Who reads reviews?

Posted on November 18th, 2011 by

My colleagues and I have been recently discussing, energetically, to say the least, what the point of music criticism might be? Then, as if some one was listening, two very different reviews appeared which offer answers, one from a Swedish Newspaper, the other from a music appreciation courses for a collaborative online program run by several colleges and universities in Tennessee. The latter was fowarded to me by Jessica Raposo DMA, who is teaching the course. Jessica was a fantastic student at the RAM a few years ago-it is wonderful to see her involved in something so idealistic.

15 november 2011 10.12 SYDSVENSKAN


”Stråkar som skär på djupet”

Kreutzer Quartet

15 november 2011 10.12 SYDSVENSKAN

Connectfestivalen:Palladium i Malmö, 13.11

By: Matti Edén

Klichén säger att svenskar är världens mest hemmablinda folk. Det skall till en tysk för att påminna oss om Allan Petterssons storhet, och i söndags på Palladium lyfte den engelska stråkkvartetten Kreutzer Quartet fram Dag Wiréns fjärde kvartett – en helt annan musik än vardagsmaten Serenaden.

Som en del av Connectfestivalen, en festival för ny musik arrangerad av Musikhögskolan och Musik i Syd men också som en av Salomon Smiths Kammarmusikförenings attraktioner, visade engelsmännen att det är lönt för lyssnaren att borra sig igenom Hilding Rosenbergs elfte kvartett — om musikern ansträngt sig tillräckligt att bena ut det viktiga ur denna intensiva tolvtonsbaserade musik.

Där Wirén använder sig av några enstaka och lätt igenkännbara figurer som förvandlas genom satserna, bearbetar Rosenberg sina teman och pressar dem framåt i trånga tunnlar.

Båda är femtiotalsstycken. Då liksom nu vill man gärna sätta etiketten Traditionalist på Wirén och Förnyare på Rosenberg. Men Kreutzerkvartettens lyhörda musicerande visar att detta är en förenkling. Essensen av Rosenberg kanske ligger närmare Bach, och kanske är Wiréns sätt att värdesätta upprepningen och smälta in element av blues mer framåtpekande?

Ungefär samtidigt i England satt tonåringen Peter Maxwell Davies och skrev ett kort stycke fullproppat av idéer, “Quartet Movement”. Att det fick ligga i skrivbordslådan många år beror nog på att det är svårspelat. Men Kreutzer navigerar ledigt mellan olika tonarterna och i de rytmiska skarvarna mellan rakt beat och svängigt, en förmåga som också kommer väl till pass i David Matthews tolfte stråkkvartett, generös både till formatet och antalet stilar. Musiken växlar från orkestralt flöde till stilla passager av ren fågelsång, och ibland kommer partier som inte står Benjamin Britten efter i känslighet.

Vilken kontrast till Daniel Börtz. Hans andra stråkkvartett (1971) är kortfattad men kusligt förtätad. Han går rakt på kärnan. Den framträder när Kreuzer går längst ut i hörnen.

Concert Report #1:Jessica Anderson

I attended a performance by Peter Sheppard Skarved, a violinist, at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Nursing on Monday, September 19th 2011. My husband, Joseph attended the performance with me. He was not as excited as I was to go but I felt he needed a little culture in his life. He wound up being pleasantly surprised as was I. I had never been necessarily a fan of the violin maybe because I just didn’t understand it. However, I am glad that I gave it a chance. I had expected to be in the auditorium seating of the building but when we got there we were lead on stage by the ushers. I was not the only one who was taken by surprise. As people walked on the stage, I could see the confusion on their faces. The chairs were set in a semi-circle around the podium in the center. I could tell that this was going to be an up close and personal performance. Although difficult at times to understand Skarved with an English accent, I could tell immediately that he was a man of humor. He liked to make us laugh throughout his entire performance. He told stories and history of the music in between each piece. It wasn’t just that he did this that impressed me, but it was the way he told the stories. He told the history of each piece and what he enjoyed about the music. He pointed out the different things about each piece to be aware of and what he would stand out to us. For someone with very minimal background in Classical Music, this was very much appreciated. It helped me to understand the music better, understand what I was hearing and be able to appreciate it that much more. I enjoyed the violin playing and could tell many things about what the music means. The violin tells a story or portrays an emotion. As he was playing certain pieces I could picture a familiar movie scene and what the emotion of the movie was at that present moment.

