A night off
23 Mar 2005
Mention it not to the Chairman of the North West Hampshire Conservatives; breathe not a word to the Opposition Whips office. But at 7.30 on March 23rd, the day that John Prescott as good as told us the election would be held on May 5th, I was neither knocking on doors on the King Arthurs Way estate; nor was I holding the Government to account in the House of Commons; nor was I at home putting the finishing touches to my election address.
In fact, the House had just adjourned by that time; I would not have been able to get to Andover in to knock on doors without being unpopular. And the election address can wait. So I mounted my bicycle, crossed the river to the Royal Festival Hall and bought one of the last tickets for a recital by Mitsuko Uchida. (And it so happened that some constituents from Ashmansworth in North West Hants had made a similar cultural decision, so there was an opportunity to discuss busines with pleasure and talk about the future of their local pub, the Plough.)
Mitsuko Uchida is a stunning pianist. She was advertised as playing Schubert and Beethoven, but she threw in some Boulez as a bonus. The good thing about this bonus was that it was short, and I was able to knock off the Times crossword while Mitsuko knocked off Pierre. At the end, she bowed so low that her hair touched the ground, before she embarked on the Schubert.
For a frail looking lady, she can make a big sound - loud enough to drown the sounds of coughing. She got much applause at the end of the Schubert and rightly so- but not as much as the announcer got at the beginning of the second half, who asked the audience to cough less and to cough more quietly.
Mitsuko came back after the interval to play the Beethoven. Normally, the pianist sits down on the stool; flexes the knuckles; looks down at the ground for concentration and then up to the heavens for guidance; then adjusts the height of the stool; and then begins playing.
Not so with Mitsuko. Before the bum had hit the stool, the fingers had hit the keys. The audience was stunned into silence. Beethoven's Hammerklavier is one of his most difficult sonatas and she sailed through it. It was a memorable performance - well worth parking ones political ambitions on one side for.
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Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015