Thursday, 22 March 2012

Dutch Treat


I accept an invitation to hear young Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar in a regency living room with Persian rugs on the parquet, artworks on the walls and cherubs on the ceiling. It’s like Chopin giving a salon concert, especially when Minnaar plays the Polish composer in the second half, the audience dreamy with concentration, the bespectacled artist in his other-worldly trance, locks flowing, exploring the extremes in the Twenty-Four Preludes Op28. He stresses the reticence of the brief A major poem, the water-torture A flat through the restless Raindrop, the thudding bass notes like distant cannon fire in conclusion. Romanticism runs throughout even in Bach as it’s Liszt’s heroic realisation of the Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV543 which Minnaar plays. He follows this with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A Op101 which is less stern and more questioning than others make it. In Ravel’s Sonatine, he comes into his own, fondling the jazz-inflected, neo-romantic chords of the Modéré with suave assurance, tripping through the Minuet like a fin-de-siecle tea-dance roue, and sending out fabulous arpeggio sprays in the Animé finale. The owner of the regency lounge tells us that it is Minnaar’s first time in the United Kingdom. It will certainly not be his last.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Gal's Gal

Hans Gal's daughter Eva attends the launch of Toccata Classics' CD of his Bach-like solo cello works. She talks of her envy of the Julies and Susans she went to school with in Edinburgh when she shared a name only with Hitler's mistress. She tells me there is no truth in the story that her father sat on Brahms' knee which is disappointing but he did attend concerts conducted by Mahler. It is 25 years since his death at the age of 97. He was big news in the German speaking world throughout the 1920s. His opera The Holy Duck  was staged in 20 different cities. When she was young, he dedicated pieces for recorder to her. When she was older she played violin in a quartet which performed his works. The violist Janet Schlapp is now the principal viola of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Cellist Alfia Nakipbekova plays movements from Gal;'s Solo Cello Suite Op109b. It's four dance movements are homage to Bach, the fughetta subject suggesting harmonic turns, the alla marcia placing careful feet in an intricate two-step. She plays it with lots of poignant atmosphere, the director of the Austrian Cultural Insttute comes round with a tray of alcohol and the CDs fly off the corner table.