On quitting

Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) to Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) in Billions, Season 7, Episode 6, minute 36:20:

Sometimes quitting isn’t capitulation. Sometimes it shows grit and wisdom.”

Concert Concat 2024

This post is one in a sequence which lists (mostly) live music I have heard, as best my memory allows. I update this list as time permits. In some cases, I am also motivated to write about what I heard. I write to have a record of my musical experiences because memory is fallible. These entries are intended as postcards from me to my future self. Other posts in this collection can be found here.

  • Pavel Kolesnikov in a solo recital at an almost-full Wigmore Hall, London, 22 May 2024. The theme of the recital was Celestial Navigation, and before he came on stage, there was a short talk by Mr Kolesnikov through the speakers about the idea behind the theme. It was not clear if he was speaking live or this talk had been pre-recorded. (I know how difficult it can be for some musicians to speak before or during playing, as both activities may be using the same hemisphere of the brain.)
    • Louis Couperin (1626-1661): Pavane in F sharp minor
    • Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992): Regard de l’Etoile from Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1944)
    • Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849): Nocturne in D flat Op. 27 No. 2 (1835)
    • Olivier Messiaen: Regard de l’Etoile from Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus
    • Olivier Messiaen: La colombe from Préludes (1928-9)
    • Fryderyk Chopin: Nocturne in E minor Op. 72 No. 1 (c.1829)
    • Olivier Messiaen: La colombe from Préludes Prélude (1964)
    • Fryderyk Chopin: Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 1 (1835)
    • Olivier Messiaen: Prélude
    • Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): Une barque sur l’océan from Miroirs (1904–5)
    • Thomas Adès (b.1971) Darknesse visible (1992)
    • Interval
    • Franz Schubert (1797-1828): 4 Impromptus D935 (1827):
      Impromptu in F minor • Impromptu in A flat • Impromptu in B flat • Impromptu in F minor

    This was a fine and moving performance by Mr Kolesnikov, played (I think) from memory. For the audience, our experience was enhanced by the admirable new policy of The Wigmore to darken the house lights during performances (something standard in British theatre, but not previously common in British music). Mr K played one encore, a moderately long, quiet minimalist work, Etude #2 of Philip Glass. This piece was well chosen, as it had the effect of calming us after the emotional turmoil of the Schubert Impromptus.

    As in his recent performances, the pianist was dressed entirely in white or off-white (in what looked to be designer clothes), which may presage a new trend: Is white the new black? Does it matter what the performer wears? Given that the only lights up were directed to the stage, dressing in white emphasized the performer more than dressing in black would have done. People who hold a traditional view of the performer as merely a slave to the composer (not a view which I hold), would perhaps not approve this emphasis. On the one hand, some would argue, it makes no difference to the sound, and I record it here merely for the historical record. On the other, musicians know that how you think strongly influences how you play, and the feelings and attitude of the performer may be greatly affected by what they are wearing, and by the reasons they have chosen a particular outfit.

  • Leopoldo Mugnai in a saxophone recital in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, London, 20 May 2024 (accompanied by pianist Anya Fadina and supported by recording engineer Stephen Harrington). This was an exciting recital of 20th and 21st Century music.
    • Graham Fitkin: Gate (1963) (soprano saxophone)
    • Jonathan Harvey: Ricerare una melodia (soprano saxophone and electronics)
    • Alfred Desenclos: Prelude, Cadenza et Finale (soprano saxophone)
    • Andre Waignein: Deux Mouvements (alto saxophone)
    • Ida Gotkovsky: Brillance (alto saxophone).
  • Alexander Doronin playing Brahms’ First Piano Concerto with the Sevenoaks Symphony Orchestra under Darrell Davison, in Pamoja Concert Hall, Sevenoaks School, Sevenoaks, UK, 19 May 2024.

    This was a superb performance by Mr Doronin, commanding and thrilling, and played from memory. The psychological anguish of the first movement (likely arising from the pain Brahms felt after Schumann’s suicide) and the determination to live on in the main theme of the third were both strongly evident. Mr Doronin’s playing was technically adept, confident and controlled, yet not at all mechanical. This was an artful and emotionally expressive performance, and I was privileged to have heard it.

    Prior to the Brahms, the orchestra played Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and, after the interval, his Eroica Symphony (which I did not catch). The orchestra and conductor are to be congratulated for tackling such an ambitious programme, and for playing with such enthusiasm.

    The Pamoja Hall has a very high, peaked wooden roof with ribbed wood cladding on the walls, and the acoustic was very good. This hall is inside a modern building with a very good design, allowing the interval audience to spill outside onto a stepped terrace, which the warm evening encouraged. The hall apparently seats 410 and tonight was about three-quarters full. In the audience was the Mayor of Sevenoaks Town Council, wearing her ceremonial gold neck chain.