Skarved played music from Niccolo Paganini, a legend violin player in the 1800s. He began with a piece called Rosary Sonata No. 16 by Biber written in 1676 during the Baroque Period. He gave a brief history before playing the piece and you could tell this was a favorite of his. However, I can imagine that this would be how he felt about every piece he played. This particular piece was what I would consider very random in tempo, volume and texture. It is hard to explain, but it was slow then fast, low then high. This piece started out very slow and then would become very brisk at times but then slowing again. There were also many places were you would hear a cadence. But it would be a false cadence because then he would start playing again. This being the first song I was very confused about how I was going to explain Classical Music and what I felt. Skarved then played a slightly later piece by Paganini: The Caprice No. 13 which Skarved said was nicknamed “Devil’s Laughter.” This was written during the Romantic Period. This piece was very moderate in its tempo and very sharp volume and texture. I understood very quickly why it was nicknamed “Devil’s Laughter.” I found his form in playing very purposeful and sharp. His motions were very short and I believe that it was created this evil chuckling sound. He continued on to play multiple Caprices that he did not name that were by Paganini in short pieces with brief introductions to each. I could tell that he had a lot of appreciation for Paganini’s work as he said many times. He wanted to show us the vast degree of his work and his pieces were not the same every time. After the works of Paganini, he went on into my favorite piece: Elliot Schwartz’s piece called “Jefferson-Solioquy and Remembrance. This piece as I understand it was written this past summer, August 2011 and was débuted that night. He began of course with a story about what the song was written about. The story really caught my attention and I played the story in my mind as I listened to the music. It was about a colleague of Paganini’s, Marchesi, who had an affair with an artist who was later in a relationship with Thomas Jefferson. This piece was also very random and unusual in its performance. It was soft at times and then abrupt and deep. I loved the occasional pluck of the violin for affect. I could picture this song in a Disney cartoon as the background music in a happy and then serious part that was leading up to an unusual event. At one point Skarved even sings softly words from the Declaration of Independence, which I did not realize until he told us after the piece was over. He then played a few more modern pieces that were written this summer. One was by a professor there at the Blair School of Music, Michael Alec Rose. His piece was entitles “Air.” I thought this piece was very sensitive and very modern in sound. The last few pieces were by Paul Osterfield, a Middle Tennessee State University Professor. Osterfield had written 24 Caprices in Paganini style this past summer in one month. These pieces were very impressive and seemingly would be very difficult to play for just anyone. It seemed many times like his fingers should get tangled up in each other. These pieces were fast in tempo for the most part with an occasional slowing and lowering of tempo and volume.

I enjoyed Peter Sheppard Skarverd’s Performance and thought he did an amazing job at giving me a look into the world of the violin from the 17th century until now. I thought his approach to the concert was very bold. He wanted his audience right there with him, not scattered out all over the room. He took great pride in his knowledge of the material, gave each composer the credit the deserved and each piece came out sounding as if he had been playing them for 20+ years. Pretty amazing considering a lot of the pieces had just been written a little over a month ago. That proves to me that Skarverd knows his technique and works very hard at mastering the skills that it takes to put on this performance. I also loved that the concert seemed at times like a play as Skarverd narrated everything he did. I really just expected him to come on stage, play the violin and we were expected to follow along with the program in front of us as best we could. Understanding these pieces and the entire performance would have been extremely difficult if he had not done this. I loved his enthusiasm and the drama he put into his stories and the history of the songs. I am also glad that he used a range of songs with different characteristics. I enjoyed the soft songs with the long smooth strokes and the intense pieces with the harsh abrupt movements. He was very animated during his performance and you could tell that he put his self, in its entirety into every single note that he played. I would love to and hope to someday have the opportunity to see Peter Sheppard Skarverd play again.