The cellist Steven Isserlis, violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Pavel Kolesnikov are among top-flight players appearing at Fidelio Orchestra Cafe, each playing for a number of nights in a row, to increase the size of the audience. Each event will be open to just 25 people.
The cafe, a relaxed classical music venue that is the brainchild of Italian-born pianist and conductor Raffaello Morales, had been a new home for established and rising artists until lockdown. Now it is back in business, with its distinctive mix of high-calibre performance in an easy-going ambience.
Fidelio Orchestra Cafe will be reconfigured for the Fidelio Unbound dinner-concert season. Photo: Nick Rutter
The artists are of such international standing that they would normally attract audiences running into thousands – at the BBC Proms, for example. But such is the desire of players to get out and perform again that the tiny audiences at Fidelio Orchestra Cafe will enjoy what is virtually a private recital.
Each programme, lasting an hour or so, is followed by dinner, the menu especially created and prepared for the occasion by Alan Rosenthal. There will be a choice of dishes on ordering in advance, and the evening includes a welcome drink and a drink with dinner, with additional table service.
Tables in the specially reconfigured venue will be pre-allocated to groups of two, three or four people from one household, with a couple of single tables too. Music-lovers will be escorted to and from their tables, and to the cloakrooms.
Morales is confident that the season can go ahead under gradually easing restrictions, but will give a full refund in the event of cancellation because of changed circumstances.
Pavel Kolesnikov will give an all-Chopin recital from Tues 21 to Sat 25 July
'The thinking behind the venture is that we are going through a time when it's important to give a signal that, with audience safety as a priority, things can be done,' he tells Culture Whisper.
'I've seen very little going on from the larger institutions, although Wigmore Hall has a live initiative with a large following, and that's good.
'Some people are saying things will never be the same, but I don't think that's the case. We need to find ways of making things happen in a way that's safe. Our USP was always to provide a more informal experience around music. We can still do that with a very reduced number of people involved.
'My hope is that other music institutions will be encouraged in similar projects. It's not competitive! The music community need to stand together through this phase and it is essential that we continue to give hope to young generations of musicians as well as to inspire audiences within the boundaries of safety.'
Fidelio Orchestra Cafe founder Raffaello Morales, conducting the London-based orchestra he also created. Photo: Simon Holliday
Morales gave up training as a pianist to pursue his parallel interest in science, and worked for some years in the city, before returning to music, setting up the Fidelio Orchestra to stage easy-going concerts in attractive venues. It took a year to perfect the project's own premises in Clerkenwell Road.
It is there that cellist Steven Isserlis opens the season, playing the much-loved Bach cello suites No 1 & 3 and Walton's Passacaglia for solo cello (Tues 7 to Sat 12 July).
Next come violinist Alina Ibragimova with pianist Samson Tsoy, playing Beethoven's dramatic Kreutzer Sonata and Janacek's plaintive Violin Sonata (Tues 14 to Sat 18 July).
The remarkable young Russian-born pianist Pavel Kolesnikov gives an all-Chopin recital that will recall the composer's original salon performances (Tues 21 to Sat 25 July).
Simon Callow reads Shakespeare's sonnets at Fidelio Orchestra Cafe. Photo: Ivon Bartholomew
Another distinguished pianist, Louis Schwizgebel, plays the highly visual pieces – Debussy's Estampes and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition during his residency (Tues 28 to Fri 31 July). He and all the pianists will be playing a superb instrument, a C. Bechstein piano kindly provided by Jaques Samuel Pianos.
Music of a different sort follows, when Simon Callow reads rhythmic and songlike sonnets by Shakespeare (Tues 4 to Sat 8 August).
The current series concludes with pianist Charles Owen playing music by Chopin, Schumann and Liszt (Tues 11 to Thurs 13 August). But other artists are already in the pipeline for future events. Watch Culture Whisper for updates.
|What||Fidelio Unbound: live music and dinner|
|Where||Fidelio Orchestra Cafe, 91-95 Clerkenwell Rd, Holborn , London, EC1R 5BX | MAP|
07 Jul 20 – 13 Aug 20, 31 recitals and entertainments with dinner. Artists change weekly
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|