This combined readings from several of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels with chamber music of the early nineteenth century (when the books are set) performed by the Raeburn Quartet on period instruments - a perfect demonstration of the significance of music in the books, and a powerful rendering of O'Brien's elegantly muscular prose.
In my post on Hilary Mantel in Edinburgh I referred to the fact that it's comparatively rare to find a writer who can read well, and this observation is shared by Will Schwalbe in The End of Your Life Book Club who says, "Because of my decades in publishing, I've been to a lot of readings. I loathe most of them. I loathe the phony, singsong reading voice that most writers adopt, a kind of spooky incantatory tone that implies they are reading a holy text in a language you don't understand ... And what's worst about most literary events - almost no author knows when to stop reading and sit down."
Last night, of course, it wasn't an author reading but an actor, and one who knows what he's doing. Robert Hardy was utterly magnetic. It is he who reads the Aubrey-Maturin audiobooks, so he knows the material through and through and understands its shape and heft. His passages were carefully chosen for their intrinsic style and value and their importance to the overall plot, and they were complemented by the musical programme, but the readings had their own musicality, and their narrative power and Robert Hardy's deft characterisation held the audience in rapt attention. It was a great pleasure to witness the symbiosis but above all to see a master at work - I'm sure the author himself could not have envisaged better.
Any O'Brian fans here? Mr. C. is a great enthusiast - hence the collection you see above - but so far I've read only volume I (much enjoyed, though).