Yesterday, on Sat 7 Feb 2015, I went to the RSNO concert A French Feast in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – and what a feast it was. I had been particularly excited for this concert, as I have a great love of languages, especially French! Taking my seat with the rest of the ambassadors, after our customary meet and greet of the audience, I felt a shiver of excitement as the lights went down and the oboe played it's first tuning note for the rest of the orchestra. In the past couple of years, that lonely 'A' note has become somewhat of a signpost for me of something spectacular to come – especially whilst sitting in the Concert hall.
Once the orchestra had tuned up, and the audience has quietened down, the conductor Gilbert Varga walked onto the stage, smiling and waving, before beginning to welcome the audience to the concert. He then went on to give us some back ground on the first piece – Les Éolides (The Breezes) by César Franck, in which he asked the audience to imagine a light summers breeze gently tapping on our cheeks as the strings began in a delicate surge of sound. It felt quite unusual actually, to have a conductor speak so intimately about a piece to the audience before beginning, but I found it refreshing and very interesting. The rest of the young ambassadors and I had been discussing before the concert about how we could make Classical Music more accessible to people of our age – and one of the ways we all agreed on was giving the music a bit of context. It's all very well to listen to an orchestra playing a piece and afterwards saying "Oh yes, it was lovely" but soon forgetting it. However, what Gilbert Varga did by actually explaining the background of the piece, actually made the piece into an experience. The piece was absolutely exquisite and completely blew away the audience (breeze pun intended...)
After the rapturous applause of the audience died down, there was a slight pause in the programme as the conductor walked off the stage and was replaced by two stage crew carrying what looked like, according to one of the young ambassadors, 'a giant door'. But yet, it soon became clear as the conductor reappeared with a man holding a cello (Daniel Müller-Schott, world renowned cellist, to be more precise) that this 'giant door' was actually an extra stage – the solo cellist had arrived. And so began the second piece, Cello Concerto No.1 by Saint-Saëns. Beginning with a punchy melismatic line from the soloist, the entire audience was submerged in Daniel Müller-Schott's absolute passion for the music, which you could feel as the notes sang from his bow. I think everyone's reaction to the piece, and the night as a whole, was enraptured in the image of a little tiny girl I spotted in the front row with her grandmother, who within three seconds of the cellist beginning to play, turned round to her gran with wide eyes and mouthed "WOW!"
And to sum up, the rest of the concert was just "WOW!". Going from Fauré's absolutely exquisite and "intimately beautiful" piece, according the conductor – which had me and one of the other Ambassadors in tears – to Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye (Mother Goose) which cheered us up immensely, before a rather impromptu and unscheduled performance of a wonderful Benjamin Britten piece, performed solo cello without orchestra, the night was a complete success.
The concert ended with Ravel’s Le Valse, which told the story of a Waltz's birth and then death. The conductor related this to us using a very complicated extended metaphor of a wizard... I don’t know either... but it was clear the audience had an absolutely amazing night. The clapping bounced off of the walls, going on for ages and raining down on the orchestra, and most importantly Varga and Müller-Schott. And, as I travelled home on the train afterwards, I realised that every fantastic musical night I have begins with a lonely 'A' note from an oboe – and ends with aching hands from clapping! Globalement, c’était absolutement fantastique!