Tales from Valparaiso (and beyond) No. 11

My original intention was to restrict these blogs to musical subjects; I got a bit blown off-course, didn't I? I'm reverting to plan now and leaving the politics out. I'm conscious that the person who arrives in the UK, for example, and has some conversations in a pub and reads a couple of editions of the Guardian is hardly in a position to make useful comments about the state of our nation(s). The longer I live here the more Chile starts to feel like real life and the less I feel able to generalise about it.

I've not been playing much – for a couple of weeks I couldn't play after I fell and bruised my shoulder in Juan and Inez's bath in Buenos Aires. Then we were away over Christmas in both Zappallar and the Valle de Elqui. I have, however, been beavering away on arranging Valentina's songs for our forthcoming concert and recording with her in March – as well as finishing off a few songs for the Jack Bruce collaboration which is happening in my absence later this month at Celtic Connections.

Yesterday I went up to Santiago on the bus to collect some papers for Ann (there's a whole saga about work visas etc. which, dear reader(s), I have spared you). I took my laptop and the journey seemed over almost before it had begun. While there I visited a music shop I had discovered last time I was “up in town”. The sheet music is kept downstairs, and the first time I went there they seemed to want to dissuade me from going down at all – it meant one of the staff had to leave the companionable daylight of the upstairs and hang around in the murky depths to supervise me.

“Do you have any South American chamber music?”
“No, no chamber music.”
“Any tango?” (there were lots of folders displayed with any number of categories, but I had to go through the assistant)
“Just these.” (two volumes, one of which I have and the other I didn't want)
“Any Brazilian music? Tom Jobim?” (seeing a folder marked specifically with his name)
“No, none at all”.

Determined not to be intimidated, I noticed heaps of second hand music on a bench and asked if I could have a look. Meanly keeping the assistant from the airy camaraderie of the instrument room upstairs, I spent a happy half hour. Much of the music there had, obviously, belonged to a Chilean pianist called (seemingly) Santiago an der Fuhrer (for a moment I thought I'd discovered Hitler's personal music drawer, but no). Much of the music is very old – extremely old editions of music by people like Hummel, Czerny, Kreutzer – both solo piano music and quite a bit of chamber music. I came away with a sextet by Henri Bertini, a French composer of the early nineteenth century and, like many of the other composers represented, now mostly known for his piano studies. The thing which attracted me to the piece, apart from the fact that it looked well written, was the simple fact that it had a double bass part. Getting home I looked him up. Berlioz liked him a lot. Schumann thought his music, though admirable, went on a bit. He wrote six of these sextets, only one of which has ever been recorded. Yesterday I went through the pile again (poor assistant!) and came away with another one of Bertini's sextets, along with a piano piece by one Héctor Melo Gorigoytía, a Chilean composer and, evidently, friend of Santiago an der Fuhrer's in that the music is inscribed by hand (“A Santiago an der Fuhrer, afectionosamente, Héctor Melo G., Concepcion, 1931”). Now I just need a piano...

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