I emailed Wigmore Hall Box Office first thing asking for returns for Schiff’s Monday night gig. I’d no idea what was on the programme and in some respects I didn’t care.
What I craved was simple. I wanted to slouch in a velvet seat, stare at the ceiling and spirit myself into a space created by Andras Schiff and the music he created. I wanted him to heal grazes, smooth edges and unconditionally reassure. I wanted this one man, his piano, and the rest of the audience to collectively wrap a big arm around me and tell me all was well.
Don’t get me wrong. All is well. Nobody’s died. Nobody will die (at least not in the next seven days). I needed a live experience like Schiff at the keyboard to pat me on the back or poke me in the side. I needed music to reassure me in a way I could reassure myself: being at the top of your game is all that matters; anything else is somebody else’s shit to deal with.
Today I’ve spoken to leaders in big global organisations who were panicked about how best to support their teams in Turkey, Ukraine and Syria. People struggling with how they deal with earthquakes, invasion and terror, in addition doing their best to support their team members at the same. Top line here: I live a privileged life.
listening is what is required. Empathy. Strength. Trust. Belief. Leadership isn’t easy.
At the end of the day a conversation I often have to have professionally (and have only had twice personally): splitting up. Dotting the eyes, crossing the Ts. Making sure the people who matter are happy, trying hard to mask just how sad it is to have to bring this to an end. Handing in my notice was always a pleasure; a contract coming to an end – a good contract – bittersweet.
On the plus side, I haven’t played Sorry Seems To The Hardest Word on repeat like I did when I split up with Rebecca in ‘91 wondering how I’m going to cope without her (let’s not talk about the poor unfortunate soul I ceremoniously dumped on the night of the Grad Ball in ‘94).
No. I’m slouching in a velvet clad balcony seat calling on Andras Schiff to bookend a key moment in my career wondering what comes next.
I stay for the first half only. Schiff is a fascinating musician, announcing his programme from the stage, making every ticket sale based on the pull of his name or the element of surprise in his running order. This makes Schiff very rock n roll in my book. His introductions are whispered into the microphone. Humility is his middle name.
His Bach is firm, strong and fearless, right hand and left hand independent in tone, pressure and dynamics. The Mozart that follows is dark and uncompromising. At this point there’s a sense of tension in the air created not by the sound he creates but by the silences he crafts. Schubert’s last sonata pre-interval doesn’t so much release the tension as ramp it up. As the applause breaks out I make a leap for the door and my interval drink.
I’ve already resolved to head home in the second half. Oddly I haven’t the stamina Schiff has. I calculate I’ve got my moneys worth and there’s no shame in going home early. The man is brilliant. He’s done what I expected, I just can’t manage desert. It’s a pity I can’t ask for a doggy bag.