Friday, March 02, 2007

No tunes for whistling

...leaving this concert! Tonight's event was at the Tbilisi conservatory with the German Ensemble Recherche, funded by the Goethe Institute - which does many wonderful things in Tbilisi. Ensemble Recherche is a chamber group that specialises in contemporary music, and they had spent a week's residence at the conservatory helping the students approach very contemporary music (ink still wet, kind of stuff). For some reason I had missed the first concert in which they played a piece by Hindemith for Heckelphone, viola and piano. You might wish to ask what a heckelphone is - it is not what we used at demos in 1968 (when I was but a slip of a girl). Mr Heckel invented his heckelphone at the request of Wagner, though I believe that Wagner did not actually include it in any of his operas - though it is reported to be in Strauss' 'Salome'. It is a double-reed instrument, like an oboe, but has a much, MUCH, lower pitch - even beyond the bass oboe. Interesting combination, viola, heckelphone and piano - I suppose the piano would have had to play the soprano part.

Anyway, tonight's offering was Schoenberg's 'Kammersinfonie' (Chamber symphony) for a group of 4 plus piano. Call me suspicious, but if I see a band consisting of a violin, flute, cello and clarinet I wonder whether that is not a string quartet in disguise, and we needed to find work for the wind players. This is a long piece, no let up, unrelenting, no change in pace - 23 minutes of continuous effort. The group must have been exhausted!

This was followed by Beat Furrer's 'Aer'. Anyone called Beat is a Swiss man. I thought I should mention that. Pronounced 'Bay-ut' if you look at it from the English-speaking end. I did not entirely pick up the introductory words, spoken, as ever, by the violist (violists are always those who organise and make sure everyone is all right - nothing to do with the idea that violists have to practice less...), but it seemed to be about a person sitting on a hill, maybe at the edge of the tree line, and surveying all around and below him (or her). The music was very atmospheric, to the degree that one wondered why people learn to play an instrument. The cello and clarinet just bubbled away, very quietly, just making a continuous noise - the pianist bobbed up and down on his chair, plucking the strings, and hitting the keys, now and again (the odd raindrop on top of the mountain?) He did an interesting trick at one moment where he hit a key, but all that came out of the piano, was a 'crack'. Wonder how he did that.

Finally they played Zurab Nadareishvili's 'Dialogues - Contrasts', a piece for chamber group and tape, with the chamber group consisting of viola, violin, alto flute/piccolo, cello, piano, and the tape containing various instruments, including also voice. I am not sure if some of those taped instruments were traditional Georgian instruments. The singing was certainly not the polyphonic Georgian kind. The whole thing reminded me a bit of Berio's 'Naturale' (that piece for viola, taped voice ...and maybe percussion). It was a dialogue between the tape and the live group, and quite interesting in its own way. Piccolo, though, is a bit hard on the ears.

Need to mention that the Grand Hall of the Tbilisi conservatory is absolutely stunning. It's rather a little Grand Hall, but has been recently restored to its pale green art nouveau grace, with proper and comfortable concert hall seating. Not sure though what would happen if a whole symphony orchestra were to play there. The Vilnius music academy could do with following this example. I was a bit taken aback when even the seats were numbered, but managed to find one in the front row anyway.....