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.
* 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.