On a recent October evening, guests at law firm Boodle Hatfield’s Bankside office had the honour and privilege to meet the formidable Martin James Bartlett, the Winner of the 2014 BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition, now aged 22..
Elegantly bespectacled and with foppish hair, this “Enfant Terrible of the Keyboard” appeared on the stage at an event to celebrate Boodle Hatfield’s anniversary of the launch of their 1722 Club, playing three of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes with enthralling passion.
Guest contributor Patrick Couderc writes: Though it is suspected that Martin is more of a Prokofiev devotee, the experience was not unlike being in Doctor Who’s time machine, transporting the recital’s audience back to the heart of a chic Salon de Musique at the turn of Century, the very moment when Rachmaninoff himself was performing his romantic, yet tenebrous music, a tribute to the darkness of the Russian soul, and the composer’s lifelong very complex emotions.
The next moment of pure joy was when Professor Vanessa Latarche, Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music, joined Martin James Bartlett on the stage to demonstrate a Masterclass: the purity of the complicity between La Grande Maitresse et l’Enfant Prodige remained hidden behind an almost genetic commitment to excellence, the ever-lasting search for perfection: All of this was performed as a double act laced with humour and punctuated with numerous reciprocal “clins d’oeils”… against a spectacularly lit backdrop and plunging views over the City of London.
Further special mentions go to the Royal College’s Colin Lawson, for his utterly engaging presentation of the visionary mission of the School; Valeria Kurbatova, the award-wining Harpist and Member of the Global Ensemble, and the slightly cheeky provider of a contagious smile, Timothée Botbol, the Swiss Cellist and Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, both of whom delighted the guests upon arrival. Let’s not omit the wonderfully rhythmic Vaux Trio, whose eclectic deliveries inspired me to invite a girl to dance. (The wife later accused me of being a total show-off).
So where and why was all this happening?
The scintillating Soiree Musicale, cementing a long-established collaboration with the Royal College of Music, was the second of a series of spectacular events to celebrate Boodle Hatfield’s 300th anniversary in 2022: A Steinway Grand stood proudly on a platform, on the tenth floor of 240 Blackfriars Road, the Bankside office of Boodle Hatfield, the law firm born in 1722 in the heart of Cheshire, when founder Robert Andrews was employed by the Grosvenor family. He soon followed his employer to London to continue advising on the development of the Mayfair and Belgravia Estates through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and saw these neighbourhoods transform from countryside to the elegant streets and squares which we see today.
Indeed, in his opening words, Simon Fitzpatrick, Head of Litigation and founder of the firm’s Art Law team, reminded us that Boodle Hatfield had been advising clients for almost 300 years. My take on that is merely common sense: Hermes has been making saddles for 180 years, Prada has been making luggage for over a century, Boodle Hatfield has advised its clients over the last three centuries. Each of these companies must be rather good in their individual sectors, to have lasted that long.
We now live in a business cycle when all commercial, financial, and professional sectors are unevenly focused on fake news, envy, greed, short-termism, quick bucks. The next time you hold a board meeting, ask your fellow directors around the table to close their eyes for a moment and cast their mind back to 1722.
Following this brief period of reflection, ask the group this further question: “ Will WE still be here in 300 years?”