Brighton Pavilion Music Room - the fantasy room beneath one of the domes of Brighton's Regency Palace: Rossini performed here in 1823. I’ve longed to hear real music in the room there and finally managed to get tickets on a day that I could travel there. It was rush to get the train after work, not to mention the nightmare ticketing an “open jaw” train itinerary without paying way over the odds. And Brighton’s more set up for a relaxed evening meal rather than a pre-concert snack. In particular one wants to avoid canned music blunting one’s musical sensitivities.

The music was excellent; in one way the programme or the artistes wouldn’t have mattered: the “erotic” ambience of the Prince Regent’s party get-away palace would lift any performance. The warm, intimate and clear acoustic of the music room filled with 500 audience was reminiscent of a superior drawing room; it seemed it was a joy for the performers to work it. The promised recital of Beethoven lieder and Schumann duets was high class entertainment before the age of cinema and TV: the poet’s words evoking mountains and light, forests and evening, love and lovers.

All delightfully concordant with the suggestive decoration and architecture of Brighton Pavilion, its sea snakes and phoenixes, dragons and phallic fantasy flowers. And when the poet turns to the dreamy music of the stars and eternal spheres, the glowing gold and intricate ornate decorative patterns of the dome ceiling lifts the music even closer to the heavenly muses.

Although the Brighton Pavilion cafe wasn’t open for pre-concert refreshments, we were treated to a glass of wine in the sumptuous banqueting hall, possibly the English answer to Versailles. A treat to see that room animated with people rather than tourists mousing silently round the gold dining goblets listening intently to their audio guides.

As we had arrived in the Brighton Pavilion, we walked through the front gallery adorned with the real and faux Chinese artefacts in quiet evening light which gave the long room a homely atmosphere. Now in the interval, as dusk outside gave way to night and the chandeliers gleamed, the opposing mirrors doubled or tripled the length of the banqueting hall. The music room entirely without daylight became a warm and intimate space, decorated in sumptuous colours and fantasy animals, a place to forget the world and loose oneself in the language of music amidst the icons of eighteenth century fantasy love and lust.

So far no mention of the music but it was impeccable: it was possible to follow the words and translation thanks to an excellent programme, as usual the effort in concentration was amply repaid with musical understanding.

Lucy Crowe gave us Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Richard Strauss’ Five Songs Op. 48. She sang two Schumann vocal duets with the tenor Andrew Staples. He had earlier given us Beethoven’s Adelaide, Op. 46 ; the songs Op 83 (including the fine “Sehnsucht”, which was especially moving sung in this place) and Beethoven’s extensive “Adenlied Untern gestirnten Himmel”.

All sensitively accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, surely one of the finest accompanists performing at this time. A slight quibble that the Beethoven would have sounded even finer on a reproduction of a period instrument, if not one of the intruments from the Pavilionn's collection, and that would have added to the apparent “authenticity” of the evening, but the Steinway Grand was entirely appropriate for the Berg and Richard Strauss, even a matching extravagance for the extravagance of the Brighton Pavilion Music Room!

The train ride home was remarkably efficient and I completed writing this as the illuminations of Battersea Bridge passed the window of my carriage; I was home well before midnight!

9 May 2011 in the Music Room, Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Lucy Crowe soprano
Andrew Staples tenor
Malcolm Martineau piano