Lunchtime treats

Rebecca Franks says three cheers for concerts in the middle of the day


During the week, if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to fritter away those 60 precious minutes at lunchtime, treating the break from work as little more than treading water between morning and afternoon laps.

Trips to the bank, post office, supermarket, even just waiting for the lifts to and from BBC Music Magazine’s 14th-floor home – the hour soon goes and all you’ve to show for it are a few ticks on the to-do list. OK, so the mundane tasks in life have to be done, but, as I was reminded by a Wigmore Hall lunchtime recital last Monday, there are few more satisfying more ways of spending a lunch hour than at a concert. Perhaps it depends if you’re a day or night person, but I find it’s also a good time of day to listen to music.

For starters, you’re completely awake; the audience is alert and interested (well, apart from my Wigmore Hall neighbour who took the opportunity for a back-row kip). It’s easier to listen with curious ears when tiredness isn’t clouding over the final notes, and the trek home at the back of your mind. Even better, a mid-day concert is a refreshing experience, so you often go back to work feeling more energetic than when you left.

A time limit is, of course, essential to accommodate audiences who need to be back at their desks. You’re not going to fit Beethoven's Ninth or Mahler's Eighth in to your lunch break, but an hour is more than enough for a solo or chamber recital packed with great music, and for appealing programming. Pianist Stephen Kovacevich, for example, came up with the effective pairing of Takemitsu’s Uninterrupted Rest I-III with one of Schubert’s final masterpieces, the Sonata in A, D959. Not a note too few or too many, and fine fare, at any time of day.

Funny, isn’t it, how you forget some of your favourite pastimes. At one time I went to lunchtime concerts almost every week, but somehow I seemed to have forgotten just how enjoyable they are. So, though it might be a bit late in the year for 2010 resolutions, I’m planning to make the most of the lunch break. Bristol concert halls, be prepared!

Rebecca Franks is online editor and staff writer for BBC Music Magazine

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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