Monday, 7 February 2011

Kurtág's Ghosts - Wigmore Hall

György Kurtág plays the sweeping glissandi in his Perpetuum Mobile. The page is marked with sweeping curves, not conventional notation. Yet the simplicity's deceptive - hear the humorous trill! This is one of the miniatures in Játékok, hence the whimsy and sense of cryptic allusion.  Music has to be fun to be creative. Paradoxically, real freedom comes from mastering technique and figuring what a composer's trying to do. This is the composer himself playing.

Last week I attended Julian Philips's Kurtág workshop at the Wigmore Hall. Anything Philips does is interesting. He's a composer and teacher of composition, so he knows what goes into the process of writing and performing  He's formidably knowledgeable yet also a fluent, natural communicator whose enthusiasm lights up whatever he's discussing. He's a worthy successor to the Wigmore Hall tradition forged by men like Graham Johnson and Eric Sams. If I could go to everything he does, I would. Last Wednesday's workshop was full of insight, and the audience were good too, asking real questions Two of Philips's doctoral students, Edward Pick and Rebecca Miles, played excerpts of Kurtág and one of Pick's own works. Nothing dumbed down here, utterly fascinating

I skipped workshop 2 on the social context  The best source on this subject is Rachel Beckles Willson whose two books on the subject HERE and HERE are absolutely indispensible.  If she'd been giving the workshop it would have been ideal as she knows the composer well.  Also read  Richard Steinitz's work on Ligeti.  There's a lot around on the subject.

But I will definitely not miss workshop 3 on Wed 9th. Rolf Hind will be there, talking about Kurtág as a person. Who a composer is does affect his music  and the way it's interpreted. We've been fortunate that Kurtág has often appeared in London and at Aldeburgh, but there's nothing like hearing someone like Rolf Hind who has worked with him. Kurtág is a charismatic person, but elusive.  I've seen him reduce a singer to tears because she couldn't manage his idiom.  Marta, his wife, broke in and admonished him. Marta and György are so close it's like watching symbiosis, even though they're each very individual. 

The workshops are followed by a concert, "Kurtág's Ghosts", with Marino Formenti, a bracing collage of fragments from Bach, Machaut, Boulez, Schumann, Stockhausen and Kurtág himself   The idea of playful montage is very Kurtág and reflects his thing for embedding references into his work. If you can't make it, there's a recording and an excerpt below. But there's nothing like being there live.  Connections! Connections! Pierre-Laurent Aimard , a keen adventurer in the field of collage-montage,, once said "You need to hear patterns", ie, how ideas adapt.  Don't forget, on 18th Feb Kurtág's Kafka Fragments. If you didn't like the Dawn Upshaw version at the Barbican, do not despair! Juliane Banse and Andras Keller are the real thing, the finest exponents of this masterpiece 

No comments: