tue 22/09/2020

A masked elegy: portraits of string players at the Fidelio Orchestra Café | reviews, news & interviews

A masked elegy: portraits of string players at the Fidelio Orchestra Café

A masked elegy: portraits of string players at the Fidelio Orchestra Café

Young talent captured by Nick Rutter during sessions for Strauss's 'Metamorphosen'

Some of the players as seen from the balconyAll images by Nick Rutter

Out of a silent and empty City of London, unusually still even for a Sunday afternoon, it felt surreal to come upon a centre of light and activity. Raffaello Morales, Renaissance man, conductor of the Fidelio Orchestra and owner/impresario of its eponymous café which has played host to great performances over the past month, had mustered 23 of the finest London-based players to tackle the ultimate in works for string orchestra.

Out of a silent and empty City of London, unusually still even for a Sunday afternoon, it felt surreal to come upon a centre of light and activity. Raffaello Morales, Renaissance man, conductor of the Fidelio Orchestra and owner/impresario of its eponymous café which has played host to great performances over the past month, had mustered 23 of the finest London-based players to tackle the ultimate in works for string orchestra. Richard Strauss penned his Metamorphosen in grief at the bombings of the great German and Austrian opera houses. It ends with a direct quotation of the music which inspired one of its themes, the Funeral March of Beethoven's Third, "Eroica" Symphony. Yet there's lush nostalgia, even optimism, in its sweeping middle sequence.

Despite the valedictory tone, the playing in the café was all about vibrant hard work by younger-generation musicians. Yes, it was hot work - the players in the balcony were melting - but all done in a spirit of the friendliest collaboration. There were some major names in the profession here: even if you didn't know that Emily Nebel had been leading the London Symphony Orchestra in concerts before the lockdown, or that Australian-born Daniel Pini was a rising star, the duets between first violin and cello would have told you that the very best were at work. And the sound in the small space was overwhelming, but only in a rich, gorgeous way. The evening film, lit by candles, was made for a documentary to be shown as part of the Beijing Festival later this year; before that there was a three-hour afternoon rehearsal. Which is mainly where Nick Rutter took a raft of wonderful photographs, from which we select. The names alone serve as a reminder that music remains resolutely European and international, whatever happens to performers' freedom of movement. And while the whole faces may be concealed, the eyes tell us so much about the spirit of the performance.

Click on the images for the full picture

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