I recently found myself in a concert attending frenzy. In the midst of this I heard the same piece of music performed twice and Sophr, who I’ve not heard often, in two concerts. It caused me to ponder…
What factors influence our enjoyment of music performed live?
Shostakovich’s piano quintet was performed by the Sydney Omega Ensemble & Simon Tedeschi and Flinders Quartet & Dimitry Onishchenko. The work was written for the Beethoven Quartet and Shostakovich wrote himself into the work, allowing him to tour the piece extensively with the quartet. Interestingly the program notes from both concerts quote the recollection of Borodin Quartet original first violinist, Dubinsky:
For a time the Quintet overshadowed even such events as the football matches between the main teams. The Quintet was discussed in trams, people tried to sing in the street the second defiant theme of the finale.
They both performed well, although I found myself enjoying the performance by the Flinders Quartet & Dimitry Onishchenko more.
Peter McCallum at The Sydney Morning Herald said of the Omega performance:
In the Prelude and Fugue that starts the work, the players sustained an austere, brooding and alienated mood with a slow build-up, climax and aftermath of deathly stillness. The fine set of string players achieved a well-tuned, balanced performance.
Our Ambassador, Roger Donbavand said of the Flinders Quartet performance:
I felt this was a great performance and one that benefited from having a Russian playing the piano… Some of the music pays homage to another great composer of ‘the spirit’, Bach, and the Flinders really captured this. However for me the best part of the piece and the best part of the whole concert was in the Intermezzo which had some great duo playing by Helen Ayres on violin and Helen Ireland on viola. Sublime.
I’ve been questioning the factors behind my enjoyment of the two performances:
- Omega Ensemble was the second concert I’d gone to that night, so was I ‘music-ed-out’?
- Was I warmed up by the Omega performance and properly listened to the Flinders performance a few days later?
- I always enjoy it when a piece is introduced. Russian, Dimitry Onischenko introduced it with a story from his grandma about the time when it was written, while Omega didn’t introduce the works in their concert.
- I know the Flinders Quartet better than the members of Omega Ensemble and does that familiarity have an impact on how you listen to the performance?
- The way musicians engage on stage greatly impacts a performance for me. I call it stage flirt. It is something much more powerful among musicians who often perform together than a group arranged for a particular performance. However, this time, I can’t definitely make this comparison as Flinders Quartet have two original and two new members so while they’re a quartet, they’re still forming that long term affinity of four performers together.
I love the flexibility in programming that the Sydney Omega Ensemble has, and it is great to be able to go to a concert and be able to hear such a variety of music with the ability to configure musicians for the works. Sirius Chamber Ensemble has a similar flexibility, although as a smaller ensemble, who regularly have guest artists.
The other interesting ‘double-up’ I encountered was hearing Spohr. His songs were beautifully performed by soprano Goknur Shanal at Paddington Uniting Church, which I’d not been to before so I enjoyed taking in the space at the same time. She provided an introduction to each work which was great when hearing them for the first time. Sydney Omega Ensemble performed Septet for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Violin, Cello and Piano in A minor. Which after hearing the songs and enjoying them it was great to explore more of Sophr’s music which they performed well after Tedeschi’s dominance in the first movement.
The concerts I’m referring to were:
Sirius Chamber Ensemble on Saturday night:[list type=’arrow’]
- Shostakovich – piano trio no.2
- Prokofiev – flute sonata – flute, piano
- Martinu – Nonet – wind quintet, violin, viola, cello, bass
A specially arranged group on Wednesday night:[list type=’arrow’]
- Spohr – 6 German Songs
- Russian Art Songs by Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov & Tchaikovsky
- Ravel – Sheherazade
Saturday night started with Australia Quartet:[list type=’arrow’]
- Gustav – Mahler Piano Quartet in a minor
- Alfred Schnittke – Piano Quartet (after Mahler)
- Elena Kats-Chernin – ‘Winter’ from The Seasons arr. piano quartet
- Josef Suk – Piano Quartet in a minor, Op. 1
- Francaix – Quartet for winds
- Spohr – Septet for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Violin, Cello and Piano in A minor, Op 147
- Strauss – Capriccio, Op 85
- Shostakovich – Quintet for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op 57
On Tuesday, Flinders Quartet:[list type=’arrow’]
- Ian Munro – Divertissement sur le nom d’Erik Satie
- Ravel – String Quartet in F major
- Shostakovich – Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57