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Our last day at the Edinburgh Festival

Today began with the Simon Bolivar Quartet playing at the Queen's Hall: the first half had Bach and Shostakovich, and I'd have gone for the latter alone. We first heard his 8th string quartet at the Argyll Lodging in Stirling on the day that Keir became Chief Executive of Clackmannanshire, and it had an electrifying impact. The Bolivar players gave it a splendid, spirited performance and after the second half (Halffter and Brahms) gave us two encores. My only disappointment was with the programme note, of which the so-called Biography told us nothing about the players, not even their ages, but only about El Sistema, the Venezuela system of children/youth orchestras. We already knew a bit about this anyway, and Sistema Scotland has created the Big Noise in the Raploch, Stirling. But I'd love to have found out more about the backgrounds of these four very talented young men. In case you don't know about El Sistema, here's a clip of a performance that's well worth hearing.

Then we headed for Locanda de Gusti at the foot of Broughton Street, possibly Edinburgh's finest Italian restaurant. The occasion was to celebrate son Sandy's birthday yesterday, and (courtesy of his girlfriend Anna's iPhone) here is the birthday boy:


His lunch looks good, but I wouldn't have traded it for the superlative lobster that the rest of us enjoyed. Chef Rosario Sartore is to be congratulated. We left a couple of hours later in mellow (prosecco-assisted) mood and spent a relaxing afternoon. Finally we headed for the Usher Hall for Mahler's 8th symphony (Donald Runnicles conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Edinburgh Festival Chorus and RSNO Junior Chorus). This extraordinary work juxtaposes Veni, creator spiritus with the final scene from Goethe's Faust - culturally worlds apart, separated by 1000 years, yet somehow it works as an unbroken whole. The Usher Hall's platform cannot literally accommodate the "symphony of 1000" as it's nicknamed, but there must have been at least 600 or 700 performers on stage.

I learned from the programme note that Mahler composed it in "a mere eight weeks of incandescent creativity" at his lakeside retreat on the Wörthersee in 1906. He later said, and I find this even more humbling:

The whole immediately stood before my eyes. I had only to write it down, as if it had been dictated to me.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 4, 2010 9:18 AM.

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