Esme Quartet win Wigmore Competition

I’ve followed three differing competitions over the past ten years, all spanning a range of musical genres. All of them, the most recent being the Wigmore Hall String Quartet Competition, are linked by a similar personal experience: investing in the process, backing a winner, hearing the result, after which an intense feeling of self-loathing descends.

In the case of the Wigmore winners tonight – the Esme Quartet – I was surprised they won, but not in any way disappointed. There are no weak players in a competition like the Wigmore. Its an impossible competition in that respect. We’re observing differing levels of musicianship, different interpretations, and different sounds. It’s those differences which are at the heart of the listening experience that makes the ranking of competitors a (kind of) redundant process.

What I’ve enjoyed most this week is the opportunity to get closer to chamber music. It’s been like discovering me and the OH have another floor in our house on which there are number of new rooms to peer inside. I really value those new opportunities. Such new excursions are what keep me sane(ish). Listening to contrasting performances has flexed my listening muscles (so to speak).

I was backing the Goldmund Quartet. I adored their playing and found their presence on staging captivating. But I’m not sorry they didn’t come first (that would unsporting to the Esme and incredibly mean-spirited to third place Viano). What helps sustain this art form is the idea demonstrated once again here that different people hear things in different ways.

There’s the chance to watch over the whole thing again tomorrow and see what I missed too. Maybe then I’ll process through the odd sense of self-loathing I’m experiencing – that unsettling feeling of having regretted getting quite so involved in and enthused by something which is now at an end and forgotten about. More on that story in a future post.

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