Friday, 16 August 2019



It took me almost a year to write this blog diary, having wracked my thought processes, beginning in Germany, later in Hong Kong, and finally back home in Singapore, with just a week to spare before my inevitable return to Husum in 2019. Better late than never, so here it is, my brief diary of the 32nd edition.

Its my fourth year in succession visiting Husum (Germany), home of the inimitable Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum Festival, and there seems to be no tiring of this annual pilgrimage into the far-flung peripheries of the vast and seemingly endless piano repertory. “Husum is like a drug” reads an article in the Hamburger Abendblatt by Elisabeth Richter, and guess who the drug references relate to? 

Yes, and there’s a photo of a certain Singapore blogger attired in a Nationalmannschaft outfit emblazoned just below the headline. Guess I’ve become a legitimate minor celebrity in certain parts of North Germany...

Sunday, 12 August 2018

In truth, my Husum journey started in Singapore when the young 24-year-old Clarisse Teo (above) performed a programme of Mompou, Medtner, D’Indy and Alexandrov in a piano recital at Esplanade Recital Studio. Her programme of all local premieres looked exactly like one of those impossible programmes that appear in Husum every summer in August. And her audience of about 180, very quiet, attentive and respectful, was little different from the cognoscenti who beat down the doors of the 16th century Schloss before the seaside town on the North Sea coast of Schleswig-Holstein. 

Her upright posture, utter confidence and control, no-nonsense demeanour and unexpected encore (Villa-Lobos) also reminded this listener of a certain M-A.Hamelin. Surely she should someday perform in Husum?

Saturday 18 August 2018

Thanks to British Airways and German Rail (which has of late descended to SMRT standards of normality), everything contrived to make me miss the opening recital at Husum by German pianist Sina Kloke (above). She sounded impressive enough on compact disc, and I was more than happy for her to autograph those albums of music by Enesco and Vaughan Williams.

FABIAN MULLER Piano Recital (7.30 pm)

So my first recital attended was by the young German Fabian Muller, part of the Festival’s Young Explorers programme. The question begged is this, “Does contemporary music that is not often heard qualify to be rarities?” 

This festival has thrived on less-heard Romantic repertoire, but what about late 20th century music? One hardly hears these in most recitals (other than a handful of Ligeti Etudes or Carl Vine’s Bagatelles or First Sonata), so Gyorgy Kurtag’s aphoristic Splitter (1978) comes as a surprise – comprising short shards of atonal sound with extremes of dynamic changes and occasional playful gestures. Russian Nikolai Obuchow’s Revelation from 1915 is more convincing, with Scriabinesque gestures, Schoenbergian or Bergian dissonances, typical of the Russian avant-garde and sounding something ahead of its time.

The rest of his programme hardly qualifies as rarities. Debussy’s early Ballade (heard in complete Debussy sets), a selection of Brahms Piano Pieces Op.76 (deceptively difficult pieces to play) and Liszt’s Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen are now more regularly heard these days. He plays these very well, and the violent but dry-like-dust Busoni single-movement Sonatina Seconda, a work with occult and sinister intensions which is as far away as one gets from Bach-Busonian congeniality. That too was enough to demonstrate the presence of a serious and considerable artist.

The Busoni was heard in last year’s Singapore International Piano Festival (from Chiyan Wong) and will be heard in The Joy of Music Festival in Hong Kong come October (from Ivan Krpan). So this work looks like losing rarity status pretty soon, and that is what happens when pieces begin to join the mainstream.

The well-tendered garden of the Schloss,
where a drink in the summer evening is always welcome.
PianoCrazy: my collage of images of
concert attendees from the the 2017 festival 

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