantham, 7 Sets
Miſs Martha Tipping
Charles Turner, Eſq; Kinkleatham [sic]
Sir Rowland Winn, Bart.
The Hon. Barton Wallop, A. M. Magdalen-College, Cambridge
Godfrey Wentworth, Eſq;
Patientius Ward, Eſq;
Miſs Wordſworth, Wadworth
Mr. Weet, Sheffield
Mr. Welcker, In Gerrard-Street, 7 Sets
Mr. Wilſon, Organiſt, at Retford

See also Boyce.


March 23, 2014

At the moment I’m reading Michael Mayne’s Lent book Pray, Love, Remember (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998). Mayne was Dean of Westminster Abbey from 1986 to 1996, and the book draws on his memories of life at the Abbey. This passage last night made me pause.

No doubt an annual service that looks to the past, like that to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Britain, while important for my and my parents’ generation, will only survive as long as there are some alive who fought in it or who remember it; we no longer observe the Battles of Agincourt or Waterloo.

To which my reaction is, really? I can’t imagine the First or Second World Wars ever not being commemorated. Even a hundred years from now, surely the services will still be held, the hymns sung, the wreaths laid. Why is it that we don’t commemorate Waterloo other than on the big anniversaries? Is it perhaps because 200 years ago we hadn’t perfected the art of commemorating things?

In three weeks all football matches in the English professional leagues will kick off seven minutes late, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. We still commemorate Hillsborough nationally, but we’ve forgotten Burnden Park in 1946. What about Valley Parade in 1985? It was hardly less horrific than Hillsborough. The stadium caught fire and 56 people died. But each year when the anniversary comes round, is it marked outside Bradford? Perhaps Hillsborough is the one that gets commemorated because it’s the most recent major stadium disaster, and hopefully the last. Something to do with Liverpool? I think, unworthily. The foreword to Michael Mayne’s book is by Alan Bennett. From Bennett’s diary, 16 April 1989.

I find myself thinking, It would be Liverpool, that sentimental, self-dramatizing place, and am brought up short by seeing footage of a child brought out dead, women waiting blank-faced at Lime Street and a father meeting his two sons off the train, his relief turned to anger at the sight of their smiling faces, cuffing and hustling them away from the cameras.

You can’t commemorate everything. You’d forget to live in the moments in between. But it can help us to come to terms with some of the bad things that happen. That and other things. More Alan Bennett, this time Irwin in The History Boys.

We still don’t like to admit the war was even partly our fault because so many of our people died. A photograph on every mantelpiece. And all this mourning has veiled the truth. It’s not so much lest we forget, as lest we remember. Because you should realise that so far as the Cenotaph and the Last Post and all that stuff is concerned, there’s no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.

Spots of time

February 27, 2014

Yesterday, on my way to Addenbrooke’s on a number 2 bus, I travelled momentarily in time. For a second, no more, I was suddenly nine years old in Aberdeen.

I can’t say for certain how many times I’ve been to Aberdeen. Two, perhaps, around the ages of nine or ten; if there was another time, it is too long ago for me to remember. And my memories of the visits are slight, but I do remember one single moment, a few minutes, perhaps, of driving through residential streets with the blazing sun in my eyes, and the feeling associated with that moment. The sun in Scotland has a peculiarly dazzling quality, perhaps because it so rarely appears.

It was this — emotional memory, shall I call it — that was visited upon me yesterday, evoked by the sun and the streets, somewhere around Walpole Road, in such a vivid flash that for a moment it was almost as if I were nine again.

It’s not puzzling that a memory should return. These things happen to us, though they are evoked more often and more strongly by smells or sounds than by sights, in my experience. What is puzzling is why this particular memory has stayed, and not the memory of the lunch I had that day in Aberdeen, or of what I did in the afternoon. What was it about that moment, twenty years ago, that makes it remarkable enough to have remained in my mind when all else has departed?

Perhaps you know the feeling of abandoning all other thoughts and thinking, I must remember this moment to preserve it for the future. I am truly alive and life is wonderful and let’s not forget it. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, I may have had such an instinct at that moment in Aberdeen. A strange place to feel the joy of being alive, some would say.

Yesterday was a disorientating day generally. When I arrived at the radiology waiting room, there were two elderly women in wheelchairs, both with the exact same face (the women, not the wheelchairs). One was reading a story about Lorna Luft out of a scandal sheet to a woman I took to be her daughter; the other, attended by a carer who might have been from Southeast Asia (or Southeast Cambridgeshire), appeared to be in a state of mild catatonia.

Hospitals are great, aren’t they. Apart from the fact that you arrive feeling sick and leave feeling better (or dead), they are the great centres of democracy of our society, the places where, private hospital patrons gladly excepted, everyone congregates, black or white, rich or poor. I watched an episode of Only Fools and Horses a couple of weeks ago and entirely against expectation rather enjoyed it. Long live the NHS!

