The title of this concert review is a play on words, both in English and translated Swedish. The Swedish title for this concert of 3 February at Konserthuset is Tonalt Gränsland: Monteverdi möter Schönberg, or, Tonal Borderland: Monteverdi meets Schönberg. And, of course, Schönberg is known mostly for writing atonal music. There you have the little play on words.
This was an unusual musical concert in that there were two pieces written to be accompanied by the recitation of a tenor, in this case Mr. Alexander Oliver. The basic ensemble of five included two violins, two violas and a cello. In two pieces a piano was included and, in the final piece de résistance, another viola was added to make a sextet for the performance of Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht (German), or “Transfigured Night.” More on this, below.
The presentation of the evening’s four pieces was introduced by Hugo Ticciati, violinist, in English. He told us that, whereas Schönberg (1874–1951) is known for his pioneering use of atonality (or use of the “twelve-tone scale”), Claudio Monterverdi (1567 – 1643), 300 years earlier, introduced the full flowering of tonality in the music of the time. Thus, the connection between Monteverdi and Schönberg, at least for the purposes of this program.
The four offerings for the evening were:
- Claudio Monteverdi: four madrigals (written 1603 and 1605). These were introduced by Mr. Ticcati as love songs.
- Arnold Schönberg: Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, op. 41 (This work includes piano as well as five strings). Mr. Oliver recited Lord Byron‘s poem of the same name.
- Charles Economou (1980 – ): Kurukshetra (including a recitation of an excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita, in English, by Alexander Oliver). Mr. Economou was the pianist as well as the composer for this performance.
- Arnold Schönberg: Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4
I attended the concert with Vasil, as usual. We both composed written reactions which we sent to each other.
I sent an email to the first violinist of the sextet, Verklärte Nacht, Priya Mitchell. Here is what I wrote, and also sent to Vasil:
Hello Ms Mitchell,
Your performance and those of your colleagues were magnificent, nonpareil.
The Monteverdi was interesting and enjoyable. Had your ensemble first played something from the standard fare of the time, it might have put into greater perspective how advanced Monteverdi was.
The Ode to Napoleon was riveting. How difficult it must have been for everyone to be so accurate (for my ear, anyway) and in- synch for this one.
The recitation from the Bhagavad Gita and the accompanying music by Mr Economou also had my full attention and appreciation.
Of course, the Verklärte Nacht was beyond verbal description, although I try here. The over-riding aspect was the delicacy with which you all played, even in the powerful parts. I have often listened to recordings of this piece, but now I ‘know’ it through your performance, which will stay with me. Your physical identification with the passion of this piece was inspiring.
As the sextet assembled for the last piece, I was startled to see a new yet familiar face, that of the additional violist, Göran Fröst. I knew immediately he had to be brother to Martin Fröst whom I had recently seen playing the clarinet in a shared concert with Anne Sofie von Otter.
I do not see a group name identified with you and your colleagues, so when I write about the concert in my music blog, I’ll provide links to individual sites.
Thank you for keeping great music alive and well.
Here’s Vasil’s response to me:
Thank you for your letter to Ms Mitchell. Indeed, it’s very kind of you to express to Ms Mitchell, a leader of the sextet played Schönberg’s “Verklärte Nacht”, your sincere impressions from the music which they realized, and also your respect to her as a perfect musician. Actually she deserves such a respect also as an extremely sexy woman.
I myself would express my sincere good impressions also to Ms Quirine Viersen, the cello performer. She is extremely good cellist. I was impressed of her gentle movements with the bow. I was also impressed of her gentle and intelligent face and also as a beautiful woman. From the men performers it should be mentioned the young violinist Hugo Ticciati. He played with great enthusiasm. My impression was that he is the leader of this small orchestra.
I have to add that, since Vasil and I were facing Ms Viersen’s left side from the second row, I could see her extraordinarily competent fingers traveling, most often rapidly, on the fingerboard. It was a pleasure merely to observe her hand, wrist and forearm at work.
Well, as you can see Vasil and I have an appreciation for good music and beauty in women. This is rather unfair to the equally competent men not yet mentioned: Emlyn Stam, viola; and, Guy Johnston, Viola. I wasn’t able to see these two gentlemen clearly from my vantage point, but I was able to see Göran Fröst clearly He impressed me not only with his playing, but with the obvious rapport he had with the players of the two lead instruments of this piece: first violin and cello.
Yet another wonderful evening at Stockholm’s Konserthuset.