Yesterday, at the instigation of Edwina Attlee and a small collaborative group sheltering in plain sight under the name, Sitting Room, some twenty to thirty people, my daughter Molly Ernestine and myself included, gathered in the foyer of The Poetry Library in London’s Royal Festival Hall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet Frank O’Hara with a reading of his collection, Lunch Poems, in its entirety. Papers were shuffled, poems were duly read and savoured, sandwiches were eaten; copies of the City Lights Pocket Poets edition of Lunch Poems (none of them, I imagine, firsts) were passed from hand to hand, shared, relished, laughed over and wondered at, enjoyed. In that good company, Frank, I like to think, would have felt quite at home.
On face value, the programme on offer from the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment for last night’s Royal Festival Hall concert could hardly have been less inspiring – especially for an orchestra dedicated to shaking up the everyday. I mean, the Brahms Violin Concerto and Dvorak’s New World Symphony! Classic Classic FM stuff. But that was without counting for the brilliance of Viktoria Mullova in the Brahms; without conductor Adam Fischer’s close to boyish enthusiasm on the podium; and without the obvious delight expressed by all and sundry members of the orchestra as they played.
Not even an intruder, who burst into the hall from one of the side doors just before the end of the Dvorak and jumped up on stage, videoing himself prancing about until the officials dragged him away, could deflate the mood nor spoil the performance. And the fact that conductor and orchestra carried on regardless, earned them all the heartier applause at the close.
Mullova, though … matching the relative informality of the orchestra in a simple grey shirt and purple flares – the kind we used to call loon pants – is not only one of the top half-dozen violin soloists currently playing – the cadenza towards the end of the first movement of the Brahms was breathtaking, thrilling – but she shares with Robin Wright an elegance, self-assuredness and beauty that few possess.