In the third concert of Haddo’s virtual arts festival, Jamie McDougall introduced Laura Smith and Colin Sinclair who played Heinrich Baermann’s Adagio from Septet Op 23 setting in motion a very interesting evening of poetry and music. A student of the North East Scotland Music school which has strong links with Haddo, Laura performed this soothing, romantic and melodic piece demonstrating an agility in playing as well as an impressive ability to change the mood from moody wistfulness to upbeat hopefulness. On the piano Colin provided the perfect foil to Laura’s accomplished performance with great empathy. Impressive teamwork which characterised their performance of Robert Schumann’s three Fantasy pieces.
Elizabeth Merry opened her talk about Byron noting that freedom , love and melancholy were at the core of his character. He was at the heart of the Romantic Movement which emerged as a result of reactions against the ordered classicism and certainty of the era before. It was a time of the French Revolution, upheaval and the dawn and subsequent impact of the Industrial Revolution.
Byron’s link with Aberdeenshire was via his mother Catherine Gordon the sole heiress of the salmon fishing rights, castle and forests at Gight. His was a family with many wild characters on both sides and Elizabeth painted a vivid picture of the crowd of relatives who lived dramatic lives, including one who recreated naval battles on his lake with paper boats and real ammunition.
We learnt how Portugal, Spain, Malta and Greece influenced Byron and his friend John Hobhouse on their Grand Tour while their travels to the Levant and Albania opened their eyes to the Muslim world and influenced Byron’s distinctive style of dressing as well as his poetry, including the highly popular ‘Childe Harold.’.
Byron’s complex and tumultuous love life was a constant theme throughout his life and eventually his scandalous past caught up with him. Elizabeth’s description of the moment when his fame and status was destroyed as London society turned against him in disgust was vividly and eloquently conveyed as she noted he left for Venice, then Greece never to return.
In this lively, witty and accomplished talk illustrated with fascinating art from the time, Elizabeth brought Byron’s lonely, restless and extraordinary character alive giving us a profound insight into his motivations, behaviour and artistic legacy. It is a legacy of the restless, passionate outsider that continues to inspire writers, musicians and artists today.