  • Part 1 of the Final Audition of the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) at Wigmore Hall, Thursday 16 May 2024. The performers were

    The standout performances for me were those by James Morley (who was successful in being chosen as a YCAT Fellow for 2024) and the Dianto Reed Quintet (who were not). Mr Harewood was also successful. Congratulations to the winners and to all the contestants.

    I had attended this concert primarily to hear Mr Morley, and I was not disappointed. His program had a symmetry through time, with an excerpt from a Bach Cello Suite at its centre and works by Britten and Kaija Saariaho on both sides of it. The final piece by Liza Lim he played with two bows. The wooden back of the second bow was used initially, higher up the strings than the first bow, but by mid piece, both bows were being used in the usual manner. Although played very well, I thought the music of this work fairly mundane, with mostly low rumblings of little interest. However, the last third of the piece was transformed when Mr Morley started to sing. His voice sang long, soft, high notes that changed this music into something powerfully ethereal.

    • Benjamin Britten: Cello Suite #1, Op. 72 – Canto Primo
    • Luciano Berio: Les monts sont alles
    • Kaija Saariaho: Sept Papillon – Papillon II
    • JS Bach: Cello Suite no. 6 – Allemande
    • Benjamin Britten: Cello Suite #1, Op. 72 – Fuga
    • Kaija Saariaho: Sept Papillon – Papillon II (reprise)
    • Martin Marais: Les voix humains
    • Liza Kim: Cello Playing – as Meteorology

    The Dianto Reed Quintet were simply outstanding. The members had memorized the music, so were not confined to stand still in place reading the scores. Instead, they could move about to enact the dialectical elements of the story they presented, which was music about and leading to Manuel de Falla’s Danza del Terror from his ballet El Amor Brujo (Love, The Sorcerer). We didn’t just hear the attempted siren song and the counter song that is the final act of the ballet, we saw the musicians enact it by their movements around the stage. The set included a cocktail table and four chairs, and the musicians played variously sitting and standing around the table, or moving elsewhere on the stage. The movements appeared to have been carefully choreographed. I was reminded of the physical enactment of the dialectical interactions in Vivaldi’s The Seasons that I witnessed almost exactly ten years ago by Pekka Kuusisto playing with and leading the Sacconi Quartet and the Chamber Orchestra of the Royal College of Music.

    Identidades: la magia del Duende

    • Primo Ish-Hurwitz: Three Preludes to El Amor Brujo, No. I
    • Manuel de Falla (arranged Arjan Linker): La vida breve – Danza espanola
    • Enrique Granados (arranged Arjan Linker): Doce danzas espanola – Oriental
    • Primo Ish-Hurwitz: Three Preludes to El Amor Brujo, No. II
    • Xoan Montes Capon (arranged Max Knigge): Negra sombra
    • Primo Ish-Hurwitz: Three Preludes to El Amor Brujo, No. III
    • Manuel de Falla (arranged Hugo Bouma): “El amor brujo” Suite – Danza del Terror & Danza Ritual del Fuego

    The quintet comprises five Spanish musicians who studied together in Amsterdam. The theme of their recital was The Duende, the fiery internal spirit that sometimes inspires performers to create great and passionate art. The performers introduced us to Federico Garcia Lorca’s Theory and Play of The Duende and then quoted from it several times. Garcia Lorca posited The Duende as a third member of a trio that includes positive angels and the artist’s muse in inspiring artists: angels are always better than ourselves, while the muse is static. Only the duende is alive and possibly capricious in its intentions.

    The Diantoistas aimed to reveal to us the duende in their recital, and they most certainly did. This performance was passionate and fiery, and among the best half-dozen musical performances I have ever been fortunate to be present at. If you ever wondered, as I have, what present-day England would have been like had the Spanish Armada been successful in their attempted invasion of 1588, then here is part of the answer: Britain would have had musicians like this!

    There is a video of a live performance by the Dianto Reed Quintet of a longer version of the Duende programme here.

  • Tom Zalmanov in a very fine solo piano recital at Steinway Hall, London, Wednesday 15 May 2024. The programme was on the theme of traveling and comprised music from France, Austria, Israel, Russia and Spain:
    • Francis Poulenc: Trois Novelettes
    • Franz Schubert: Wanderer Fantasy in C major, Op. 15 D760
    • Tal-Haim Samnon: Memory and Variations
    • Sergei Rachmaninov: Preludes Op. 23 – No. 3 in D minor, No. 4 in D major, No. 5 in G minor
    • Ferruccio Busoni: Kammer-Fantasie uber Carmen, BV284.

    Mr Zalmanov’s teacher Professor Ian Fountain of the Royal Academy of Music was in the audience, as was pianist Murray Perahia. A review of the recital by the indefatigable Christopher Axworthy is here.

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