Contemporary art gallery in the concert hall
A preview by Gwen Heart From the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Sometimes when I push my luck too far, it inevitably works. After
rushing through many corridors and passages, I managed to sneak in for a
preview of something my eyes failed to comprehend. I pinched myself to
know whether I was dreaming because such was the impact. And here I was
at the citadel of classical music.
Pianist Laif Ove
Andenese and Robin Rhode
No; I was not dreaming; right in front of my eyes I was beholding a
dramatically different scenario unfolding. Was I in the Royal Festival
Hall or had I walked into a contemporary art gallery? Two great but
different nationals were going through a dress rehearsal that was
incredible. The stage was bare and dark. Powerful jets at focal points
flickered in radiance to cast a mysterious effect. The piano (visual)
and the paintings were in movement. There was magic in the air as well
as mystery. Mussorgsky's voluptuous strains were in the air as well as
merging visuals from an icon art gallery. One was passionately playing
the keyboard cleverly visualised by the other while the stage was
illuminated by a fleeting arabesque of colour. Clever and extraordinary
lighting, set the artists apart.
Norwegian Pianist, Leif Ove Andenes and the youthful South African
artist, Robin Rhode redefined the piano recital, bringing the aesthetics
of a contemporary art gallery to the concert hall. Together, they
created a new version of Mussorgsky pictures at an exhibition. The
original score accompanied paintings by Viktor Hartmann. Today's new
version created images for a 21st century performance.
Their pianoforte performance is not confined only to the works of
Mussorgsky's earlier scores but included a new work by Thomas Larcher,
written to accompany visuals. Ove Andenes also performed Schumann's
Leif Ove Andenes
This South African born virtuoso pianist is an amazing artist with
new-thinking and a sense of momentum within stasis that is intended.
There is clarity and texture at the tip of his fingers and although he
plays an imaginative piano, it seems so realastice, out of this world.
He is one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century. Renowned for the
purity of the Masters, he pays tribute to them in the highest calibre.
In a sense, he demonstrates a poetic sensibility and relies heavily
on Robin Rhode for greater assurance.
Balancing against the transcending music of the Masters, Ove Andenes
is a confident Master himself in fluent music-making unimpeded by others
or their influence, no matter how greater a composer can be.
The scores he selected for tonight's pre-performance had something to
do with pictures and paintings that involved both Mussorgsky and
Schumann's Kinderszenen op. 15 (1818) is an album of childhood scenes
through an adult's eyes. The thirteen brief musical pictures include the
ever popular Traumerei (Daydreams) which every student of the piano
would have encountered. This score too was visually projected in a
magnificent manner with the South African at the keyboard.
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) is one of the rare breed of composers.
He was also one of the group known as the Mighty Handful especially for
his forceful and original compositions. Widely accepted as the most
perceptive and cultured thinker of his generation, Mussorgsky infused
unusual brilliance to his scores that set him apart from the rest.
Mussorgsky is difficult to digest unless one is into his music in a big
way. His excellence and refinement in his music stemmed from the fact
that Mussorgsky was a heel-clicking, impeccably dressed high society man
from a landowning aristocracy.
Passionately fond of music from the time he was able to walk, his
mother nurtured his talent with such fervour that he was able to play a
John Field concerto by the time he was 13. A perfect intellect, both in
music and academics, he became a heavy drinker that slowed his
magnificent career.But Mussorgsky was well established in line with his
contemporaries such as Bizet, Rheinberger, Sir John Steiner and
Tchaikowsky among others.
He was as good as the rest. Fiercely loyal to his country, he
depicted the Russian people in his music but with drinking in the
process, his inspiration suffered a setback as he wrote pitifully small
amount, often faultering.
'Pictures at an exhibition' (1874) is Arguably the most important
piano work by this Russian nationalist that impressed pianist-Leif Ove
Andense and artist Robin Rhode of the London Philharmonic orchestra and
since then, it is included in many of his presentations. Pictures at an
exhibition was inspired by a memorial exhibition of paintings and
drawings by Mussorgsky's friend, Victor Hartmann which reflects a
visitor to the exhibition promenading from one work to another. It is
even more popular in its orchestral version by Ravel.
Night on the bare mountain (1867), the better known version of this
score by Mussorgsky as well as the original as well as the one by
Rimsky-Korsakow is much in demand at concert halls. The work is a
portrait of a midsummer night when the witches of Sabbath is held on the
Bare Mountain near Kiev.
The Boris Godunov opera (1868-73) is essential to follow with an
English translation this long and complex work as it extends over three
hours. Regarded as one of the most significant epic operas, it will be
difficult at the first hearing but once absorbed, turns out to be very
fresh and rewarding. It is still the first authentic Russian opera with
a Russian subject.
The music springs from the infections of speech, translated into
natural melody. The highlights of the opera are 'The Coranation scene',
and the famous 'Death of Boris' in Act. 4. The recording of the latter
score by the icon, great bass, Feodor Chaliapin, is unforgettable.