And so, naturally, to Modest Mussorgsky. ELP led me to ‘Pictures from an Exhibition,’ I did the rest.
This was my first ever live piece of classical music. Well, I say that – there must have been other items on the programme that night, but I don’t remember any of them. Perhaps my father would remember – he took me to the Music Hall in Aberdeen – my parents were regular attenders (and, as far as I know, still are) at the (R)SNO‘s concert seasons; I must have used my mother’s ticket that night. I presume that they were under Sir Alexander Gibson, but I really only remember the music – the familiar ‘Promenade’; the scuttling chickens; the Great Gates of Kiev… I wonder now why I didn’t start going more often – that single concert made a strong impression on me. Maybe it just wasn’t ‘cool’ enough; maybe I was too much into too any other things. I missed a lot, though.
(Of course, now I’ve written this, I remember being taken to see Hephzibah Menuhin at an age when I was still learning piano; so around 10 or 11. The chief memory of that evening, of course, is that I was asked to present Miss Menuhin with her bouquet at the end (‘oh, look, there’s a presentable child in the front row. Ask him’) and my piano teacher, who was also in the audience, didn’t recognise me. Just call me Zelig.)
What I think now:
I still like ELP; I still appreciate Mussorgsky. I’m sorry that I don’t know more of his music, but, seriously, where would I get the time? I have many other obsessions to deal with, as will become clear. ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ is highly recommended, of course, and maybe one day I’ll get round to properly listening to ‘Boris Godunov’
One perfect, neat thing. To celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, and perhaps to pay him back just a little for starting this whole thing off in the first place, I took him to the Proms, to see a performance of ‘Pictures’. It was a terrific evening, with the usual Ravel orchestration ditched for a mix of other orchestrations, some of them quite striking. I have a recording from that evening, and I can’t think of a better new entry for this list.