The National Portrait Gallery is my favourite place in London, mainly because my passion is people and a good portrait displays the artist’s ability to render in paints what I seek to render in words. However, the National Portrait Gallery has two other excellent qualities that endear it immensely to me – it hosts a free lecture and a free musical performance each week. I have listened to lectures on Dandyism, Chinese Opera and writers in residence in Antarctica. I have listened to Cole Porter Jazz tunes, medieval Christmas Carols and, tonight, a collection of works for guitar, violin, flute and voice influenced by or composed in Spain.
The recital was by young artists from the Concordia Foundation, an organisation I am rapidly becoming a fan of as the amazing performance I saw tonight has impressed me with the calibre of their pool of creative talent. I was given the great pleasure of watching four performers who will be commanding very large fees if I want to see them again.
A quick google search informed me that if I wanted to admire Morgan again I would have to be a member of the Royal Society of Medicine and pay £50.
The four artists that performed for us this evening in the Regency room of the National Portrait Gallery were so skilled on their instruments you had to imagine at least two other musicians behind each one, helping to produce such multi-layered melodies. Entire songs passed where voice, flute and violin melded into one exquisite note, the guitar running like a heartbeat, pulsing beneath the flawless silken sounds. As if undeniable talent were not enough to keep the audience riveted to their seats, the musicians were surely four of the most beautiful people you could assemble. Tonight I was captivated by the soprano Sarah Gabriel, Anna Cashell on the violin, the flamenco flutist Cristina Granero and Morgan Szymanski on the guitar.
Sarah was statuesque and queenly with a luscious figure topped with a face of classic English beauty and elegant blonde hair. Readying herself to sing, her blue eyes seemed to flash from one character to the next, preparing her voice for the story ahead. As the notes rippled into our hearing, her voice became a flashing, cascading torrent of shivers down your spine.
Anna was an exquisitely doll-like Irish girl, small and young enough in her russet curls and slender porcelain limbs to seem a child. The music that exploded from her instrument was inspired, transcendental and moved her face to verge on tears at one moment and then to be seemingly transfixed by inspiration at others.
Cristina was a Spanish beauty with a silken black shawl and silken black hair dressed with a red silk rose. Her performance was a mesmerising style in which the music seemed to travel from her tapping feet, up her swaying body that seemed on the verge of dancing, to rip itself in violent peals from the silvered length of the flute. Her playing was extraordinary, the notes coming faster and clearer than it could be thought possible, the high notes making you jump in pain.
And Morgan was the Mexican Gypsy King dressed in an impeccable grey suit with slender fingers and long nails. Dark and handsome, he had flashing white teeth in his trimmed goatee and the whites of his eyes glowed as he bent his gaze upon the guitar languishing in his embrace. As the throbbing, intricately plucked heartstrings of the performance, the guitar and her lover were engaged in a passionate embrace and partnership, creating the kind of music that made tears stand out in your eyes.
All four artists performed solos and in groups, each piece able to make the crowd shiver before they could even consider clapping. The pieces were exquisite in their intent, performance and in their perfect compatibility with both the instruments and the theme of the recital. Taking their second bow in a room of crashing waves of applause, the four young musicians had to be conscious that they had just created 45 minutes of pure joy for the audience in front of them.