I was going to quote a passage from The Prelude by Wordsworth here, to illustrate my point about isolated incidents that may have lasted only seconds remaining in the memory for years, but I find on returning to it not that I’ve misread the passage exactly but that it doesn’t fit what I’m writing about here, whatever that is. Memory’s unreliable.

The proof: I’ve found a photo I took of Rosehill Drive in Aberdeen on the very day I have been remembering, and it not only suggests that the sun wasn’t as blinding as I seem to have thought, but also demonstrates indisputably that I wasn’t nine. It was taken in the summer of 1995, when I would just have turned twelve. I don’t recognise the Aberdeen of my memory in the photograph. In fact the Aberdeen I’ve been thinking of looks a bit like Bath.

Rosehill Drive

I’m a very hard person for me to believe sometimes. I haven’t read Proust, but I imagine it’s like this only with fewer sitcom references.


February 17, 2014

My weekend has been piano recital-heavy, not that I would have wanted it any other way. On Saturday I saw Piotr Anderszewski at Peterhouse in Cambridge, and last night I saw Yuja Wang at the Barbican. You can currently listen to the latter recital here. Two very different recitals, but I came away from each one thinking about the same thing: the encores.

Anderszewski gave two, both by Schumann — ‘Einsame Blumen’ from Waldszenen and the Novelette, op. 21 no. 8. Wang gave five (five!) — a transcription of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, elephantine and spangly by turns, Prokofiev’s op. 11 Toccata, Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor, op. 64 no. 2, the Bizet-Horowitz Carmen Variations, and finally ‘Tea for Two’, after Art Tatum. Tatum is one of those pianists it is foolhardy to try and imitate, but it was a performance of winning insouciance.

What is an encore? It’s a treat for the audience, but it’s more than that. It’s a reflection on the music that has gone before. Anderszewski’s encores, though fun, proceeded naturally from a serious programme of Bach, Beethoven and Janáček. Wang’s encores were more of a mongrel selection, a mixture of the sweet and the fiendish, as I suspect she is herself.

Recognition can be an important part of the effect of an encore. I remember a Queen Elizabeth Hall recital by Marc-André Hamelin seven years ago in which the encore, his own left-hand study after Tchaikovsky, was the most affecting piece for being unfamiliar, unlike the well known Schubert and Beethoven sonatas that formed his programme. By and large, though, the audience wants to hear something it knows. With Yuja Wang’s Rachmaninov, I could tell from the first triad what was to come, and smiled. When she got to the Prokofiev, I felt something else — a thrill, both because it’s such an exciting piece, and because I knew what it was in spite of its relative obscurity. I won’t pretend I don’t like my knowledge of music to be flattered. It’s shallow, I know. Sadly nobody asked me afterwards if I knew what it was. I did look around, I promise, but they just weren’t biting.

The encore that really blew me away was Anderszewski’s ‘Einsame Blumen’. It was just so unexpected, so perfect, in that moment. It’s a piece I play, but hadn’t for years. I almost shuddered as he played the first notes. It had a physical effect. But this reaction is particular to me. If I’d been a boy who had been practising the piece for the last month, I might reasonably have felt a little different.

Now, as usual, to the diaries of Alan Bennett.

26 August, 1999.
Switch on the radio after supper and catch most of Elgar’s First Symphony, music which invariably transports me back to boyhood and walking up Headingley Lane on a summer evening after a concert in Leeds Town Hall. The evocative power of music is, I suppose, greatest when heard in live performance. This is a recording but it still casts a spell because I have come on it by accident. Had I put on the recording myself the spell would have been nowhere near as powerful because self-induced. Why this should be I can’t think, though doubtless Proust would know.

Given how music can have such a strong effect on us when we don’t expect it, why not have mystery recitals? Pianists of the calibre of Anderszewski and Wang at any rate could make a go of it, given that people would queue up to hear them play Chopsticks. Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales were famously given their premiere at a society concert in which all the music was unidentified. Although it seems quintessentially Ravellian to the modern listener, the audience then were by no means unanimous in their guesses as to the identity of the composer. The names suggested included Satie, Koechlin, d’Indy and Kodály.

Piotr Anderszewski’s recital was not entirely unlike that one, in that the programme originally advertised consisted of Schumann, Bartók, Szymanowski and Schubert. Most of the audience, I suspect, turned up expecting, hoping even, to hear that music. Was it a crushing blow to find that the entire programme had been changed? No, and to some it may have been a joy to find they had to approach the concert afresh.

The only encore I didn’t recognise was Anderszewski’s second, the lengthy Schumann Novelette. A frustration? No, a challenge! I determined the composer, then tried to work out the piece. A set of character pieces I didn’t know, perhaps? Spotify did the rest in about five minutes. A triumph for the internet.


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