Pauloni in Paris

This essay first appeared on the electronic
mailing list Piporg-l

Part I

I do hope this is not going to become too regular an event.

You will recall how, last fall, I accepted an invitation to hear our great friend, Nobilissime the Count Paulo Pauloni, play a recital in a gloomy little church in Ladbrooke Grove. You may also remember that the outcome of my decision to atend was neither gloomy nor little and that the whole experience might best be described as devastating (indeed the insurance claims in that part of West London amounted to several million pounds, and there is an interesting potential law suit developing between the Vicar and Churchwardens of St. Frideswides and an elderly lady in Kilburn concerning the final resting-place of part of a Roman Candle).

If another invitation of such a kind had arrived at the Ivory Tower, I would almost certainly have replied politely in the affirmative only to be affected temporarily by a minor illness when it came to the actual day. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.

And indeed no such invitation did arrive here, and no such stratagem had to be considered. It is still a mystery to me that, at a distressingly early hour on Sunday 5th January, I found at myself at Waterloo boarding the Eurostar for Paris in the company of the finest organist of our age: the man himself.

Now safely returned to my little den in Spitalfields, and after a few days of complete rest, I feel bound to ask myself how such a thing can have happened. It was neither premeditated nor even intentional.

Well, of course the Count and I communicate regularly. Our respective manservants are engaged almost non-stop in ferrying letters to and fro from one side of London to the other, and these cover innumerable subjects of interest to us both: mathematical devices in German music of the 17th century, the correct ornaments for de Grigny (Pauloni's determined assertion is that a pair of earrings would be quite sufficient for a composer so trivial), natural philosphy, and where in town to buy the best beeswax candles. And I suppose it must have been sometime before Christmas, on a day when Father Paul knocked breathlessly at my door with no less than three letters straight from the Abbey of the Mauve Thought in the Goldhawk Road, that I first became aware that trip to Paris was in the offing.

Our respective manservants are engaged almost non-stop in ferrying letters to and fro.

Oh, but it was so brilliantly disguised. 'I go to Paris for Epiphany. It will be - superbo!'. Not a hint, you will see, that he might be accompanied on his journey. A week later another letter: 'Parigi - where only the river is Seine! - I go - I visit the great and the famous! I will invite my friends' - and this evidence hidden, you will understand, in a letter of some 23 pages running the gamut of subjects from A to Z.

And then of course there was Christmas, and I went away for the usual family bash out in the country. My elder brother Sydney was at home this year and was in an unusually hospitable mood, so it was not until Saturday 4th January that I got home from a few days at the Thora Hird Spa for Bewildered Gentlefolk and found, under a heap of unwanted correspondence, a letter from Pauloni containing a first class ticket to Paris booked on a train from London at 05.32 the following morning. Heavens above! There was absolutely no question about the fact that I was, inevitably and uncontrovertibly, travelling to France in less than twelve hours time - with a man who had caused, on his last visit to that country, twelve members of the Academie Française to walk out of his recital at Notre Dame and to write jointly to Le Figaro the following morning announcing their resignation. My man Cedric began to pack at once; the die was cast.

Cedric and I leave for the railway station

Part II