Friday, December 09, 2005

notes and words

For my traditional city breakfast treat I seek out a funky café: North African music, murals of faded nakedness on a flesh coloured wall and a big brass rimmed bar on rue Voltaire….I give all my coins to the barman in exhange for my crème. He grimaces and retorts:

“Un sou c’est un sou…. Je les prends quand meme”

He serves me a very bad coffee as a punishment.

We are playing Bach. We commence with the concerto for two violins. In the slow movement I am overcome with the mystery of the bass line. I have performed this movement hundreds of times, always preceded by its allotted three minute on the day top and tailing. I have longed to delve into its depths and finally we have the time to do it. I almost forgot. It’s France. They rehearse!

Every beat of this bass line has a reason to be milked, whether it be harmonic, rhythmic or melodic: An ascending scale, but one which dips down an octave every half bar, there are rhythmic stresses on the first of each of the four beats and scrunchy dissonances that make you want to jump up the juice on the third. It’s like walking in a field of wild flowers and wanting to stop and pick each one - you have to make a decision about which ones you choose for your bouquet. Having decided to go with the rhythmic stress in general we hear the dissonances of the solo parts flourish as a result. The second violinist in her low-belted leather trousers, however, seduces us away from our rules for a glorious second with one particularly tasty morsel and we rise to her bait.

I return to the hotel from the rehearsal at eleven, tired yet hyped. I see a woman sitting reading through a pane of Brasserie glass and I enter. I sit a couple of tables behind her in the window row, get out my book and order a pichet of côtes du rhône. I admire the slant of her sluiced bob as her head tilts into the page and I am overcome with the anonymous joy of being in a crowded place, and the silence of contented ambient jazz and chatter. Encouraged by our joint garcon, we talk briefly about what we are reading, and then – respectful of one-another’s public privacy - return to our bouquinage.

The next day I awake with a headache I know only too well: Too much lugging suitcase and cello through the metro and six hours spent playing slowly and quietly. My shoulders miss the flexibility and strength which swimming gives them.

We start the rehearsal with Pergolese’s Stabat Mater. Our 43 year old chef, her belly huge with miraculous child, guides us through the text: A mother trembling at the suffering of her divine son; he, full of sweetness, giving up the ghost; she protected finally by the death of her son and warmed by Grace….

It’s a jolly tale. Tomorrow we move on to the even jollier Bach cantata ‘My heart swims in blood’…..


Anonymous Kate said...

Reading your blog brings back my memories of days that revolved around music, rehearsals, conductors, and a beauty and intimacy which I have not known since. I wish more than ever that I had done what I really wanted and made performing my life rather than going for what I considered was the safer option of languages and ending up frustrated. But reading your words always gives me back some of that magic and I live the experiences I now miss through your stories. Thank you.

9:35 AM  
Blogger MB said...

I enjoy your writing about music so much. Thank you, Ruth.

11:22 PM  
Blogger granny p said...

The double violins - nearest thing in music to conversation between - long-established - lovers. Oh the tenderness of that.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous dorette said...

have recently found your blog and for me to say 'love it' sounds trite. your deep sense - rhythm of the earth combines with your music. i adore the area of france you seem to be in (not strictly geographic)and revere the peace that comes while visiting your experiences. so rich. many merci's.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Well, Ruth, the pains of the rehearsing definitely paid off last night! Good to read this in the light of the performance, it gives the whole experience a new depth. And it was such a pleasure to meet you and Jane. Hope you can have some well earned rest now.

10:15 AM  

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