A look ahead to the Spring Chamber Music Series in Harrogate

Phoenix Strings

Phoenix Strings - Credit: Archant

Love inspires many works by our great composers and the musicians who perform them, as Sharon Canavar explains

Ah, February the month of romance and love, having got engaged after a whirlwind romance in February many moons ago, I always feel the birds should be singing, the trees budding and the Harrogate Stray full of crocuses, when in actual fact the reality is copious amounts of snow and dirty ice! So thank goodness, for the Spring Chamber Music Series full of vibrancy, energy and vitality with the best international musicians from the world stage playing right here in Harrogate.

It’s amazing how music can lift the mood especially listening to the great repertoire on offer this season, from Schumann to Beethoven, Ravel to Mozart. Of course the great classical composers were all great romantics, with passionate love affairs often the inspiration for great music with many dedications to their wives, mistresses or passions from afar.

It’s an interesting misnomer however that classical music is just for the educated Middle Classes; that it is somehow a delicate and refined genre. In their time, composers were the original rock stars of their day. If you saw the talented pianist James Rhodes in Harrogate last year, you’d have heard the debauched stories of their lives. He litters his performances with hair raising stories of Beethoven and Bach and their dramatic, passionate and often, short lives. But what they created in their short time on earth transcends time and space, because ultimately its music born out of a great love.

The classic composers suffered for their love – their music. Beethoven was deaf, ill and beaten by his father as a child, but he wrote the most redemptive, timeless music. The Russian composer Blumenfeld was something of a womaniser. When he contracted syphilis and lost the use of his right side, he composed Etude for the Left Hand so he could continue wooing women.

Love has always been the central theme of music -whether it’s Moulin Rouge or West Side Story - its love that powers the melodies and stirs our hearts. I for one am thankful that there are musicians at work today who dedicate their lives to keeping the impassioned music written hundreds of years ago, alive. All great musicians are married to music. To learn the most complex, technical pieces demands hours of solitary practice. It demands sacrifice; as Charles Bukowski said: ‘Find what you love and let it kill you’. Their sacrifice is our gain.

That’s why in February, whether there’s the fluffy romance of white snow or slushy ice on the pavements, we can have a spring in our step. One woman who comes every year to our Spring Chamber Music Series tells me that at the start of the series the daffodil bulbs are raising their heads and by the time the series draws to a close, they’re all in full glorious bloom. February is the start of new blossoms, and the stirrings of romance. If music be the food of love, play on!

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Sharon Canavar is chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals

Find out more about the Spring Chamber Music Series at harrogateinternationalfestivals.com