Film, Video, Music, Theatre
Full House at the Linenhall
Full House at the Linenhall
Last Wednesday night at the Linenhall - a completely full house was treated to some fine music from Daniel Mueller-Schott from Germany on cello and Robert Kulek hailing from the Latvia and USA on piano. International stars that have played in everywhere from Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Berlin Philharmonie, Chicago Symphony Orchestra to the Concertgebauw Amsterdam, etc. Music Network does a great job in getting musicians of this calibre to appear in a (relatively) small town such as Castlebar.
First off they played a late Beethoven sonata for cello and piano Op 102 No 1. This was written before he wrote his 9th Symphony this is Beethoven at the height of his inventiveness. From the first flourish of the bow, before Mueller-Schott launched into a glowing slow introductory tune, we were entranced. Hearing a piece like this for the very first time - I had never heard it before - and in live performance, is quite something. Inventive, taking unexpected twists and turns he was definitely a man before his time was Beethoven. And the man also had a great sense of humour if the game of split-second catch-up that was played between the cello and piano in the middle of one of the allegros is anything to go by. Definitely too a sonata for the two instruments not just a cello sonata with piano accompaniment with pianist Kulek kept fully employed throughout. This was followed by a transcription of a Schumann violin sonata which Daniel Mueller-Schott had transcribed himself. I was interested to hear Rubert Kulek saying on Lyric FM subsequently that Schumann is his all time favourite composer – perhaps accounting for the preponderance of Schumann on the programme? The wonderful encore at the end was from what is my favourite Schumann work one of the delightful Three Fantasy Pieces which is heard variously on clarinet, violin or cello. Having said that, Schumann writes really great tunes even if to my ear at least he is predictable (I'm afraid I'm a real Beethoven fan). One beautiful tune followed the next – and these two guys really made those tunes sing.
Before the interval was the ‘obligatory’ modern piece in this case by George Crumb from Charlestown – not Charlestown County Mayo but West Virginia. This was a solo cello piece that ranged from pastoral elegance to the kind of fast paced music that would go well as soundtrack for a tense chase in a thriller movie. Also in there was the sound of smoky jazz clubs from the 1950s and did I hear some Spanish-style Flamenco references also?. The excellence of Daniel Mueller-Schott’s technique and musicality really shone through. I think that the audience, who it must be said usually grumble about being forced to listen to these ‘modern’ pieces - when what they really want is unadulterated romanticism - got behind the cellist. They certainly gave him a very warm round of applause before heading out to Linenhall café for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee – or even across the road to the pub during the interval. Note on audience – young and old from a couple of octogenarians down through the middle-aged to a big group of teenager musicians and even what looked like one young lad of about six years old. It’s great to see a range of support like this for ‘serious’ music in Castlebar.
The second half started with Schumann’s work "Five Pieces in a Folk Manner", which has five quite contrasting moods – indeed the jump from quiet pastorale to a frenetic gallop from one to the next must place quite a demand on the players in terms of mood switch. The final piece was a big sonata from Shostakovich. Just as Picasso was a real draftsman - who drew the most beautiful classical style figures in his early days he had nothing to prove when he turned to more experimental styles such as cubism. So Shostakovich started this piece with a most elegant tune – a real tune. Remember this is the guy who wrote the Gadfly Romance melody (remember Reilly Ace of Spies?). Imagine writing just one tune like that? Shostakovich, though wrote the first movement of this sonata in two days just after he split up with his wife Nina in 1934. The emotional turmoil is clearly evident in the music at this point. But his renowned ability to poke fun at the world returns in the second movement - which is truly fantastic – rat a tat tat on the piano with Kulek’s fingers really flying using pretty much every single key on the piano. And the cello performing glissandos with simultaneous harmonics in a display of pyrotechnics that had to be seen and heard to be believed. Ditto the last Allegro movement, which as the programme notes put it - "The finale with its subtle humour, scintillating meolday and crisp gait – is exceedingly attractive". And so it was: an exceedingly attractive evening in the pleasant surroundings of the new Linenhall Theatre.
And finally all credit to the local youngster who turned the pages for Robert Kulek. A nerve racking job requiring nerves of steel when faced with international stars of this stature.
Programme for 7 May 2003 Castlebar
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata in C Op 102 No 1 for cello and piano
Robert Schumann Sonata for Violin and piano Op 105 arr. D Mueller-Schott
George Crumb Sontat for solo cello
Robert Schumann: Funf Stucke im Volkston Op 102
Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Sonata in D Minor Op 40
Encore: Robert Schumann – one of the three fantasy pieces Op 73
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