Radio Concert Review

In Tune at The Wallace Collection 23 June 2000


The Wallace Collection at Hertford House in London's West End has in the past been little known and one of the less visited of the capital's great museums. That may now change with the opening of the restaurant in the central Sculpture Garden and basement rooms for displaying more of its treasures to the public.

Radio 3's In Tune drive-home programme joined the celebrations for the completion of The Wallace Collection's Centenary Project, giving a live concert in the Great Gallery of this grand home, its walls lined with a succession of masterpieces, a veritable roll call of some of the best in Western Art. Rubens, Poussin and Hals rub shoulders with Van Dyck, Phillipe de Champagne and many more - visitors often presume the Wallace's Franz Hals' Laughing Cavalier must be a copy, so we were told in one of the several discussions with the presenter, Sean Rafferty.

This imposing and lofty space was transformed, and almost humbled, into a quasi-domestic setting, with an untidy clutter of assorted chairs, cables and microphones, instruments dotted around the floor with their cases and bags - one containing a dread mobile phone which joined in musically with Poulenc's rapt Cavatine to general consternation!

It was instructive to see how the programme is put together, live interviews seamlessly spliced with pre-recorded ones, CDs interspersed for continuity (and dropped when there is time slippage!), the whole presided over with urbane good humour by Sean Rafferty, his producer and engineers hovering nearby to keep everything running smoothly to end promptly for R3's main evening concert.

The In Tune concert was the final part of an all day Wallace Collection Centenary Celebration Programme of talks about their unique, specialised collections, with educational events and entertainment (jazz at lunchtime). It began and ended with cellist Lowri Blake playing Barriere's 5th cello sonata with David Roblou (harpsichord) and, for Poulenc' sonata, her regular pianist partner Iwan Llewellyn Jones [see recent CD reviews in MotW].

Others taking part were singers Helen Williams and Jonathan Kenny of the Opera Theatre Company of Ireland, now touring in UK, Helen Parker and William Purefoy singing excerpts from Bach's B minor Mass with a small instrumental group (that now proven conclusively to be authentic by Andrew Parrott, in a book which Philip Pickett (recorder) assured us had finally settled that issue) and items by two solo pianists, George-Emmanuel Lazaridis (one of the internationally esteemed musicians new to London being showcased at the Wallace Collection's summer season of Sunday morning concerts, starting July 3rd) and Philip Fowke, who celebrates his 50th birthday with a Wigmore Hall recital next week.

Sean Rafferty encouraged the audience to treat it all as relaxed, informal musical party, and it was a pleasure to have been invited. This regular early evening programme, occasionally given before an audience, is well worth attending live, as too is its partner with a similar format, Brian Kay's Sunday Morning, with coffee and Sunday papers provided! . Both go to different parts of the country, In Tune will be in York next month -free tickets from BBC R3.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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