Dabbling With Imogees

Yes, tonight in the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, a magnificent performance of the Beethoven Diabelli Variations that I have long called ‘Dabbling with Diabelli’ (the title of one of my first published stories in the early 1990s).

Performed by a wonderful pianist: *Imogen Cooper*
Live! A privilege. A lifetime ambition inadvertently achieved. Her fingers were the Diabelli, and her facial expressions part of working with the music, a disarming spirituality. (Also intrigued by her tablet music score that she seemed to work with her foot.) But as you can see from the programme above, Schoenberg (for me, a rare live performance of another of my favourite styles of music), is shown with large detailed space, but lasted only a few minutes as an exquisite, distilled dream. But the Diabelli with one brief programme mention lasted a majestic 55 minutes!

My experience of the Diabelli was slightly disrupted by Arch-Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin suddenly intruding, just before it started, into the audience row in front of me, so that, as I understood it, he could see her hands. Perhaps he also wanted to feast upon those Diabelli…

There was another significant experience in the Schoenberg’s Six Little Pieces Op. 19, leading straight into Haydn’s Sonata No. 60, which I had not expected. In fact, the existence of the Diabelli performance in itself was a surprise to me, as my wife had arranged this visit and I had been unaware of the programme until I got there.

Just outside the Mercury Theatre there is Colchester’s Jumbo. Above, I show yesterday’s close-up of the falcon that is currently in residence. Also I show Jumbo from Colchester High Street’s sightline as we walked to the theatre – on a drained thundery tense evening. As a child in the 1950s, I think I took the sight of Jumbo for granted. Hidden in plain sight, as it were. Yesterday, it looked like an Oriental Temple from an Alternate World.

My previous classical music reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/des-lewiss-classical-music-reviews/

The Endellion String Quartet

I was privileged to see the Endellion Quartet in Colchester yesterday evening, including 3.5 exquisite minutes of one of my favourite composers, Anton Webern. (Bagatelles Op. 9)

I also enjoyed a Beethoven early Op. 18 quartet that was acoustically real-timed into new life after my familiarity with it over the years. Plus what my wife has always called, for some reason, the Basmati Rice Mozart SQ (K421). The pizzicato passages were brought up with a new faery shine. I can’t recall hearing Tchaikovsky SQ No. 3 before (T is not usually a favourite composer of mine but I do enjoy his Chamber Music), and it was enormous fun getting into it with this performance, especially the roundelay of Movement Two.

My previous reviews of local classical music: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/des-lewiss-classical-music-reviews/

And the book: https://classicalhorror.wordpress.com/

Quartet in the Dark

Just been this afternoon to a stunning performance of Beethoven’s Op. 131 String Quartet – it was in the Dark; the four players had learnt this mighty piece by heart and were faintly lit from the ground, casting huge shadows behind them, a weird effect of giant Ligottian puppets elbowing, and their bows also cast Rembrandtian masks on their faces…
Having learnt it by heart the quartet seemed more able to communicate the music to us and ‘conversationally’, even passionately to each other.
The Sacconi Quartet at the Mercury Theatre Studio, Colchester.
They also played an excellently crepitating Graham Fitkin piece as hors d’oeuvres.

(My previous local classical music reviews HERE.)

Vinteuil or Testosterone?


Last night, I was privileged to attend the inaugural concert for 2016 of the Roman River Festival at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, Essex.
It featured Tasmin Little and Piers Lane playing the following violin sonatas…

I enjoyed the Sarasate piece played by Melinda Blackman at the start, a young locally born performer here given experience of a relatively large audience.

BEETHOVEN – Sonata 5 in F Major, Op. 24 ‘Spring’

I used to have an LP record of this work in the 60s that I listened to a lot. I enjoyed reminding myself how good it is as I followed the classical –> romantic audit trail of lilting buoyancy and more pensive moments of this work, as projected by the immaculate performers Little and Lane.

SZYMANOWSKI – Violin Sonata in D Minor, Op. 9

I liked the performers’ confidence in presenting this less well known, earlier work of this composer, and experienced its endemic inchoateness at their hands. Romantic, yes, but basically off the wall, much to my taste. TL called it ‘heart on sleeve’ in her introduction. With the Intentional Fallacy Theory of Art, we shall never know.

SZYMANOWSKI – Romance in D Major, Op. 23

This short piece was only a few years later than the previous work but TL announced it was more in this composer’s trademark impressionist style, although I would say he is always more romantic than impressionistic, a recognisable style of his own which is hard to categorise. Just as Delius works are. And Franck…

FRANCK – Sonata in A Major

This is one of my favourite works of all time, and I was not disappointed by this bravura but sensitive performance. But put off by TL’s introduction, because I like to hear music for music’s sake, a purity that was diminished for me by being told (for the first time in my life) that it is (arguably, I’d say) about a Bride and Groom, the second movement being ‘full of testosterone’ and with church bells in the last movement! Franck has ever been the purest music for me, and I have always enjoyed the thought that this particular sonata may be the non-programmatic Vinteuil Sonata from Proust’s wonderful massive novel.

An encore of William Lloyd-Webber’s recently discovered ‘In the Garden of Eastwell’ was sublime. You can tell where his son gets his composing skills from.

Despite the peripheral misgivings expressed above, the whole performance was a landmark musical experience for me.

[My previous Classical Music concert reviews: HERE.]