Tuesday: Bach’s magnificent, monumental Christmas Oratorio, one of the recurring joys of the musical year. This one was particularly special because it was performed by the Amsterdam Baroque orchestra and choir directed by none other than Ton Koopman. A quick walk through Brera to the Basilica di San Marco, long queues in the pouring rain, on a first come first served basis. I got a seat halfway down but in these cases it’s the ears that count. The acoustics seemed pretty good and it’s wonderful to hear these pieces performed in the places they were written for, presumably churches, it just seems right somehow.
At the beginning it didn’t seem too cold, but most people were already quite damp, the rain had been awful. Still the magic worked as usual, no room for anything but sound, a kind of full immersion in beauty. I know Bach is a sophisticated composer but I always feel intense joy in the mysterious logic of his counterpoint, apart from the fact that I hear it often and many popular English hymns are lifted from his compositions so a lot of it is very familiar . The oratorio is quite long and towards 1130 I began to worry about the last metro as San Marco is some distance from mm Duomo. I had not taken much notice of the journey to the church because I was chatting so I was a little worried about finding my way back. Milan was deserted! 11.45, a few days before Christmas ,how could this be? I stopped to ask 4 different groups of people… but although they were all eager to help, they were all tourists! Anyway I eventually found a genuine Milanese and he pointed me in the right direction; even round the Duomo there weren’t really a lot of people.