One of the delights of the Edinburgh Festival is its ability to throw up unexpected gems. One of these was yesterday's recital given by pianist Simon Smith, to commemorate Stockhausen's would-have-been-birthday.
Whereas larger scale events were taking place today and yesterday – here in Edinburgh a ballet set to the Helicopter Quartet (a piece also streamed live from Birmingham Opera); the first ever staging of the opera, 'Mittwoch' in Birmingham …. - this was a tribute on a smaller scale. Nevertheless it was a serious and important tribute to this challenging composer by a musician who knows and appreciates his works really well. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to watch this dedicated and inspiring performance – perhaps the highlight of this year's festival so far for me - and to boot, it was free (retiring collection for church funds/concert expenses) !
Watching this performance was exciting, and the repertoire chosen gave a good insight into Stockahusen's work and the evolution of his style, ranging from 1955 to 1984. The opening piece, Klavierstuck XIV, subtitled 'Birthday Formula' – with its chanted German numbers and hissing and clacking sounds - showed the debt to this composer which is owed by George Crumb's 'Black Angels'. A range of earlier pieces wer then offered; one dedicated to Pierre Boulez on the occasion of his 60th birthday; one exploring the resonances the piano could give to the single note of middle C sharp and one where the durations of notes , bars and gestures is determined by the Fibonacci mathematical series. A longer final work, 'Lucifer's Dream' then concluded the recital, based on the opening scene of the opera 'Samstag' from the sequence 'Licht', originally for bass voice and piano. It is the most dramatic of the pieces and includes extended techniques and two bundles sof Indian bells suspended at the ends of the piano.
Simon Smith studied with Giles Swayne and has performed and recorded the complete piano music of James MacMillan, whose music was also performed at a later event in Edinburgh on the same day, as well as piano work by Stuart McRae, whose new chamber opera I will be reporting on next week.
By Juliet Willaims