Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bassooner or later ... the music has to (temporarily) end ..

Well, my season’s over. I’ve taken in my last concert for summer 2014. Of course, it was at the Piano Salon, which has now become our favourite concert venue … the routine is well established these days: walk up from Humboldthain to the river Panke, supper at the jolly Uferlos restaurant at 7pm, concert at 8.30 … home in the dark …

Tonight was a rather different concert. Berlin Counterpoint. A wind quintet with piano. Piano, flute, oboe, bassoon, horn and clarinet. I’m not sure that a horn is ‘wind’ but I guess you ‘wind’ it, in classical parlance, so fair enough. All new to me, a voyage of experience: but Poulenc was on the programme …

It was a delightful concert. We started with a sextet by Albert Roussel. How often do you hear Roussel? I can’t say I was excited by the work, but it was certainly pleasant, if a little muddy, and it gave me time to look around and get to know and watch the players.

The second item was much more vigorous and real fun. Arrangements of Romanian Dances, made by flautist Aaron Dan (of last year’s grand Trio Dan) for flute, bassoon, clarinet and piano. The second and third ones were terrific. Vivacious little Mr Dan (flute) dancing along on the top line like a pixilated flea, tall blonde Heidi easing out the most beautiful creamy sounds from her tall brown bassoon, Milos the replacement clarinettist ‘singing’ the tenor part gloriously, and Zeynep, driving the dance rhythms along from the piano with huge flair. Great stuff.

And then came Poulenc. Viola, the young oboeist, and Andrej, the horn joined in, and we had the Sextuor opus 100. I know it now. Splendid! Grand! What a piece. What a performance. I simply wallowed in it. The oboeist had a chance to blossom in this one, and suddenly produced some enormous tones, and I couldn’t see what the horn player was doing because he was hidden from my view by the clarinettist, but some more splendid sounds wound forth … each of the players was a personality, and yet a part of a well-soldered-together group … ideal.

How to follow that! The second half of the concert was devoted to an arrangement of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, made for the group by their regular clarinettist, Sacha Rattle. Well, I’m not a huge fan of the Enigma, even with all its fiddles intact, so, although it was well done and well played, for me it was a wee bit of an anti-climax after the thrills of the French piece, and the fun of the Romanian one.

But then, as an encore, we got Mr Rattle’s lively and colourful arrangement of de Falla’s ‘El Paño Moruno’. There is an art in choosing an encore. Something that summarises the concert and yet will send the audience out in a merry and appreciative mood. This was it! Although I couldn’t help thinking I’d have loved to have had the whole seven songs. And just a small slice of the Elgar. But that’s me.

So, another marvellous evening on the banks of the Panke … thank you Piano Salon, and I’ll be back as soon as I hit town next spring!

PS: Berlin Counterpoint’s new CD sits beside me. I know, I don’t have CDs. But it’s got the Poulenc on it.

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