Klasika plus, 20 September 2020
Thoughts from behind a mask
“In all the named pieces, Filharmonie Brno played masterfully under the direction of its chief conductor, Dennis Russell Davies, and was rewarded with deserved applause.”
“The outcome of this model of co-operation between orchestra, conductor and soloist was an excellent performance which the enthused audience rightly appreciated.”
The zenith came after the break: it was the forty-minute piece, Lamentate for piano and orchestra by Arvo Pärt (*1935), who celebrates his 85th birthday this year. Soloist Maki Namekawa, in an attractive kimono, was the co-creator of the work in every sense of the word: her left arm conducting in an often elegant gesture – in terms of providing testimony to conductor and orchestra, sometimes as soloist she sang softly, but in particular she shared in creating the form of conception for the richly-hued colour and dynamic structure of the piano sound. The audience kept bated breath; while the entire piece was being played, there was an inspiring, accommodating and tense silence (disturbed just once by a mobile ringtone which was luckily almost in tune with the orchestra). The outcome of this model of co-operation between orchestra, conductor and soloist was an excellent performance which the enthused audience rightly appreciated.
Opera plus, 19 September 2020
First Filharmonie Brno subscription concert a birthday celebration
The official launch of the new season was followed a week later by the first subscription concert. And it celebrated a total of two birthdays: Ludwig van Beethoven, born 250 years ago, and Arvo Pärt, who celebrated his 85th birthday last week. Unfortunately the celebration was also marked by a sad event, the death of Programme Director of many years, and founding member of Filharmonie, PhDr. Jiří Beneš. As such, the concert was also dedicated to Jiří in memoriam. Such is the way of life, where birth and death walk hand in hand. What is important, however, is what happens in between these two milestones.
But it was marvellous that the concert was held. At a time when the coronavirus is picking up pace again, and hygiene measures are becoming stricter, any cultural event is a miracle and demonstration of courage. The courage of the organisers, the artists and especially the audience. The fact that Brno’s Besední dům was entirely sold out demonstrates the strong support offered by the audience. The fact that they all came in facemasks and remained at the concert to the end demonstrates their strong will. And the fact that they rewarded the artists with enthusiastic applause demonstrates an expression of allegiance and support. The artists themselves did not wear facemasks during the performance. Although the conductor and soloist came in masks, they took them off for the performance. The orchestra is a compact one and its members need to have close contact and respond to each other, something that is impossible in a facemask. And nor is it possible to play a wind instrument in a facemask.
In terms of programme, the concert was very imaginatively conceived. Three overtures to Fidelio were played, Leonore No. 1 (Op. 138), Leonore No. 2 (Op. 72a) and Leonore No. 3 (Op. 72b), which is somewhat unusual for one evening. The audience had the unique opportunity to follow the composer as he matured, as he gradually rejected what he had written, replacing it with new arrangements. Composer Dennis Russell Davies interpreted the works in a classical manner which gave broad emotional scope to the dynamic and agogic contrasts and peaks. The delivery of each of the overtures also built up gradually, with the final one acquiring the greatest gravity and symphonic breadth. The orchestra also gave expression and colourful interpretation to the performance, alongside an energy deserving of the brilliant composer.
The evening’s zenith was a performance of a piece by Arvo Pärt, who is celebrating his 85th birthday, Lamentate for piano and orchestra. Its subtitle is “Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture ‘Marsyas’”. Simple passages reminiscent of falling drops of relaxing music broaden out into dissonant harmony. The piano goes from tender notes through melodic runs to romantic sections of melody, building up to heartrending harmonies created by fist strikes and dissonant broad chords, only to subsequently gradually recede, leading alongside instrumental solos to a lulling and the quiet dripping of water. An inspiring piece, calming and heartrending. The piano soloist was Japanese pianist, Maki Namekawa, the conductor’s wife. The emotion of the delivery, in particular the power and energy which she managed to give to the tone and expression despite her fragile constitution were impressive. Her performance mesmerised the audience and inspired enthusiasm.