Hard to believe it is already the second half of this jam-packed, music-filled Adam Chamber Music Festival, but there you go. The question is, will the second half rattle to an explosive end or will it work towards a gentle and relaxing finish? No doubt our bloggers will reveal all as it unfolds. And here returning for Day Six is contributor ‘Tristan’…
Tuesday 3 Feb – from ‘Tristan’ (written 4 Feb)
This was the day of the lake: when some of the music and the pass holders go to St Arnaud on Lake Rotoiti; the Ying Quartet will play in the lovely little chapel whose windows give on the beech forest and to the distant mountains. We walk to the School of Music (for old time’s sake) where the bus will depart at 9.30am. The uncertainty of the weather, though the sun was shining then, means there is a wide variety of dress, from optimists to pessimists: I am in the middle with a light jacket and proper shoes.
Most of the way is through varied farmland and the string of townships south of Nelson till we turn off after about half an hour; the road becomes more winding and we travel through more plantation forest; almost no native trees apart from an occasional patch of totara till within about five miles of St Arnaud. Why did the State allow land sales and native forest felling for exotics so close to the site? However, the immediate environment is largely beech.
After morning tea at the Visitor Centre we go to the little chapel where the Ying Quartet is already seated, backs to the windows, while the audience gets lovely views of close kanuka and more distant beech.
The acoustic is gorgeous in the small timbered space with its curved laminated beams that create the suggestion of a vaulted gothic crossing; and the first few minutes are spent wallowing in the immediacy of the individual and collective sounds of the Haydn first movement. Here we could enjoy even better the quartet’s elegant and sensitive playing, Haydn’s wit and teasing, all with such care for the ebb and flow of phrases and dynamics.
The programme is Haydn, Op 20 No 4, Tchaikovsky, Quartet No 1 and a trio by Anthony Ritchie, entitled Spring String Trio. The Tchaikovsky drew more power and drama from the players, their painstaking attention to fluctuating dynamics and rhythmic effects more exploited.
In introducing Ritchie’s little piece, in which leader, Ayano Ninomiya stood down, giving the violin part to second violin Janet Ying, Phillip Ying referred to the piece as Spring String Ying Trio. Though commissioned as a birthday present, its tone was initially serious though quite brisk: getting older is no laughing matter. Its slower second section fastened its place as a small but substantial work.
It was a delight to hear Janet Ying’s fine, confident violin playing, unobscured by the leader’s dominance, which is the common fate of the second violin.
Back in Nelson, it was the turn of the four pianists participating in PianoFest III, to chat with Helene Pohl. As well as exploring each pianist’s early experiences, and how a commitment to a professional career emerged, there was interesting discussion on the sense or otherwise of multi-pianist performances such as we had at the first and second ‘PianoFests’: the consensus was that it was fundamentally an eccentricity and perhaps stupid, except for Schubert’s which were justified as a means of getting very close to members of the opposite sex. (As a post-script on Wednesday as I post this, another exception arises: at the 1pm concert a simply glorious arrangement by Czerny of the emotionally rich music from Bellini’s Norma, and the terminal craziness of Stephen de Pledge with Carmen – but that’s for tomorrow).
Kathryn Stott’s major piano recital was in the evening. It demonstrated her special interest in French music with Ravel’s Sonatine, a nocturne by Fauré, L’Isle joyeuse by Debussy and Franck’s formidable Prelude, chorale and fugue. Their variety, and the rare hearing of the splendid Franck made it a memorable and, for the many probably unfamiliar with Franck, a revelatory event. The second half was dominated by Stott’s illuminating playing of the original piano version of Grieg’s Holberg Suite, too rarely heard, that restored Grieg’s place as a great piano composer; the rest was from South America, Villa-Lobos’s Choros No 5, Guanieri’s Danza negra and Ginastera’s Dance No 2 from Argentinian Dances. It ended terrifyingly with a rather extended, killer piece she commissioned from Graham Fitkin, called Relent, evidently a mark of his sense of humour since its speed, ferocity, complexity and sheer impossibility for anyone less than a Stott, was utterly unrelenting.