The Long Boom comes to an end

On Monday night I went to hear the Goldner Quartet with pianist Stephen Osborne at Angel Place City Recital Hall – a Musica Viva concert.

That I went owes something to MV general manager Mary-Jo Capps’s devilish cunning: having accepted a free ticket from her last year after complaining to her about the heavy-handed promotion of this -year’s Musica Viva series, I felt somehow obliged to take things further.  Anyway, the program was attractive, even allowing for the incredibly awkward 7 pm start time which required me to rush home very early indeed for the requisite nap and, because of a (possibly unfounded) fear about parking at that hour, take the train back in.

In the foyer, I ran into Justice H, whom I had appeared before earlier that day.  He told me that his wife takes his mother-in-law to the MV concerts, but that G QC (whom I also know) usually had a spare ticket, and he was hoping to get in by this means.  This struck me as a remarkably insouciant attitude, but also confirmation of the 6-degrees-of-separation thesis that the rich most like giving favours to each other.  I saw later that H J had successfully made contact.

The program was:

Richard MILLS
String Quartet no 1(revised 2007)
Performed by Goldner String Quartet

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH
Piano Quintet in G minor, op 57

Claude DEBUSSY
Préludes (Book 1), nos 6–10 (1910)
Performed by Steven Osborne
[Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the Snow): Triste et lent
Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest (What the West Wind has seen): Animé et tumultueux
La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair): Très calme et doucement expressif
La sérénade interrompue (Interrupted Serenade): Modérément animé
La cathédrale engloutie (The Engulfed Cathedral): Profondément calme ]

Robert SCHUMANN
Piano Quintet in E flat major, op 44

Mills is Musica Viva’s featured composer this year. Dene Olding gave a narrative account of his quartet which would probably madden Mills. It started from the well-known characterisation of a string quartet as a civilized conversation, and warped this into a drama of a bridge game between two couples (the Goldner Quartet, who are also the string core of the Australia Ensemble, is two married couples) which goes rather badly wrong, leading to some heated recriminations before, as Dene put it, everything being made right on the way home in the car. I couldn’t really put that quite homely (if rather Musica-Viva oriented) narrative aside and listen to the music properly at all after that.

The Shostakovich lived up to expectations, but (possibly because I was thinking of the trio) ended more mildly than I expected.

It was odd hearing a slab of Debussy preludes in this way. That said, Osborne’s approach really grew on me, and by the end of La cathedrale engloutie (which was obviously where he was planning on heading when he chose these 6 preludes) he had the audience eating out of his hands – even some chronic and unmuted coughs did not break the culminating “profound calm.”

But it was really the Schumann I had come to hear, and I was not disappointed. I remember EN once offering the opinion to me that Schumann was really rather a minor or second-rank composer. At the time I thought he was wrong and this performance reminded me why. I think that is an impression based on a superficial assessment of composers’ pecking orders based on well-kn own orchestral works. For a pianist, it is a difficult view to hold, and equally if one takes into account the richness of his vocal and chamber music legacies. The quintet is thoroughly engrossing, in a dramatic and romantic way.

At interval, I also ran into J and Lx.  They are now both AIDSocrats.  We discussed the David Russell case (because G QC is appearing in his appeal) and also the more recent (so far as the denouement is concerned) and tangledly tragic Robert Sharwood case (you’ll have to google about this yourself for the time being because there is no single convenient link) in the train on the way home.  It may have been too much for some of our fellow travellers.

This is not intended as a boast, but because of the Mardi Gras film festival and associated events, not all of which I have yet blogged about here for an obvious reason, this was (starting on February 15) the 18th straight night in a row when I had been out for some kind of entertainment – that is, either a film or a live performance. I am sure that this is a record for me. It has come to an end: on Tuesday night I stayed at home.

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