First Day


Ah, this gleeful, emotional, exuberant music.

For those times when people say, why do you listen to all this old music – which should be ignored, but nonetheless – here’s a riposte. Put on First Day from Laura Metcalf and if they’re still lost to that opinion, there’s no hope for them.

I don’t think I’ve heard such an alive, intoxicating sort of record for a long time, and love it. Something about the range of music, and the invention of it all, reminds me of those fiery Scottish legends Mr McFall’s Chamber, particularly on pieces like the sinewy and shoulder-rolling Hard Knock Stomp.

My favourite track is the closing Leocadia FP 106: Les chemins de l’amour for cello and piano. If this was vinyl, I’d have worn it out already. It’s gorgeous.

Initially, the beautiful waltz of it makes me immediately think of that Wong Kar-Wai masterpiece, In the Mood for Love. Something of this music’s dreamy imaginative space reminds me of that film and its soundtrack, which is high praise of a sort of skyscraping order coming from Classical Nowhere, where the film is revered. I also hear later in this lilting tune, something of Sinatra, about to sing,

Fairy tales can come true
It can happen to you

The true lyrics here, though, sigh gently over this exceptional piano and cello playing, and I feel transported somehow, to some huge hotel, somehere hot as fire, drinking scotch on the rocks maybe, in a white linen suit, when suddenly the soprano sings …

Alas! of the days of happiness,
radiant joys now flown,
I wander without finding their trace again
in my heart.

This is wistful, magical stuff.

Elsewhere, such as on the Variations on a Slovak Folksong, or Enescu’s Cello Sonata in F Minor, there is a similar tightrope of great passion and tragedy at work, and these incredible young musicians play them like they have a gun to the head.

There seems to be a kind of mind-reading understanding in the murmuring and singing exchanges between Laura Metcalf and Matei Varga, and they have produced an utter star of a record.