I have spent the last two weeks, and will spend the next, in San Miguel for its 41st Annual Chamber Music Festival. For the final 3 weekends I have and will enjoy the Griphon Trio from Canada and the Symphonie Atlantique from the Netherlands. I have been staying in a small apartment on the 4th floor of the Hospedaje Colibri, with a lovely shaded terrace overlooking the town to the west. San Miguel, known as either the Cradle of Mexican Independence (This is where the early rebels, including Father Hildalgo, started the War of Independence in 1810), or the Land of Eternal Spring (located in the Central Highlands at about 6,200 feet San Miguel has year-round lovely weather – lots of major late afternoon thunderstorms this time of year making everything fresh and green). The entire central portion of the town is a protected Unesco World Heritage Site with brightly colored colonial buildings and the towering and famous Parroquia, the European inspired pink church on the town square, which history claims was engineered by a local stonemason using an ancient postcard picture from Belgium as the blueprint.
Most music performances have been in the Peralta Theater, the westernmost opera house in Mexico built about 140 years ago. The Gryphon Trio (pianist, violinist and cellist) are artists in residence as faculty at the University of Toronto, School of Music, and have already released 28 CD recordings. I enjoyed their performances of trios composed by Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms among others. They also have commissioned many new compositions, including one they performed by a young composer named Dinuk Wijeratne, born in Sri Lanka, with Eastern Asia influences and odd chromatic scales. At a climactic point the pianist heaved off his bench and simply clobbered about 20% of the keyboard by bringing his entire right forearm down to strike simultaneously every key between his right elbow and hand – clashing, but exciting as the violin and cello were bowing up a storm. I also attended a master class they gave to a young piano trio group from Mexico City, using Beethoven’s 1st Piano Trio for the lesson.
The Symphonie Atlantique is a young group from the Netherlands, which performs exclusively on period instruments, and has sufficient players of odd instruments to perform a large number of lesser performed Baroque, Classical and Romantic chamber music pieces. I went to a conference where they demonstrated and discussed the various period instruments, about half of which were originals from the periods, one being a 19th century wooden bassoon that had actually been played in a live performance with the great early Romantic period violinist Paganini.
I have not avoided food and drink. Perhaps too many martinis and margaritas, at Hank’s two-for-one happy hour or Tio Lucas’ bar directly across the road from the entrance to the Peralta Theater. I have enjoyed both places for well over 20 years and so have fond memories to keep the booze company. The food continues to be the best at Hecho en Mexico and Antigua Trattoria Romana, long time favorites.
I also have not avoided wine and cigars (both cheap, from the La Europea shop on Canal Street), enjoyed on my terrace where I spend most afternoons reading and listening to my own music. For this trip I bought a new fabulous travel speaker which wires to my portable digital audio player (wherein I have stored my entire music collection). The speaker, a MiniRig 3 made in England, is the size of the bottom half of a coffee mug, and produces astounding great sound with admirable bass. Thus this entire trip has been turned into a gluttonous feast of music, science fiction, food, booze and cigars. Not a bad way to ditch southern Arizona summer heat, where I must return next week. Later. Dave