Friday, 18 November 2016

A HUSUM DIARY 2016 / Days Five and Six

More sightseeing: Petrikirche (St Peter's Church)
as viewed across the Schlei Lake at Schleswig.

Tuesday (23 August)

Recital 8: Hubert Rutkowski (7.30 pm)

It is not too surprising to see a Polish pianist performed a nearly all-Polish programme. Since this is Husum, there was no Chopin on the list! The first half started and ended with polonaises, including Beethoven's rarely heard Polonaise in C major (Op.89) and Paderewski's barnstorming counterpart. In between was all Leschetizsky, beginning with his edition of the Rameau Gavotte and Variations, which is more florid than the original. 

Completely unknown is his Venetian Ballade (with barcarolle-rhythm to be expected), Hommage a Czerny (a toccata-like study), Hommage a Chopin (mazurka rhythm with a grand ending) and Aria, a rhapsodic nocturne-like piece. Speaking of nocturnes, I must revisit Paderewski's B flat major Nocturne, which came off beautifully in Rutkowski's hands.

More Polish fare in Ignaz Friedman's transcriptions of songs by Stanislaw Moniuszko – Printemps, Chant du soir and Dumka, all of which were very pleasant if not completely memorable. To close was the large sprawling Sonata by the young Witold Lutoslawski, composed in 1936. Like the early sonatas of Stravinsky or Dutilleux, it is a product of youth and impressionability, unlike resembling anything of the mature composer. The influences of Debussy, Szymanowski and the late Russian romantics are there, and the even the slow movement has touches resembling Mompou. It plays for over half an hour, and does get a little tiring, but it deserves to be heard once in a while. 

Rutkowski’s  encores included a Szymanowski Mazurka (Op.50 No.1), Rameau's Gavotte and one variation, a familiar Chopin Mazurka (in A minor, he does get a spot after all) and quite appropriately Der Dichter Spricht from Schumann's Kinderszenen, good to close any set of music.   

A view of the Marinedenkmal (Marriners' Memorial)
at Laboe, near the entrance of Kiel Firth.

Wednesday (24 August)

Recital 9: Severin von Eckardstein (7.30 pm)

A more eclectic programme than the one by German pianist Severin von Eckardstein would be hard to find. The first half comprised mostly short pieces, beginning with two Barcarolles (Nos. 9 and 8) with their svelte and sometimes elusive harmonies typical of the French composer's late style. Then came a selection of Preludes by French pianist Robert Casadesus, all of which have a late Romantic Scriabin-like feel with a witty play on sonorities. 

The short-lived Liszt pupil Julius Reubke's Scherzo in D minor is filled with high spirits, more Schumannesque than Lisztian, and this was a perfect foil for Anatol Alexandrov's Vision which was mellow and dreamy, benefiting from wonderful pedal-work from Eckardstein. The half ended with three Techludes by the pianist himself, the second of which required some preparation of the piano, with its John Cage-like plinks and plonks qualified by thuds in a dance-like number.

His second half qualifies to be the best half-programme thus far, as the juxtaposition of Medtner, Scriabin and York Bowen has an almost spiritual-musical connection in their idioms. Medtner's Dithyramb (Op.10 No.2) provided a big and beefy sonority, not to mention its piquant harmonies, which led to the smouldering and dark Polonaise Op.21 of Scriabin, cut from the same cloth as the better known Fantasy Op.28. 

York Bowen's Sonata in F minor Op.72 in three movements is a true gem waiting to be discovered, and Eckardstein played it with the vehemence worthy of the best Rachmaninov or Medtner. One gets the feel that Bowen was the most cosmopolitan and eclectic of the four late-Romantics, as one senses a distant whiff of film and show biz music within a solid classical frame.   

There were two very differen encores, the hymn-like Fantasiestuck (Op.111 No.2) by Schumann and Louis Brassin's transcendentally difficult transcription of Wagner's Magic Fire Music from Die Walkure. A most satisfying evening was concluded with yet another round of drinks at Hartmann's Country Kitchen.

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