IF the audience thought they were in for comfort-zone music by the familiar old masters – Schubert, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky – they were destined for an awakening for, even as the masters’ music was played, this concert gave them new life and vitality, full of youthful exuberance.
Amsterdam-based pianist, Keiko Shichijo, opened the program, playing one of the most popular works in Schubert’s piano repertoire, his Impromptu op. 90 no. 3 in G-flat major. And we heard it as Schubert himself might very well have, played on a fortepiano, built by Paul McNulty after a Viennese original, from 1819.
Sadly, the piece wasn’t published until nearly 30 years after Schubert’s death and the publisher, with an eye on marketing rather than authenticity, transposed the work from six flats (not seven, as noted in the concert program) to one sharp, to make it easier for amateurs to play.
Happily, we heard it in its original key and Keiko Shichijo had masterful and expressive control over the rather lovely-sounding fortepiano, pulling out the simple, flowing melody beautifully from the busy, florid accompaniment.
Shichijo stayed at the piano as Dutch-Italian violinist, Cecilia Bernardini, joined her on stage for a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata in G major for violin and piano, op.96. Once again the audience heard it much as it might have sounded in Beethoven’s time.
But what was truly remarkable was that Bernardini played the entire work with virtually no vibrato, rarely seen in modern playing, giving the notes crystal-clear assertiveness, played at perfect pitch all the way through the myriad moods of the four movements.
Closing the program was Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence” – his String Sextet in D-minor, Op. 70. Violist James Wannan and cellist Miles Mullin-Chivers augmented the Orava Quartet to perform a work that caused Tchaikovsky quite a deal of worry, although he was happy with the result. The work’s intensity makes it sound like chamber music shackled and struggling to be let free into a string orchestra setting.
The energy and drive of this young, all-male ensemble gave those shackles a pretty solid shake, in a very spirited performance with huge dynamics and water-tight control.
At times, in the first and fourth movements, their enthusiasm was such that the definition became foggy. In contrast, the middle movements, while still carrying that young male energy, created much gentle colour and fluid movement. These young men are brilliant musicians now and will be even more so as they harness and refine their raw energy.
Artistic director, Roland Peelman, has hit on a programming formula that should be explored further, challenging modern habits and expectations, and creating new sensations. This concert was a fine example of that.