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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Fidelio Orchestra Café; Rake’s Progress

30 July, 2020 — By Michael White

Rake’s Progress

MUSIC and food are two of life’s great comforts but hard to indulge at the same time without ingenuity (it’s a matter of focus).

So I’m pleased to have discovered a solution that also addresses the problem of how to deliver live performance amid Covid.

And it’s called the Fidelio Orchestra Café. With premises just off the Gray’s Inn Road, this is a venue like nothing I’ve ever come across, offering classical concerts in intimate (though socially distanced!) circumstances, accompanied by a set meal.

And attractive as that would be on any terms, given the few concerts happening anywhere else right now, the astonishing thing is that it’s presenting major international artists.

People like the pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, who was there last week playing Chopin with a mesmerising focus uncompromised by the buses that trundled past on the Clerkenwell Road or passers-by who stopped and stared through the window. In fact, it was pure, unexpected magic.

Café Fidelio is the invention of Raffaello Morales, an extreme polymath who studied piano in Rome, took a doctorate in physics, worked for an investment bank, but then returned to music as conductor of his own Fidelio Orchestra.

The Café was established last autumn and had barely started before it had to close down thanks to Covid.

But now it’s back in business, and with such star musicians playing to less than three dozen people a night, it’s hard to understand the economics.

When I asked, Morales merely said: “It works.” In truth, tickets aren’t cheap. But if you’re under 30 you can apply to get the whole thing, meal and concert, for just £10: a bargain meant to lure young people into chamber music.

Appearing this Friday is pianist Louis Schwizgebel playing Mussorgsky. August 11-13 has pianist Charles Owen playing Schumann.

On various dates through September you get violinists Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Thomas Gould. And starting September 15 there’s a complete Beethoven sonata cycle from pianist Gabriele Carcano.

Café Fidelio is at 91 Clerkenwell Road, EC1R 5BX. For bookings visit

• ONE of the finest shows I’ve ever seen at Glyndebourne was the classic staging of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress that opened back in 1975 but stood the test of time with its clever cross-hatched designs by David Hockney.

So I’m clearing my diary to watch it again when Glyndebourne puts the show online – available free of charge for a week from 5pm this Sunday, August 2.

Based on the famous set of 18th century images by Hogarth, Rake’s Progress is a self-consciously artful piece with an over-erudite libretto by WH Auden.

But it’s also brilliant fun – which should work all the better on screen with subtitles to catch the words that usually get lost, even though they’re in English. And despite its archness there are moments of heartrending beauty, with one of the most poignant endings in all opera.

Settle down with Kleenex at the ready:

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