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Goldsmiths College PureGold Festival June 2008

A rewarding series of concerts open to the public have been given at Deptford Town Hall; those covered by Musical Pointers had attracted but small audiences.

Denisov, Gubaidulina, Prokofiev & Schnittke

Lunchtime Recital ‘Soviet Music and Beyond’

Schnittke - Serenade; Kirsty McLennan (clarinet), David Larkin (violin), Claire Larkman (double bass), Diana Cook (piano) and Gerard Rundell (percussion)
Prokofiev - 3 Balmont Songs Op 36; Hamish Gallie (baritone) & Tamiko Sakvaralidz
Denisov - Sonata for flute and guitar; Laura Jay and Angelo Nicoli
Gubaidulina - Quaternion; Alexander Ivashkin, Natalia Pavlutskaya, Alissa Lyubarskaya and Rebecca Turner (cellos)

Goldsmiths College Centre for Russian Music PureGold Festival
Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall, 2 June 2008

This was a remarkably enterprising event emanating from the primarily academic Centre for Russian Music at Goldsmiths, which also houses Prokofiev and Schnittke archives. Their programme as given is listed above in reverse order and would have made a better concert thus !

The ironically titled 3 movement Serenade is "a good work", so I was assured afterwards, but have yet to be persuaded... A jolly, raucus din, dominated by screeching clarinet, piano insides and enthusiastic percussioning, it was one of Schnittke's first sorties into 'polystylism', quoting Beethoven, Rimsky, Tchaikovsky etc... Three Prokofiev songs whetted the interest in an oeuvre which is not too well known here (I once produced an LP with four of them). His Balmont songs are poetic and evocative and were prepared diligently by Hamish Gallie & willing collaborators, but their performances would have got across to us better sung in English and with transliterations of the original Cyrillic texts provided in the carefully prepared programme booklet.

Edison Denisov's sonata from his last year made a tremendous impression in the sensitive account by Laura Jay, supported by Angelo Nicoli. It spins unending melody, free from the constraints of bar lines and the limitations of the usual twelve notes scale, with pitch bends and microtonality giving it an evolving naturalness in the incorporation of extended techniques, with the guitar coming into its own in the third movement, Serenade. There was an LP of it (Dabringhaus and Grimm MD+G 1249) and I hope Laura will record her evocative performance & send me a copy...

An equally valuable rarity was Sofia Gubaidulina's Quaternion, prepared to the highest professional standard by Prof. Ivashkin and his colleagues (who included Natalia Pavlutskaya, a famous cello teacher in Russia). It is a far ranging, dramatic work of some 20 minutes, with two of the cellos tuned a quarter-tone down for a 'shadow' contrast, seeking "a transition to another level of reality - - joy of transfiguration"... In the acoustically sympathetic former Council Chamber (save for Deptford's traffic outside) the four cellos made a sonorous impact, as grand as that of the more often heard cello octets such as Conjunto Iberico. See the MusicalPointers review of Quaternion in a notable Gubadulina CD.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Cello recitals: Alexander Ivashkin & Anzél Gerber - both partnered by Alekzander Szram (piano)
10 & 12 June at Deptford Town Hall

Alexander Ivashkin, a much recorded protegé of Rostropovich's, is Professor of Music at Goldsmiths and Director of the Centre for Russian Music, and on 10 June he played a Bach duo sonata and Carter's cello sonata in honour of the still active composer's 100th birthday. The latter work sounded rather recondite and uninvolving on this occasion; it was an early exploration of rhythmic complexities and independence between the two players, that perhaps limiting a feeling of rapport between the players on this occasion.

Anzél Gerber's concert was given in part fulfilment of her PhD in performance practice; she has been researching comparison of training systems for cellists in various countries including Russia and South Africa. It was a notable event, with accounts of two of my favourite cello sonatas (Beethoven's op 102/1 and Britten's only cello sonata) as finely considered and performed as any I need to hear; fully comparable with those I have on recordings. Unaccompanied, she gave a rare hearing to Goerge Crumb's early solo sonata and the duo finished with Anton Rubinstein's Sonata Op 18 (1852), likely unknown to we few listening there.

This was all impressive music making, Anzél Gerber involved and communicative, seemingly unfazed that this was both examination and concert. Her pianist relished the near virtuosity of the piano part, yet discreetly so, with the balance excellent and the cellist never upstaged, as could happen all too easily wth such dense piano writing. Aleksander Szram, despite this being but one of many recitals he had been 'accompanying' at a busy time, was in complete command of this difficult repertoire, and his attentiveness to his soloist, always looking to her bow, was reminiscent of Menahem Pressler's way in the Beaux Arts Trio. PGW

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