A Lunch with Beethoven, Debussy and Shostakovich

20 January 2019, 13:00
A Lunch with Beethoven, Debussy and Shostakovich

Usually, we associate concerts of classical music with the evening hours, formal attire and in some cases even a glass of wine. Last Saturday showed us that the morning hours are not any less good a time for a musical production. In the Crystal Room of the Old Town Hall, an hour before noon, a a performance of cello sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich by the cellist Štěpán Filípek and the pianist Mark Pinzow took place. The concert was organised by the National Theatre Brno.

Regular attenders from the region of the concerts of Štěpán Filípek might have been perhaps somewhat surprised – this cellist is known mainly  as an active promoter and progressive interpreter of contemporary music. Saturday’s programme, however, was made up only of works we might call classics. This fact did not bother anyone – the informal mood was made possible by the unusual concert time while the intimate space of the Crystal Lounge conversely called for some more traditional musical works.

Despite the original conception of the programme, in which it was to start with Sonata in D Minor by Claude Debussy, the musicians decided instead for a chronological order of the works. While at first glance this may seem like a minor change, in terms of the programme this is a much more effective approach. The interpreters thus managed, at least partly, to introduce listeners to the long-term development of this musical form, the beginnings of which reach back as far as Antonio Vivaldi. The initial Sonata in A Major for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven still stands on classical foundations, but the melodic and rhythmic equality of the two  instruments is already a foretaste of the world of romanticism. It was clear already from the first bars that Filípek’s experience with contemporary music had found its way also into the interpretation of Beethoven’s sonata. Romantic and early romantic works are often interpreted with a distinctive strong rubato and even in a floating manner; Filípek’s factual, objective, unencumbered pathos and sometimes perhaps somewhat curt playing in this case was a welcome treat. This understanding was clear primarily in the long closing tones, in which musicians mostly find plenty of space for pretentious emotions overflowing into rubato. Fortunately, Filípek was not tempted to gild what is already gold and looked for expression and feeling where it can really be found, and in the musical phrases themselves. The pianist Mark Pinzow tried to achieve balanced pedalling and an ideal midpoint between rich sound, colour and clarity. Although he differed quite significantly in his approach from the cellist, there was a relatively strong organic link between them. This understanding was clear primarily in the long closing tones, in which musicians mostly find plenty of space for pretentious emotions overflowing into rubato. However in some moments it seemed as though they had swapped roles, and unfortunately this mostly happened in inappropriate moments. As an example there is the third movement of Beethoven’s sonata, in which Filípek’s cello was torn from its fragile exhalations by the sudden and overly violent entry of the piano - in the repetition Mark Pinzow chose a much more appropriate dynamic. Debussy’s Sonata in D Minor for cello and piano represented a significant change in style, which the interpreters managed not only to capture, but also above all to express. The interpretation was far more passionate and Filípek’s pizzicato drew attention with its bell-like tone and sharpness. The piano part accentuated rather the dreamier aspect of Debussy’s work. In both works the rhythmic interplay of both musicians should be stressed, demonstrating itself particularly in the precise entries from silence. Minor errors in the intonation of the cello were offset by the measured, variable, and particularly thought-out work with expression, dynamics and accents.  

Both works, however, were put in the shade by the performance of the Sonata in D Minor Op. 40 for Cello and Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich. While in the preceding works there were in places minor faults in intonation and rhythmic character, Shostakovich’s sonata was without doubt a wild ride from start to finish. Otherwise in its character it is closest to the kinds of works that make up Filípek’s interpretational daily bread. The sonata in D minor was written in a difficult period in the composer’s life and is full of tenderness, melancholy and drama as well as Shostakovich’s typical cynical humour. This emotional range not only requires a lot of technical skills, but also the maximum understanding of the structure itself and the musicians gave really attention to all these different moods in an intense interpretation that missed nothing. Particularly worthy of praise were Filípek’s successful and intonationally precise harmonics.  

Although morning concerts are not such a frequent cultural phenomenon, they undoubtedly have a certain magic. Štěpán Filípek and Mark Pinzow, in combination with a restrained programme, ideal space and above all a successful performance managed to evoke an intimate and despite that highly sophisticated atmosphere. They made classical music lovers happy around Saturday noon. And who wouldn’t want to have lunch at the weekend in the company of Beethoven, Debussy and Shostakovich? 

