BILL NEWMAN attends
three events given by young musicians
One sure way of establishing the importance of your contribution to the Young Musicians' concert scene, is to advertise events in triplicate. London's Wigmore Hall can also justify continuing it's policy of almost filling the house for each Kirckman Concert when the sequence falls conveniently on 4, 5 and 7 March 2005, respectively. Overall excellence for each has now become something of a byword on the music scene; in other words, the programme content is a display for some of the finest young talents around to do the works full justice.
The young Korean violinist Soojin Han has received studies and guidance from Felix Andrievsky, Kyung Wha Chung and Sakhar Bron. Her partner was no less than the distinguished Moscow-born Katya Apekisheva, who I have raved about continuously every time she has appeared on the London scene. I find that many musicians of various ages use Mozart as a relaxing, play-in form of exercise to keep audiences happy and contented for the bigger musical-technical demands in the remainder of the programme. The obvious mistake is to underplay sublime music that can turn, without warning, into a panorama of high drama tinged with regret, with little change of status, interruption of line or sustained argument. For this occasion, these attributes were reflected and enhanced by a loveliness of response in the singing style and balance for the mature demands of his Sonata in B flat K454. I was transported back to Kreisler and Schnabel in the music's caressing phraseology and stark understanding. It prepared me for the romantic, unbroken lines of Brahms middle Violin and Piano Sonata in A Op 100, where the pianist's subtle auto-suggestion of how the work commences is echoed by the sweetness of Soojin's Guadagnini violin. Afterwards, listeners were treated to Ysaÿe's Sonata in A minor, the second of his six unaccompanied Sonatas -- dedicated to his colleague Jacques Thibaud and entitled Obsession. The main musical fare was César Franck's Sonata, where the compelling long curves and phrases were thankfully not overwhelmed by over-loud, virtuosics (God, how I hate that word, consistently coined by BBC Radio 3). Astuteness of tonal balance throughout is of prime concern, and I made note of Apekisheva pulling back in her dynamics in a couple of instances in order that the string counterpoint writing showed up consistently. A superb performance!
A complement of two male contenders on violin and piano paired with their female counterparts on viola and cello for the Fidelio Piano Quartet's recital of Mendelssohn, Francis Brown and Brahms. As an ensemble they won the Leverhulme Fellowship for Chamber Music awarded by the Royal Academy of Music for 2003-2005. The Mendelssohn work was his Piano Quartet No 1 in C minor Op 1, which I believe is his very first published work, rarely performed and unjustly so for the several ideas it contains and the daring originality it conveys. The placing of performers, with Tamas Andras and Inon Barnaton -- violin and piano on the left -- the violinist keeping close ensemble with his piano partner, and a wary eye on the two ladies, middle to right : Maya Rasooly, viola and Gemma Rosefield, cello -- was very evident. They were continually inspired by all the attention they were getting, and vied constantly for supremacy! Joking aside, this is a quite marvellous young group with a true understanding of musical styles, and a vast interest in classical and present-day composers. James Francis Brown's boldly sounding Piano Quartet, premièred at the Presteigne Festival in Wales, I couldn't make a great deal of at one hearing, but I suspect that this was due to the absence of other similar fare from the present day. The glory was Brahms' Piano Quartet No 2 in A major Op 26, probably the best, but rarely played of the three in this format, which was given a stupendous performance, every rubato and expression mark perfectly in place and brought out with complete aplomb.
I should have felt exactly the same about Katharine Wood, cello and Rebecca Woolcock, piano in their commendable performances of Beethoven, Shostakovich, MacMillan and Brahms. Variations in F Op 66 from Die Zauberflöte, Cello Sonata in D minor, Kiss on Wood and Cello Sonata No 2 in F is a pretty formidable undertaking at the best of times, but there was one serious blemish in that the piano lid was raised to its highest level. I often talk to artists to find out whether they can hear themselves playing on the stage on which they perform. The plain answer is No, so a third party should be present at the rehearsal to correct any discrepancies. In both the Beethoven and Brahms works the pianist swamped the cellist's line in several places, despite the players' enjoyment of performing together. I read, with some amusement, the Evening Standard's quote: 'Woolcock made the piano roar!' from a previous occasion, and wondered if the critic was a wild animal lover instead; then I thought of my own reservations! There was nothing wrong with the artists' overall commitment.
Copyright © 16 May 2005
Bill Newman, Edgware UK
Première: Dvorák's Symphony No 9, From the New World in the original manuscript. Australian Denis Vaughan conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra on Tuesday 17 May 2005, 7.30pm at the Royal Festival Hall, London SE1, UK. All proceeds to the charity CAARE (Council for the Advancement of Arts, Recreation and Education).
The programme also includes Schubert's Overture in the Italian Style in D, Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 1 (soloist Clemens Leske, the young Australian making his South Bank début).
Melbourne-born Vaughan (1926) will be remembered as Sir Thomas Beecham's deputy in the 1950s. Two Beecham recordings are available on CD - Berlioz Te Deum (Sony) and Handel's Solomon (EMI and Somm) with Vaughan conducting the Beecham Choral Society which he formed. He joined and toured with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and held the post of Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master, then replaced the ailing Beecham in a performance of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony.
A Vaughan CD of excerpts from live performances is available. There are seventeen tracks containing music by Sullivan, Sibelius, Chabrier, Schubert, J Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Dvorák, Ibert, Debussy, Walton and Rachmaninov. Also available is a booklet: Denis Vaughan, Orchestral and Operatic Conductor, containing a biography and a list of works ranging from Bach to Verdi, together with reviews throughout the Globe.
Record collectors are also referred back to past RCA/BMG recordings of Schubert complete Symphonies, twelve Haydn Symphonies, eleven early Mozart Symphonies and Il Re Pastore with the Orchestra of Naples, his turning down of an invitation to become Victor Olaf's assistant at EMI, and instead his posts in Milan (including La Scala), Hamburg and Munich Opera Houses, assistant to Knappertsbusch at Bayreuth, then working with Klemperer, Celibidache, Bernstein and Maazel. He was also appointed organist (following studies with André Marchal) at Wesley College and the University of Melbourne.
Following intensive studies and re-evaluations, Ricordi instigated his invaluable new complete Verdi edition. Now, he is striving to achieve changes to the complete Dvorák Symphonies. After his driving force and a six-year campaign to create the National Lottery (with Paul Getty fundings), bitter experience caused him to form the charity CAARE in 1993, instead. This provides improved cultural life for all young people through increased arts and sports funding.
A world authority on the manuscript scores of Verdi and Puccini, a performance of Tosca resulted in praises from Placido Domingo:
'It is rare to meet a conductor such as you, who has such an ear for vocal phrasing as you do, and for the all important placing of consonants within the phrase. I was fascinated by the many points of orchestral details your research brought to the score, and the beautiful phrases which you had found in the manuscript - phrases which I believe I sang for the first time.'
A list of complete operas conducted with selected press comments on a variety of events are included in the book.
(Information edited and re-compiled by Bill Newman.)