Sunday, October 08, 2006

Style in London - final roundup

Now back from London. Flat in Vilnius is quite cold now (heating season not yet started); also the rain has come through into the bedroom (roof is not great). Had phoned the local authority people a week ago, but not sure if the roof was repaired after the rain or not. Need to go and see them tomorrow.

London was brilliant. One evening we walked from Piccadilly through some park, coming out between the Foreign Office and the Treasury; it was such a beautiful area. The total sense of history makes one really quite proud that one is part of this, regardless of what the government does. Also the look on the tourist's faces when they pop out of Westminster Underground station and find themselves right in front of Big Ben!

On the Thursday afternoon went to the Tate Modern; passing an office of the London Development Agency with a rather psychedelic entrance (except, if it had been really psychedelic, the colours might have been more aggressive - but one does not want to frighten off one's investors, does one).

Tate Modern was great, as always. This day, a Thursday, it was full of young people from different schools, and of different ages. They generally wandered around freely (unlike the Lithuanian museum experience where they have to stand still and listen endlessly to boring guides), and what with modern art being what it is always found interesting and surprising installations. Quite a number sat in places and drew their own copies or interpretations of the artworks on the walls or floors (maybe Arts A-level students). It was great seeing all this interest in the arts world.

The Tate Modern has a permanent exhibit by Rothko, my favourite artist, which involves 9 huge panels in mainly dark red and black hung in a slightly darkened room (according to his instructions). Not the most cheery selection of his work. It was interesting to notice that he was born (in 'Russia') only two years after Jascha Heifetz, and both emigrated to the US in their teens. That's about all they have in common. If Rothko had painted like Heifetz played, there would be endless flamboyant detail, lots of detailed ornamentation in gold and other bright colours, and direct painting for the market (was there, in his day, a great market for his squares?). If Heifetz had played like Rothko painted, he would have strictly stuck to the text on the page. But Rothko battled with depression, and maybe that influenced his paintings....

There were a number of interesting exhibitions, quite a number of works belonging to UBS, the Swiss Bank. New exhibitions were being put up, and generally, the place was very much alive.

In the evening to a concert in the Wigmore Hall, but only after a small snack costing 20 quid at Carluccio's in Oxford Street. Carluccio is the guru for Italian food for England (in Scotland we have Valvona and Crolla, a much longer established firm). The restaurant had a long table where various people could eat, and a number of small tables for those preferring intimacy. Beside me were two Italian ladies, one of whom particularly kept bursting into 'Mamma mia!' (not the song). The food was very good (though the caprese need not have come straight from the fridge); nice bread and nice pasta. The bread at Da Antonio in Vilnius is better! There was also a shop, but only a very pale reflection of an Italian food shop, if you compare it to Valvona and Crolla which has food stacked floor to the very high ceiling, and not just olive oil from one part of Italy but lots of different oils, balsamicos and so on.

The concert at the Wigmore involved the graduates of the IMS course in Prussia Cove, a chamber music course of extremely high reputation. The concert included Imogen Holsts's String Quintet, Mendelssohn's piano trio, and Chausson's 'Poeme' for violin, string quartet and piano. The performers were Chloe Hanslip, violin, Christoph Richter, cello, Ian Brown, piano, Sacconi String Quartet - this was the last in a series of daily concerts in Cornwall and later London. The string quartet with the additional cellist played the Holst quintet very nicely (although the second violinist emoted for England), but the game was really lifted once Chloe Hanslip came on stage to play with Richter and Brown the Mendelssohn trio; they did amazing chamber music playing - real togetherness, almost to the degree of 'too much', but this particular group does not often play together, maybe. Later the Chausson was stunning. Chloe is really amazing - almost three years ago, when she was sixteen, she came to Vilnius to play the Philip Glass concerto. As soon as she starts playing she changes personality completely and is totally masterful and, as someone said recently, totally mature - and it was the same then, when she was a mere 16. (She has also just had a wonderful review for her new CD of various less well known [except the piece from the 'Red Violin'] violin concerto pieces in The Strad).

The only thing that has changed, and it's a shame, is that Chloe is already developing middle-age spread. Being of rather small stature it probably does not take much for her to gain weight, but it's a pity when a young woman of 19 already looks like Queen Victoria, particularly considering all that hard manual work she does with her arms. She badly needs some good style advice (including personal fitness advice?). It does not do to wear dresses where the excess weight can spill out of, or in concert a hairstyle which clearly shows the split ends (there is also the question of the very heavy make-up). But Chloe is by far not the only one having style problems (remembering quite a number of people who struggled with similar issues at the Montreal International Viola Congress). One of the most stylish musicians, apart from Anne Sophie Mutter, is probably Misha Maisky with his (I have now discovered) Issey Miyake pleated fabrics, which not only look stunning but I bet are exceptionally comfortable while performing.

Friday was all work, and in the evening we went for a celebratory dinner to the Japanese Restaurant Benihana in Savill Street near Picadilly circus. It's not cheap...it has an entertainment angle in that each table has a chef who cooks the main courses in front of you, and depending on audience reaction, 'arses' around more or less. My friend John managed to catch with his mouth the piece of steak that the chef sent flying through the air. I had the vegetarian option (steamed vegetables) which was nice, and some sushis as a starter which were to die for - the best sushi I have ever had! Heavy smell of fried food throughout the restaurant, though.

On the Saturday morning, before the departure, went and sat in some park very close to Downing Street. It was sunny, various people were about including individuals and groups. Also very lively wildlife, with lots of types of geese and ducks. Whilst I was reading my paper, a squirrel (grey with a brown back) was running about on the other side of the fence with a walnut (?) in its mouth, and then squirred it away in the undergrowth right in front of me. Unfortunately I did not have my camera handy at that moment. When I left, the squirrel was running about again - it ran up to the fence beside me, hung itself on the top of the rail, showed her entire tummy to me (yes, she was a mummy squirrel) and looked me in the eye for a good wee while. Gee, in London there are two-legged and four-legged beggars!

Went to Gatwick airport very early because I had heard horror stories about the length of the queues there. Nowadays thankfully Lithuanian passengers no longer need to queue with British Airways passengers; there is a separate checkin which had no queue.
Security took only 10 minutes (other people reported 1.5 hours), so I had plenty of time to wander about, and have a sushi lunch at Yo!Sushi. They also offered carry-outs in theory which would have been wonderful for dinner in the plane, but apparently currently they are banned by the British Airports Authority (blowing a plane up with sushi? or maybe it's those chopsticks?).