The Passion of the Romantics sets the I Musici chamber orchestra firmly in the 19th century Romantic era amidst the love letters of George Sand, whose texts are interpreted by actress Marie-Thérèse Fortin. French author Sand was noted for her rural based novels, for wearing men’s clothes and for supporting the French Revolution, but also for her numerous affairs with Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset and Frédéric Chopin.
The venue was the Tudor concert hall in the Ogilvy department store. This a surprisingly appropriate venue, with its intricate oak woodwork, tasteful lighting and Gothic iron chandeliers that together create an enchanting atmosphere.
Many would ask what a Classical music concert is doing in a writing festival. For starters, there is the story of George Sand and her affair with Chopin, whose piano concerto No. 2 in F minor is featured prominently. With no microphone being used, it was hard to hear the texts from the back of the room. But there is still storytelling within the music. My old choir conductor David Ferguson used to say that singing was really about storytelling. Notes are just sentences without punctuation; phrasing in music is the art of putting punctuation and meaning into the grand story, in other words the piece.
I particularly appreciate the use of rubato, or borrowed time, with the notes disciplined not by time but ebbing and flowing according to the conductor’s phrasing. I also admire I Musici’s storytelling abilities, matching technical skill with musical soul. Pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin was especially impressive driving the Chopin concerto with flair.
A bit more context, however, and putting the written story into the concert, would have boosted the overall storytelling.
I Musici performed the Passion of the Romantics concerts at Blue Met, on May 1st and on May 2nd.
The Blue Metropolis Festival runs until May 4th. Consult their website for more information.
Sujata Dey is Print editor of Rover.