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

This year, the JazzFestBrno festival has expanded its offer to include an "electronic" programme line named Tension. Within that series, the bands Zabelov Group and HRTL Spaghetti Ensemble appeared  in the Praha space in Brno on 28 March. However, the two-hour concert, which took place on 5 April in the sold-out Sono Centre, was also ideologically close to this new series. The Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin perhaps uses an instrumental layout of a jazz piano trio vetted by decades, but still oscillates around electronic music as a starting point in its albums and concerts.   more

Even though the audience's attention is generally focused on music ensembles that have already been vetted by time, yesterday's concert of the newly formed Camerata Brunensis ensemble in the Historical Hall of the Brno Bishop's Court proved that even young blood can offer a remarkable artistic experience. The concert was programmed  in cooperation with the Moravian Regional Museum and the Academy of Early Music at Masaryk University, which the Camerata Brunensis‘ artists attend. The ensemble consists of soprano Veronika Vojířová, who performed for example with ensembles like Collegium Marianum, Collegium Floreum, Capella Regia Prague or Cappella Mariana, and the flutist Michaela Durajová, who could be listened to by audiences with the Orchestral Academy of the Brno Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, the Czech Virtuosi orchestra or with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Also, the double bassist and violonist  Matyáš Berdych regularly appears with important music ensembles such as Musica Florea, Collegium Marianum and Czech Ensemble Baroque. The backbone of the ensemble is formed by the harpsichordist Jan Hajič, who works as a répétiteur for the Prague choir Vagantes, accompanies concerts and master classes at the Prague Conservatory, and works as a backup organist at the Prague Academic Parish under the guidance of Robert Hugo.  more

Filip Míšek and Ema Brabcová have worked together for as many as twenty years already. They met each other back in 1999 in the group Roe-Deer, as part of which they created their own project called Khoiba. Under this name they released their albums Nice Traps (2004) and Mellow Drama (2007), shone on the domestic scene and drew attention to themselves in neighbouring Germany, but then each of the protagonists set out on their own paths – Filip came up with the solo project Dikolson and Ema was active first in the group Luno and later became part of The Antagonists under the leadership of Jan P. Muchow. Only in January 2019 did the resurrected Khoiba draw attention to itself – first with the single Log and two months later with the album Khoiba. As part of an intensive spring concert the duo is also coming to perform in Brno. The concert will take place in Kabinet múz on 24 April and supporting Khoiba will be Jan Boroš with Čáry života [Life Lines], this year’s winner of the Apollo award.  more

Each premiere from the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is an event that sparks great interest from folk fans. It was no different on Thursday in the slightly cramped quarters of the Divadlo Bolka Polívky theatre. The concert carrying the title Through the Landscape of Time had already been sold out a month ahead.  more

Yesterday’s concert from the Principal Conductor’s series of the Brno Philharmonic presented Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphonic Orchestra, in an intimately conceived programme. Together with the principal conductor of the Brno philharmonic, Dennis Russel Davies, she performed several classical and contemporary works composed for violin and piano. In this, the Brno audience had a chance to see the soloist before she plays tomorrow together with the Brno Philharmonic.  more

In an almost four-hour long programme, both audience and performers celebrated the 80th birthday of Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč in Veselí nad Moravou. The concert that took place on Sunday 24 March, and was not only historic in its length but more importantly in the range of folk legends appearing on stage.  more

The piano recital by the chief conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Denis Russell Davies and his wife the pianist Maki Namekawa yesterday in Besední dům offered three works by three significant figures from American minimalism. The concert included minimalist works by Steve Reich in the shape of Piano Phase, the composition Hallelujah Junction by John Adams and Four Movements for Two Pianos by Philip Glass.  more

The JAZZFESTBRNO Festival is expanding this year with the new Tension programme line, which will feature musicians on the borderline between jazz and electronic music. One of the performers who will appear on 28 March in the Praha space in Brno will be the Czech-Ukrainian duo Zabelov Group, which has recently released a new album called Eg. This interview with Roman Zabelov (accordion, voice, piano, organ, harp…) and Jan Šikl (drums, trumpet, guitar, percussion…) was done in a Prague café just before a rehearsal of the band.

Evenings of  the cycle named Music Stocktaking of the Brno-based orchestra Ensemble Opera Diversa regularly bring to light various half-forgotten works by Czech composers. This Tuesday's concert in the concert hall of the Convent of Merciful Brother [Konvent Milosrdných bratří] became a commemorative tribute to the anniversary of the tragic years 1939 and 1969. Violinist Milan Paľa and pianists Kristýna Znamenáčková and Lucie Pokorná performed alongside the orchestra. The performance was conducted by the permanent conductor of the orchestra Gabriela Tardonová.  more

Bára Zmeková is releasing her new album called LUNAVES these days. She will officially present it in Brno as well. The launch of the album will take place in the Kabinet múz on Tuesday 19 March.  more

