Last season, we had a great time at the concerts at the splendid venue known as Radialsystem V, a remade factory on the banks of the river near the Ostbahnhof. So when we started planning this season's music, what more obvious place to start.
Paul assured me that I would love the Schubert string quintet, and that the five artists performing it – the Cuarteto Casal and Eckart Runge -- were top notch, so off we set (no longer a trek from my new home!) for a whole evening of chamber music. Not a vocalist to be heard!
I must say, if I am going to listen to chamber music, I like it to be in a ‘chamber’. Like the bunker in Jersey. Intimate surroundings, not a vast concert-hall. Radialsystem, with its 350-odd seats fits the bill nicely.
We arrived early, to have a little BBQ supper on the terrace, but alas spring is not officially here, nor yet the BBQ, so we had to make do with a healthy mushroom risotto as prelude to our music. Not quite up to the really delicious food of the previous night, at the Deutsche Oper Café, but more suitable for a grey muffled-up evening al fresco!
About this time I had a thought. One quintet does not a concert make: what else were we going to hear? Boccherini? C18th music? Oh. A brand new cello duo? Always like something new. And a little bit of de Falla for topping. Well, we were going to get some variety. And we did: if not quite what I’d expected.
The Boccherini ‘Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid’ was a total, charming, characterful joy. Not eighteenth-century stiff and mannered at all. And everyone clearly enjoyed playing it. The ‘modernistic’ little pizzicato plinks of the second violin won me utterly. Who'd have thought Boccherini could be such fun!
Lucio Franco Amanti’s new piece really sounded the more ‘old’ of the two. It was pleasant music, but I couldn’t hear much in it that related to its supposed subject of ‘Sancho’s Dream’. Or any sort of a dream. More like two glorious celli talking to each other, wide awake, very politely, and sometimes in an odd kind of unison. However, the composer was obviously and rightly delighted with his artists’ performance, and we (alas, the house was barely half full) applauded him and them roundly.
The De Falla rounded things off in bright Spanish style, and after a Pause we were ready for Schubert.
Well, Paul was right. I did love it. Some bits more than others. The second movement especially, and all of the soft and gentle bits. Truly beautiful music, which has you perching on your seat, with a back almost as arched straight as that of the wonderful lady violinist. When the vigorous and loud bits come, you can relax back in your chair. Because if Schubert’s soft bits sound special, his loud bits sound (to uninitiated me) pretty much like those of all his contemporaries.
I think if Schubert were around today (and I were his editor) I would eliminate some or all of the da capo sections. I know they were expected, as part of the form, in his time, but I groaned inwardly each time I saw the players turn a page … backwards. We’ve heard that … Which brings another irreverent thought. Why do they have pages? Singers perform a 5-hour opera without dots. Why do instrumentalists need pages?
So, we have had another successful and enjoyable night at Radialsystem. String playing so superb, that I quite forgot to miss the singing!
We are booked for a return visit already …