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Summer Music in Switzerland

















A fortnight in the Alps, with no concert bookings, proved suprisingly rewarding musically.

Too late for this year's offering by Europe's highest opera company at Arosa, we instead chanced there upon the final concert of a bassoon masterclass working holiday.

Tokyo-based Professor Isamu Magome had brought 8 Japanese bassoonists to Switzerland for a week of workshop/masterclassses and concertising.


This was an exhilarating event, with a wide ranging programme of music by Weber, Tansman, Dutilleux, Devienne etc played by the students in turn, accompanied by Hiroko Imai. It culminated with a very successful arrangement by the group themselves of a Mozart piano-duet sonata, which I preferred to the original; conservatoire wind departments please note!

Their most accomplished soloist, Takeo Suzuki, had given a solo recital a week earlier and will be coming to Vienna for her further studies.

I was sorry not to hear Prof Magume himself play, but I received from him later a CD of two splendid Japanese bassoon concertos, which he has recorded on his lovely instrument with impressive technique and smooth, mellow tone: recommended for performing in UK:


Surprised to find themselves being reviewed by a London editor, afterwards the students were delighted to invite me for a photo session with the professor [L] and all the musicians.











At a few days stop-over in Lucerne on the way home, we attended the large, ornate Jesuit Church, completely packed for High Mass with Mozart's C minor Mass given in fine style, with Barbara Locher memorable in the famously demanding Et incarnatus est.








We were issued passes for Pierre Boulez's Lucerne Festival Academy at the famous KKL, and attended several rehearsals in the Lucerne Hall there, and in its foyer less formal concerts organised by members of this prestigious international assembly of gifted young musicians.




Regrettably, there had been but few British applicants. Trumpeter Tom Poulson, who is completing his studies at the RSAMD in Scotland, was the only one to have passed the rigorous qualifying routine. He took part in Boulez's meticulous preparations of Mahler No 6 (with some 100 musicians) and Stravinsky's Symphony of Wind Instruments, destined to be included in a forthcoming CD. Boulez's famous ear is as sharp as ever and the students give their all for him. The run through of the first movement sounded good to me, but he then embarked on the finest of fine tuning, with three more rehearsals of the symphony before it is due for performance, broadcast and recording on 5 September; that should really be something!


With a chamber orchestra grouping, soprano Olivia Stahn was persuausive in the centenarian Elliott Carter's What are years? (premiered at Aldeburgh by Claire Booth) and in Schoenberg'a Pierrot Lunaire [L].


Under the auspices of the Academy, we were able to join some of its students with 10 Fr. tickets in the main hall, for a mainly Schumann programme by the Leipzig Gewandhaus/Chailly; ecstatically received by a nearly packed festival audience but, in truth, far less interesting than any of the Academy events.





A group of the academicians gave a lively foyer concert to a large audience under the festival's Eros emblem [L]. The pianist deplored how far away they stretched, making his tapping and scratching of the piano's frame intriguing but almost inaudible; more robust was a loud and largely unison contribution from Andriessen.

On the evening we arrived at Lucerne from the high Alps, I was late for a tri-partite evening chamber concert (three hours music separated by two one-hour intervals !) and didn't last the course. I enjoyed ex-pat Rebecca Saunders' duo for two double basses and Gerard Pesson's wispy piano quartet, distantly related to the Adagio of Bruckner's No 7... Quite a sensation was made by Jonathan Harvey's Death of light, a take on the Grunewald Alterpiece; he's another of "ours" heard far more regularly abroad !

Harvey is creating waves with a very wide ranging and thoughtful interview, widely broadcast, in which he traverses all the "isms" of the last century or so and, on behalf of the young, challenges the "silly conventions of classical concerts", as exemplified (my examples) by the "dress code" at the Lucerne Festival, and the state of the art KKL Concert Hall where a totally silent and elaborately controlled listening environment has been created at enormous expense and prohibitive pricing...

But, in parallel, may the Lucerne Festival Academy long thrive, and attract the best of the Brits?

Peter Grahame Woolf