The ensemble Šafrán from Moravian Slovakia is already a traditional organiser of the Brno “fašank“. This event, in the spirit of folk traditions, always takes place on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Christian fasting. Its roots go back to the pagan times, but it is now part of Christian feasts almost all over the world. Marches of masks in various regions of Moravia are called končiny, masopust, fašanek or, for example, šibřinky. Its  ensemble parallel in Brno tries to stick to the folk pattern. It begins with a parade in  Náměstí svobody Square. This year it continued through the Alfa Mall to the market building at the Cabbage Market. The end of the programme was performed by the ensemble Lučina, which showed the audience the so-called burial of a double bass. It is a custom consisting in a staged burial of this musical instrument, symbolising  the end of entertainment, calming down and preparing for Easter.  more

"In the past, old people used to be as old as we allegedly are today" sings Slávek Janoušek in his song Alzheimer and Parkinson. The songwriter, who celebrated his 65th birthday last September, found aging as an extremely powerful theme for his new album. Tohle je vzkaz [This Is a Message] is an album not only about incrementing years of age, but also about how we increasingly appreciate our families and our  roots as we “grow old“. Although we can find very strong moments in all Janoušek's albums, Tohle je vzkaz can be perceived as the third part of the trilogy of his most powerful recordings – Kdo  to zavinil [Whose Fault  Is It] (1988), Tancuj a zpívej [Dance and Sing] (1997) and Tohle je vzkaz [This Is a Message] (2018).  more

In the hall of Blahoslav House (the centre for the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren) yesterday evening there were performances of religious works from the late Renaissance and the early Baroque by the chamber choir Ensemble Versus and the period instruments ensemble Castello in Aria. Both bodies were conducted by the artistic director Vladimír Maňas. In yesterday’s programme there were both proven works and unknown ones by rarely performed European composers.  more

Yesterday Brno City Theatre gave the European premiere of the musical The Last Ship, written by the world-famous musician Sting. It is a mixture of his wonderful music drawn from British folk, a successfully and honestly told tale and also a strong acting performance, which should guarantee the production’s successful voyage to the audience.  more

The web portal Brno – Music Friendly City is celebrating its sixth birthday. As a symbolic present to our readers we are bringing you the first of our regular monthly contributions from the Brno dramatist, writer and screenwriter Milan Uhde. He will be sharing his memories and thoughts as well as descriptions of current events in the field of culture in Brno. His theme today is the Janáček Brno festival.  more

Editorial

The ArtBar club in Brno hosts another Funky Night. Funky Chicken, Brass Avenue and Michael V of J.A.R, called Helicopter will appear. The event will feature well-known funky hits as well as completely new ones; the concerts will be accompanied by video projections and a light show.  more

For the eighth year running, Czech Ensemble Baroque under the baton of Roman Válek has been performing a subscription series of early music entitled Bacha na Mozarta! (in Czech, this is a pun meaning both "Bach on Mozart!" and "Beware of Mozart!"). The advanced sales of tickets for this cycle will begin as part of the closing concert of the Easter Festival of Sacred Music, where the orchestra will perform Bach's Easter Oratorio. The dramaturgy of the eighth season features, for example, Mozart's Requiem, a Baroque fashion show, Te Deum Three Times Differently, and a vocal concert.  more

The Brno City Theatre is holding auditions for the main and supporting roles for the new musical now being prepared, Mamma Mia!, which is to have its premiere in October 2019.  more

This year the festival programme includes musical works from the 7th century to the present. Gregorian chants, a setting of Book of Lamentations from the 10th century, Renaissance Rome, the orthodox repertoire, 18th century services from the Moravian countryside, organ pieces and contemporary works. The festival will also for the first time be welcomed into the church on Josefská street.  more

The chamber opera The Secret Marriage (Il Matrimonio segreto) by Doménico Cimarosa has been produced by students of the Music and Theatre faculties of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in the Italian original. The premiere will take place in the Divadlo na Orlí theatre.  more

Jakub Hrůša will become the fifth Chief Conductor and the musical director of the prominent German orchestra the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Players – the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker – Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie) in the 2016/2017 season. It was announced today during the morning ceremony, which was attended by Jakub Hrůša himself, by Bavaria’ Minister of Culture Dr. Ludwig Spaenle together with Marcus Rudolf Axt, Chief Executive.  more

The choir at VUT in Brno is seeking new vocal talent. The audition will take place next week.  more

The 21st edition of this competition is being organized by the Musical faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The competition focusing on young artists playing the violin and on string quartets is being held in cooperation with the Leoš Janáček Foundation.  more

The club, which is starting its 25th concert season, has been reconstructed and is now reopening to jazz musicians from both the domestic and foreign scene. The season will introduce bands as well as individuals such as Ostrich Quartet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Balzar Trio, Vilém Spilka Quartet or Nuf Said.  more

The current 17th year of the festival is divided into two parts. The first part, called Intake of Breath, will take place during October and it will be the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Filigrán dance ensemble. The other part, called Exhalation, will introduce international guests and dance themed movies in November.  more