Thursday, 18 August 2011

Langue d'Octet

For several nights we've had musicians billeted on us and elsewhere in the village. Just now we're in the middle of an annual festival called Autour du Quatuor, Around the Quartet. Embiggenise (© Dave) the poster if it comes out too small. So we've had Sarah (viola), Juliette (cello) and Lola (bassoon) staying with us.

Goodness, they work hard, these people. Several hours' individual and group practice a day, plus performance at night. The major work they performed was Schubert's Octet, a rich and enjoyable work for string quartet plus clarinet, bassoon, French horn and double bass. The basic framework was provided by the Zaïde Quartet, with the woodwind and double bass drawn from the general pool of French musicians who take time off from their regular orchestras in summer to tour the provinces, turning an honest centime at the multitude of music festivals with which France is peppered in July and August.

Some impressions:

* The extraordinary cacophony heard while walking down the guest bedroom corridor, with something different being practised in each one

* So much modern music appearing to employ this particular effect

* Some woodwind players preferring to manufacture their own reeds - here's Lola making bassoon reeds out of a special variety of cane. I believe she uses the garden fork to stab them into submission

* The Zaïde Quartet practising, all very serious-minded on a hot and sticky afternoon. In the kitchen next door J. is making her spiced figs (it's the fig season just now), a speciality for which she is justly famed. We agree that it's a privilege, having a string quartet of this quality playing in our sitting room. Even now the Zaïde girls may be discussing the privilege of occasional heady wafts of spiced figs accompanying them while they tease out tangled skeins of Brahms.

* An unusual story someone told me. There's usually an encore at the end of each concert. At one concert the Zaïde girls played a fast Haydn movement as an encore, with great verve and spirit. As the audience filed out an Englishman, unknown to me, said 'Are you the O'Reilly that owns this hotel?' Mystification. He explained: Haydn wrote this music during one of his trips to London. A popular song at the time (1793?) was 'Are you the O'Reilly' etc. Apparently Haydn heard this, maybe sung in the street, and incorporated the tune in the movement les Zaïdes played. I wonder if anyone can confirm this?

They've all gone now, and the house is quiet, apart from a certain delirium in the washing machine, heavy with towels and bedlinen. I drove Sarah, Juliette and Lola to the station at Béziers early this morning, sending them on their way to their next engagement. This is how they live.

Next up we have a quartet of French horns, all blokes. One of them is called Hocquet. This means 'hiccup' in French. Like name, like nature? I hope not. I'll keep you posted.


Z said...

J's spiced figs are gorgeous. I eye the jar in my fridge anxiously, hoping that no one else eats any of them.

Dave said...

I think it unlikely that I will ver have a string quartet playing in my house.

Rog said...

You could approximate all this with Garage Band on an iPad but it wouldn't be as much fun.

Does the fig season start with a particular date?

Tenon_Saw said...

Nice photos Chris.

Tim said...

I like overripe raw figs best. And I have noted the plethora of umlauts and other assorted accents in this post.

Christopher said...

Compliments passed on, Z. Meanwhile several new batches are cooling.

Dave: You never know. Have you looked at your horoscope this morning?

Rog: I'm not certain. I'll have a look in the colander.

TS: You're a gentleman of taste and perception. No one has ever praised my photos before. Thank you. And I barely know which way round to hold the thing.

Tim: Those you describe are practically falling off the tree just now. Help yourself, but mind the hôřñêtš.

Mike and Ann said...

I rather like the idea of a french horn played by a M. Hiccup. Could lead to rather syncopated music.

Put in a small 'Brown Turkey' fig tree last year, and we ate the first two ripe figs from it yesterday. Delicious.

Christopher said...

M 'n' A: We had the horn quartet lat night. Excellent playing, varied programme (from Shostakovich to 'Misty') and not a hiccup to be had for love nor money. Great fun.

Tenon_Saw said...

I was talking more of the subject - I think I am in love with Lola!

Christopher said...

As I said, TS, you're a gent of taste and perception. Lola is lovely, she's everything you might expect her to be and your reaction is only to be expected and it does you credit.

Lola has a purple bikini.