Nicky's Notes


Andrea Marcon and La Cetra Barockorchester Basel

Making music with Andrea Marcon and La Cetra Barockorchester Basel last week was innately uplifting throughout all the rehearsals and five performances. This was my first major project on gut-strings. The strings themselves can be problematic (illustrated in one photo below), but the human sound they produce is absolutely worth the hassle. Playing an entire programme of Vivaldi was also an excellent place for me to start.

The tour began in the spectacular hall in Aarhus, then on to Copenhagen. The following day we made the long journey to the impressive new hall in Saffron Walden. We were welcomed by an intensely appreciative audience two nights running, after which I engaged in a lengthy, late night meeting with the wonderful Angela Dixon from Saffron Hall. We discussed how best I can be involved in their hugely innovative yet grounded education plans. I greatly look forward to developing this partnership into the future.

My string hazards included one severe unravelling in Saffron Hall, which prompted one of the extremely kind musicians, Cecilie Valter, to run off stage to fetch her nail clippers. Luckily the whole audience and orchestra weren’t only waiting for me – a string on Andrea Marcon’s harpsichord had slipped too, so we dealt with our respective strings simultaneously and carried on.

The second mishap with slightly more dramatic. I was sure I was in the clear as it was our last performance in the breathtaking Palau de la Musica Catalana, but oh was I wrong. Just as I began the third movement of Autumn I felt the e-string slip nearly a semi-tone down. I could cope with that – I just had to adjust my e-string playing (although, I can think of easier pieces than this movement, with all its double stops). As we finished this concerto, Andrea decided to address the audience, who had enthusiastically clapped between most of the concertos and even between some of the movements. He said to them, with humour and love and kindness, ‘I know here in fantastic Barcelona you only have two seasons, but Vivaldi wrote four! We have one more to go’. And as if planned, as he completed his last word my string gave an almighty snap. The timing was theatrical, and Andrea’s physical response was as if to say ‘ha, I knew that was about to happen’. He really has the most fascinating and inviting stage presence – something I learnt a great deal from throughout the tour. So, our fantastic concertmaster, Andoni Mercero, came off stage with me after I admitted to him it can take me up to 20 minutes to tie the knots on a gut-string – I put it down to my left- handedness. He fixed one on my violin within seconds and we were ready to play Winter.

After this last, most nostalgic and heartfelt performance, we walked the streets of Barcelona in search of a tapas restaurant that would seat the whole group. Andrea effortlessly found a place that felt like home as soon as we entered. We ate and drank and ate and drank until we could eat and drink no more. An absolutely perfect end to an invigorating and unforgettable tour with Andrea Marcon, La Cetra Barockorchester Basel and sweet, wild Antonio Vivaldi.