Tuesday, 17 March 2009

WATER by Monique Copper / Review

University Cultural Centre Theatre
Sunday (15 March 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 March 2009.

The idea of combining musical performance, poetry recitation and visuals in concert is an interesting and workable one, well worth exploring especially when the subject matter is one that inspires discussion and debate, musing and meditation. Water is vital to livelihood and survival in The Netherlands (as it is with Singapore), hence its central role in the recital by Dutch pianist Monique Copper.

The anthology of works by Debussy, Ravel, Chopin, Bartok and several contemporary composers, interspersed with poetry by Emily Dickinson, Ogden Nash, Aloysius Bertrand and others, would have worked if the pianist were up to the tasks demanded by the music.

Copper came a cropper on more than several occasions. Much of Debussy’s Reflets dans l'eau (Images Book 1) sounded like a struggle against drowning beneath its torrents of notes. While Chopin’s Raindrop Prélude came through relatively unscathed, the rhetoric of Prélude No.18 was submerged by messy fingerwork. Bartok’s Barcarolla (from Out Of Doors) felt disjointed and by the time Chopin’s headily lyrical Barcarolle (Op.60) arrived, she was all at sea.
The modernist works by Eldering, Kurtag and Bielawa, untarnished by the curse of familiarity, seemed to pass muster. Copper’s recitations in lightly accented English were clear and audible, even lucid. The theatre’s backdrop was dominated by video-artist Frans ter Horst’s projections of endless expanses of the fluid realm – from ponds, streams to the mighty sea, their mysterious and majestic surfaces caressed by raindrops, currents and waves, all seamlessly woven together.

In Guus Janssen’s Way To The Sea, an element of taped piano (presumably recorded by Copper) was introduced, allowing for her to further play and recite over it. It was a sensory overload of sorts, but at least she did not appear over-taxed. Earlier technical issues again dogged the two Ondines by Debussy (Préludes Book 2) and Ravel (Gaspard de la nuit), the far more difficult latter number suffering particularly needlessly. Any first year Conservatory piano major would have fared better.

Some resonance was afforded with the reading of Edwin Thumboo’s The River as an encore, idiomatically accompanied by music by a Dutch composer. On this count, this recital on a wet drizzly evening should not be slated as a total washout.

No comments: