2022: the year culture came in from the cold

At the close of 2021, I wrote an article for this site pondering what 2022 might hold for culture as we emerged blinking into the light after two tough years of lockdowns and restrictions – and virtually no live music, opera, exhibitions, and more…. At the time, the UK was gripped by omicron, a new Covid variant which might have sent us back into another punishing lockdown. Lucikly, it didn’t and 2022 marked the first year when normality returned to our cultural life. Venues abandoned masks and were no longer socially distanced, and concert halls and opera houses welcomed back audiences, thirsty for live performance.

In fact, 2022 proved an embarrassment of cultural riches, to which this site, amongst others, is a testament. We published 77 articles, both reviews and occasional ‘think pieces’, and covered a wide range of music, opera, recordings, books and more.

My personal cultural highlights of 2022 include my first visit to beloved Wigmore Hall in February 2022 for a concert by Pavel Kolesnikov, a young Siberian pianist who wears the title “poet of the piano” very lightly. In a beautiful, clever programme inspired by Proust, Kolesnikov demonstrated why he is awarded that title. But it wasn’t just the music that was so wonderful: the last time I was at Wigmore Hall was at the end of February 2020, when coronavirus was beginning to feel like something we should worry about. As I hugged a friend in the vestibule, we both withdrew slightly sheepishly, “Perhaps we shouldn’t be doing this?”. Yet the hall was packed for an electrifying performance of Beethoven sonatas by pianist Jonathan Biss. I had no idea that I would not be returning to this venue for 2 years…. So, it was particularly special to be there for Pavel’s concert with not only the friend who had accompanied me to that Beethoven recital in 2020, but other music-loving friends. I think one of the things we all missed the most during the lockdowns was the social aspect of going to concerts with friends.

I was back at Wigmore Hall in May 2022, with fellow ArtMuseLondon reviewers, for a concert by Marc-AndréHamelin, including an absolutely incredible performance of Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata (an unusual choice for a lunchtime concert).

As I no longer live in London, my regular live music “fix” comes from Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts, a series which I manage with pianist Duncan Honeybourne. This popular series has seen record attendance in the past year, with many of our concerts sold out – another indication that audiences really love live music, and proof that quality classical music is available outside of the metropolis!

In terms of recordings, there have been a couple of stand outs for me, in particular Daniel Tong’s Beethoven on fortepiano and Duncan Honeybourne’s disc of piano music by William Baines, much of it never recorded before. There was also much to admire in Stephen Hough’s Schubert disc, while Vikingur Olafsson’s From Afar was an intriguing collection of piano miniatures, played on both a modern concert grand and a felted upright piano.

What 2022 proved beyond any doubt is, after two years of Covid restrictions and shuttered concert halls and opera houses, the enduring power of live music to uplift, delight, distract and absorb us.  2023 looks set to be a bumper year of culture, but there are huge anxieties too about the support given to our cultural institutions and the arts in general (see Adrian’s post on Art Council England’s decision to cut English National Opera’s funding). It therefore behoves all of us who love music, and especially live performance, to get out there and support the musicians and organisations which work so hard to bring this glorious thing to life.

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(Header image:

Photo by Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash)

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