BERLIN FESTIVAL DIARY
Five weeks condensed into three, with BILL NEWMAN
<< Continued from last week
The music of Boris Blacher, born in China, moving to Berlin in 1922 where
he also studied architecture and mathematics, is seldom performed in England,
outside the Paganini Variations, Music for Orchestra, Piano Concerto.
So it was doubly welcome to hear the String Quartets 2 and 3, where subtle
mixes of Strauss, Debussy and Ravel also featured ventures into bitonality.
Once again, the admirable Petersen Quartet brought immense versatility
and verve to music, not without its jazz influences, that should be performed
with greater frequency. Even more interesting was the Piano Trio (including
the Quartet's violin and cello) and the Sonatas for violin alone,
and violin and piano. Blacher's son Kolja, a violinist of immense
calibre, and pianist Olaf Dressler brought to it an authentic touch that
embraces the same instrumental visions as Bartók writing in the same
medium, yet it all sounded so wonderfully compact, with no wastage or overuse
of resources at the same time.
The most challenging piece -- Ornamente -- required Kolja's
few words of introduction. Here, Blacher operates a rhythmical process called
'variable metres' where systematic changes take place according
to their mathematical relationships.
The final chamber concert I attended was devoted to Prokofiev -- Cinq
mélodies Op.35b, Piano Sonata No 2, the Sonata for violin solo
and the Sonata No 1 in F minor Op 80 for violin and piano -- by the Japanese
duo Akiko Suwanai, violin and Momo Kodama, piano. Suwanai, far more successful
in Prokofiev than in Ravel (read later) has the commanding stature to encompass
all the musical/technical problems, and bearing in mind that the composer
wrote with authority for both instruments, Kodama proved a first rate partner.
Copyright © 19 December 2000
Bill Newman, Edgware, UK
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