An invitation to a meal at the house of musicians is fine, provided you are a musician yourself. If not, you are in for a rough ride. I am not. I deal in words, not notes.
Musicians have words too, of course, but a lot of their words deal with the character assassination of other musicians, particularly conductors, and then, a long way after, with music. I love the idea of juicy gossip, but as I don’t know the subjects personally, although quite a few of them are well known, even famous people, my interest soon wanders.
As these particular musicians are polite, friendly, generous and kind hosts, for the first thirty minutes the conversation concerned itself with the topic of left over berries in the freezer and what to do with them, arising from serving a token shot of cassis in the first bottle of bubbly. This in turn led to discussing home made wine and its uses in the house, particularly for bleaching and disinfecting purposes.
By now our host was raring to go; I could tell he was keeping a tight rein on himself. Still on the subject of home made wine, he told us how he had recently been given some elderberry wine which seemed rather strong. As it is not easy to determine the alcohol content of home made wine, our host sent a bottle for analysis to a laboratory. In due course the answer came back. “ I am sorry to say that your horse suffers from diabetes”.
Lunch was delicious. Musicians eat and drink well. Beloved and I were rather slow and our hosts finished their courses long before us. When we apologized, John said: “that shows the difference between freelancers and those in fixed employment. Freelancers learn to chew and swallow vivacissimo”. Beloved always was on a regular contract.
After the meal I took Benno out into the garden, I could hear gales of laughter coming from the open windows. By now the conversation was very firmly established in the world of performers of classical music, names falling thick and fast, each anecdote leading to the next.
When I got back inside, a well known violinist, a foreigner living in the UK, aspiring to being the perfect English gentleman in speech and manner and famous for his interpretation of Mozart, was being discussed. The soloist had been asked, at fairly short notice, to play a Mozart concerto. A colleague, also a soloist, but not a great friend, asked how it had gone.
“Terribly, dear boy, terribly”.
Sensing a triumph over his colleague, the second soloist asked,
“ Oh dear, were the critics there?”
“Yes, unfortunately, they were”.
Ever more solicitous, the second soloist said,
“Do you happen to have a copy on you?”
The famous man pulled a sheaf of them out of his pocket.
“Here they are, quite terrible”.
The other read them, each critique glowing with praise.
“What do you mean, terrible, these are very good indeed”.
The famous man sighed.
“The grammar, dear boy, the grammar”.