Music is the sea we swim in, but it is the venues, their history, acoustics, locations and atmosphere that really fire my imagination and make me want to think about it afresh. They have the same effect on our artists. Christian Zacharias loves Crail Church and would perform nowhere else in the East Neuk out of choice. Quatuor Ebene were utterly enamoured of Cellardyke Church when they came; the list of people who have fallen in love with St Monans is too long to write down… For me, these are old favourites, but the exciting discovery is the barn at Cambo. Three things make it special. First: the immense acoustic which could accommodate many different kinds of music. Second, that fact that it is basically an empty space, a blank canvas; this year we will have 3 utterly different concerts there over 3 days: Tudor polyphony on the Friday, American environmental music on Saturday and orchestral music on the Sunday. Lastly, there is its location – bang in the middle of a farm overlooking fields and the sea. So on Sunday you will listen to Beethoven’s countryside symphony being performed in the heart of the countryside – so much so you will probably hear cows and birds during the performance.
Performances of Beethoven’s Pastoral are plentiful – but I passionately wanted to have this one because really excellent, illuminating performances of it are not. I have every reason to believe that the team of Zacharias and SCO will deliver a very special interpretation – I have heard Zacharias direct Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth symphonies and felt elated on both occasions, relishing his capacity to make them fresh and new without resorting to any kind of gimmickry or ostentatious interpretation. Zacharias has opted to add two other gorgeous pieces with nature close to their hearts (Ravel and Honneger), but for the beginning of the concert he has kindly accommodated my own quirky thoughts.
The start of a concert is a critical moment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the standard approach (conductor comes on, everyone bows, go) but sometimes an opportunity arises to take a different approach. On Sunday, I hope to give the audience two moments of unexpected poetry to beguile them and draw them into the musical world Zacharias and the orchestra will create.