Briefly: what a day. April 23rd was one of those days I wish could be bottled and saved. It started, however, with sleeplessness. Mark and Gail have two dwarf hamsters that decided that 4AM was an ideal time to go wild on their wheel, climbing up and down their squeaky cage. Who would have thought such tiny animals could make such a racket? I couldn’t get back to sleep so I took it as an opportunity to take an early morning run. Even at 6AM, it was over 50 degrees.
My route took me through Clerkenwell and into the City, past dozens of imposing banks, churches and confusing streets, over London Bridge and to Southbank. From there I could marvel at the sun rising over Tower Bridge, one of the iconic images of London.
Breakfast in Exmouth Market is followed by a transition to a hotel on Gower Street. I’ve stayed in some small London places before but this took the cake. The sink was no larger than one hand, the room only slightly larger than a bathtub. But it had one tremendous feature: access to a gorgeous back garden that fronted a Mews (is there a singular “mew”?), a quiet spot for a cup of tea and some work on a new choral work, perhaps inspired by Westminster.
Recently I entered into a correspondence with choral conductor Nicolas Couton, who wished to make the trip up from Picardy to hear the concert and to meet. We met for coffee and discussed the issues with performance, a conductor finding work, and the possibility of me finding performances of my work in France.
It’s nearly time and I head back to my chamber to change, knocking to bits the only light fixture while putting on my shirt.
Across from Wigmore Hall is the Pontrefract Arms, a pub that I had been to before. Tonight, several hunded people gathered outside for pints and sunshine, sprawling on the curb to catch the rays, until a strong burning smell and the sight of smoke arose from the back door. Neither seemed to deter most punters who drank and smoked away on their own accord. Somewhere in this place, and perhaps the culprit, is surely someone I know popping in for a quick drink before the concert.
Show time and the house is completely full. Klara’s manager Nigel tells me that the empty seats are for people who bought tickets yet didn’t show. I’m humbled and wowed by the fact that so many friends have traveled from all over metropolitan London to attend – friends of Gail and Mark, colleagues from Naxos, Chandos, Hyperion, LSO, Warner Classics, Toccata, The Sixteen, Wildkat, Knifedge, Amazon, several folks in PR, management and more. Gramophone brought a contingent of several people and a couple of critics came to review the show itself. Grateful to Nigel and the good folks at Wildkat – Kat, Victoria, Harriet and Fleur – for bringing this together.
An even, bright and well-engineered piano can of course make a big and positive difference in a recital, but without technique and talent nothing else matters. Fortunately, Klara has talent to burn and she made a great case for several Schumann and Chopin works – including several Mazurkas (recently released on Delos) – all composed within 15 years of one another. Cursive closed the first half of the program and Klara thundered through it to end in a hail of applause. It was over in 10 minutes and the pianist seemed proud and more than a little bit relieved, coming back for another bow. I had several conversations with folks who wanted to know more about the piece and future performance of it and of Klara in Britain, and one who had heard her on BBC Radio 3 the previous day.
Nigel arranged for a group of us to retire for dinner down Wigmore Street. After several bottles of celebratory wine with friends I take a long walk back through Russell Square and back to my crypt-like room. The sleep of the just.
— Sean Hickey