I just wanted to hear some music.

Thursday evening, summer temperature, the lazy feel which penetrates Oslo in parts of the summer season and which reaches its tedious peak in July. It can be really bad if you haven’t been clever enough to make appointments with out-of-town friends visiting during their vacation. In June it’s usually ok, everyone hasn’t left town.

With or without company, if you suddenly feel you need enthusiastically played classical music, go to a student concert at Barratt Due. I did.

Writing about this is a little of an insider’s job, because I kind of work there,
freelancing a little on this private music school, playing with string kids in
the music school department.

But still, not quite. I am still new enough to this environment, or enough of an outsider, to appreciate its qualities. The string section is especially inspiring, since I know them best, maybe, but the rest of the pack…they all play, if you see what I mean. Nothing of that detached attitude, the secluded
existence of music behind a window, so to speak, which makes a performance, even if it is actually happening on a stage, as interesting as a CD or a file.

Not here. If you’re open, the musicians are open.

So I took the tram across town, from east end Grünerløkka, where I live, to west end Bogstadveien, ending up at Fagerborg, in the old villa where this music school is. I sat down to listen to a string quartet consisting of conservatory students.

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I was interrupted in the writing and couldn’t finish what was supposed to become a recension. Now, a few weeks later, I can still remember part of a Shostakovitch quartet, which had stunning moments, given intensely, passionately, and the sound hiding even more than it conveyed.

One should maybe not be so concrete when talking about music, in order not to destroy the listener’s own images of what is going on. But in afterthought it is difficult not to think of Stalin’s hand over the composer and the rest at the time, not so different in attitude from today’s bias of old school moral and principles which we are slowly being immersed in here in good ol’ snowy fir tree land, especially in everyday matters like attitudes to the upbringing of children and also general behaviour, which has always been a difficult issue in Norway, not easy to understand for outsiders.

How fitting to play Shostakovitch, then, in a town or city (you never know quite what) which is part of a Europe where upper and lower class culture have huge problems in merging, as I see it.

Prokofiev was also on the list, played also with a lot of energy, and some Ravel, I think.

It was all given to us as musical participants, not only receivers of music. This venue is an intimate place of real musical communication, restoration, of course, and actually calm, even if the playing is usually energetic and colourful. Many of the institute’s concerts takes place in Stuen, the living room, what may have been once the center of family life in the Barratt Due family, which was a union of an English pianist and a Norwegian violinist. They started the music school. Today the room is only used for concerts and the likes.

Oslo has usually not a really fast pace. Much of the time it lives in a reassuring, lazy rhythm, especially in the summer months. The brilliant spots are the cafes, restaurants or snitches of park where you can breathe the sea air or feel the rustling of leaves over your head, beer in hand or a glass or a cup of something else.

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No drinks in the living room, at least not on this summer evening, but enough human presence to make me come to my senses again, not worrying for a while about July visitors or anything else.