Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Aldeburgh 2011 in Brief - Tuesday 14th June

Rather than a full review of Tuesday's events, I intend to give just a brief summary of my thoughts.

The day nearly began with a showing at Aldeburgh cinema of Bernstein's LSO performance of Mahler's second symphony, filmed at Ely cathedral. However, not least as I have it on DVD, we opted out. It's actually a very fine performance, though I rather wish Humphrey Burton had focussed more on the music and less on the architecture. Still, seeing Bernstein and Janet Baker perform is a treat for those of us too young to have actually done so (the LSO and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus are very fine too).

One of the joys of Aldeburgh is the many beautiful settings in which you find yourself attending concerts. Blythburgh church is arguably second only to the main Snape Maltings site in this regard. And, with Christophe Rousset on hand to provide a harpsichord recital featuring Couperin (both Louis and François) and Handel, we had music to match the setting. It was all very nicely played, though seventy minutes without interval is a long time to be sitting on the hard wooden church pews and the programme would surely have benefitted from a break. Perhaps as a result of this, as much as any artistic merit, I found the Handel the most persuasive. I also found myself wishing he'd given us a little bit of my favourite harpsichord repertoire, the music of JS Bach, which I find makes a particular sense when played on the instrument.

The evening took us back to Snape for a programme from the scratch trio made up of violist Tabea Zimmermann, clarinetist Jörg Widmann and pianist Kirill Gerstein. Bookended by persuasive accounts of Schumann's Märchenerzählungen and Mozart's K498 trios, were a variety of opportunities for each individual artist to shine.

Perhaps most impressive was Widmann, playing his own composition Fantasie. It felt like it might have been put together to showcase just what he could do, which was a lot, very, very well. But it was an effective piece, full of wit and diverse styles, including a strong jazz influence. Widmann's reading of Berg's Vier Stücke, performed together with Gerstein, made for a similarly excellent set of miniatures.

Zimmermann herself opted for Ligeti's Sonata for viola. This too was very fine, and certainly extremely impressive from a technical standpoint. Yet only the folk melody of the first movement really moved me. That leaves only Gerstein, whose individual spot was Oliver Knussen's Orphelia's Last Dance. Actually, we heard this last year, when the ink was so wet on the page that it didn't make it into the programme book in its final form. Perhaps it was the fact that the piece was written for Gerstein, but I found it much more persuasive this time round.

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