Friday, 9 May 2008

Music (and mystery)

I’m not, by nature, a great enthusiast for ‘corporate hospitality’, but as a partner in a law firm, it is inevitably an aspect of my working life. And sometimes the events prove hugely enjoyable. Last night was a great example; a wonderful concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by supper and some very good company, including that of the chief conductor of the orchestra, Vasily Petrenko.

The music was a combination of Beethoven (my favourite classical composer) and Mozart (who isn’t bad either.) The soloist for the clarinet concerto was Mark Simpson, a stunningly talented 19 year old who is the only person ever to have won BBC Young Musician of the Year and the BBC/Guardian Young Composer of the Year awards and he too joined the party afterwards. The Philharmonic Hall has excellent acoustics and the 1930s Art Deco building is a great treasure. It was good, during the interval, and at the end of the hottest day of the year so far, to look out at the sun setting over a city scape combining great buildings and cranes engaged in construction of the new Liverpool.

Vasily is a young (32) and extraordinarily energetic and charismatic conductor whose dynamism is perfectly suited to the drama of Beethoven’s orchestral masterpieces. I was lucky enough to sit next to him during the meal and he proved a most agreeable companion. Amongst other things we talked, of course, about music and mystery fiction and recommended to each other a few films that combine the two – for instance, he hasn’t yet seen The Page Turner, which I discussed on this blog a few weeks ago, and which I found eerie and memorable.

Music features in a good deal of crime fiction, but books set in the orchestral world are not so common. A good one that springs to mind is Cyril Hare’s When the Wind Blows (known in the US as The Wind Blows Death) where the key to solving the mystery is a musical clue. A very sound example of Golden Age fiction.


Juliet said...

Wow, sounds like a most fantastic evening.

And the ghost of Mozart will no doubt be relieved to read that he 'isn't bad'!!

Martin Edwards said...

On the subject of Wolfgang Amadeus, it's worth mentioning that Bob Barnard, a great music buff, wrote some mysteries featuring Mozart as a character. He's also featured opera in his novels on more than one occasion.

john morris said...

I'm glad for that recommendation of the Hare book, which I've not read. When the topic is music and mystery, I immediately think of Edmund Crispin, who in real life was the film composer Bruce Montgomery. His Gervase Fen books are immortal, of course -- the funniest mysteries ever. But it's worth noting that two of them (Holy Disorders and Swan Song) hinge on musical themes and clues, and Swan Song offers that orchestral setting (operatic, actually) you noted was uncommon in mystery fiction.

monix said...

This post revived some lovely memories of the time I lived in Liverpool from 1971 to '74. The Philharmonic Hall, the Playhouse and the Walker Art Gallery were my favourite haunts. We didn't get 'corporate hospitality' in those days, instead we had heavily subsidised 'Industrial Concerts' at the Phil. I wonder if they still have them?

Martin Edwards said...

John, by coincidence I've just responded to Maxine's comments about The Moving Toyshop. I haven't read Swan Song; better look out for it.

Mo, I'm not sure if the industrial concerts still take place. I'm still wondering why I've let more than ten years pass before going back to the Phil. The old lack of time problem is the explanation, but it's a poor excuse really.