Tuesday, 10 October 2017


DAY 3: Monday (21 August 2017)

Sightseeing in Schleswig-Holstein begins in Flensburg, specifically Glucksburg Castle. I learn that the royal family that once occupied this “water castle” built by a lake is related to the British Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth's great-grandmother Alexandra (wife of King Edward VII) was Danish, the daughter of King Christian IX (the “Father-in-law of Europe) from the Sonderborg-Glucksburg family. Look out for the castle’s infamous dungeon, complete with torture rack, armchair of nails (perfect for swamis) and a deliquentführer (neck leash with internal spikes). Ouch.

"Ve have vays of making you talk":
torture instruments at Glucksburg Castle.

Recital 4 (7.30 pm)

What one has come to expect from the great French-Canadian, living patron saint of supervirtuosos, has been fulfilled once again, and with dividends. Back in the late 1980s when the Rarities Festival began, pianists like MAH was himself a rarity, performing works of ridiculous complexity and obscurity as an avocation. Thanks to this festival, other pianists including younger one have taken on the gauntlet so that rarity-pianists are no longer such rarities. 

Still, MAH reigns supreme because he is a modern-day composer-pianist (in the grand tradition of Rachmaninov, Busoni, Godowsky et al), which is still a rarity in itself. For example, his Pavane Varié (based on a G minor air also used by Rameau and Poulenc) is every bit a work one will crave hearing again, only if there are pianists up for the challenge.

The balance of his programme is typical of his eclecticism, two Enesco movements which highlight chords and bell sounds, Alistair Hinton's Sorabjiesque transformation of Rachmananinov's Vocalise (sounding like the listener has had one too many vodkas) and a clutch of Samuil Feinberg's Sonatas. If you like the psychedelic Scriabin, here are some new listens to get high on. 

Leon Jongen's Campeador, a riotous Spanish-flavoured dance, was written for the 1956 Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition and is every bit a showstopper. Finally, we have a Moszkowski Waltz and Caprice Espagnole, the latter of which is no longer a rarity. 12-year-olds in Singapore and Hong Kong play it with gay abandon nowadays.  

Hamelin's encores are something else. After hearing 30 versions of his Toccata on L'Homme Armé from this year's Van Cliburn Competition, one craved for his original thoughts. He played it with a fleet-fingered lightness which quite eluded a number of the youngsters. So which competitor's version did he like best? His answer: semifinalist Da Sol Kim (South Korea), unequivocally because “he fully understands the piano”. 

Hamelin's completion of a Chopin-Godowsky Étude fragment (based on the first Nouvelle Étude) finds the light of day, while the Chopin-Liszt Mes Joies (Meine Freude) and its nightingale calls could not have sounded more enchanting. “Whoever said Czerny could not be fun?” he asked, and then went on to polish off one of his studies. Naughty and nice. 

Veterans of Husum,
Hamelin and Daniel Berman.

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