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Friday, 28 November 2014

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part III)

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part III)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

28 November

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part III)

Our guest soloist at The Corn Exchange (@CambridgeCornEx) in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Japanese-born Noriko Ogawa – as well as the work itself – forms the focus for this posting

That said, there is also a soloist for organ on the programme, in the shape of Oliver Condy, for Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 in C Minor*, Op. 78 (and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances**)

For those who would like a taste of Ogawa’s playing, she can be heard here (for 30 days from Friday 7 November) on In Tune (@BBCInTune), talking to Radio 3’s (@BBCRadio3blog’s) Suzy Klein, along with fellow judge and head of the panel for Dudley International Piano Competition, John Humphreys, with whom she plays some duets.

Ogawa also gives a lot more out than when performing, as her web-site shows : as mentioned, she is an adjudicator, but additionally a teacher (including at The Guildhall), and has raised funds for the Red Cross Japanese Tsunami Appeal, and The Japan Society (in continuation of that work).

Ten years ago, Ogawa started giving Jamie’s Concerts to provide a sort of musical oasis : they are named after Jamie Mather, the son of Janice, both of whom she came to know when she lodged with Janice and could see how Jamie’s severe autism affected Janice and him. The concerts are not only a practical support for carers through the therapy of music being played for them, but have also helped raised awareness for the demands that they face. She has now just become a Cultural Ambassador of The National Autistic Society.

The opening movement (Allegro con brio) has a very hushed introduction before what then feels like an explosion of sound – just as, in the same time-frame (although it opens with abrupt initial chords), Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (in E Flat Major, Op. 55) goes on to make a very strong statement of the principal theme. The concerto and symphony were composed three or four years apart, and first performed – nearly to the day – within two years of each other :

5 April 1803 :

* This concerto - in C Minor, Op. 37

* Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36

* Christ on the Mount of Olives (Christus am Ölberge), Op. 85 (oratorio)

On 7 April 1805, his Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 was first publicly performed (the same year as the first version of Fidelio (with the Leonora Overture No. 2)), but seemed, to some, in the shade of Anton Eberl's Symphony in E Flat Major

In this concerto that Ogawa is bringing to Cambridge, she can be heard, via YouTube, in a nine-minute excerpt that concludes the first movement. Her playing is characterized by a feeling of fluidity, but also reflecting, at other moments, the lugubrious or hesitant character of the writing : repeated notes, sustained trills, and a sense of danger, summed up in the querulous undertones of the final chord.

In a performance by Mitsuko Uchida (with The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Mariss Jansons), the Largo*** is, at times, extremely hushed and tender – with Uchida’s entranced engagement with, and responsiveness to, the dynamics and mood of the quieter sections of the orchestral accompaniment :

Since the movement (not least as Uchida plays) begins almost like a meditation or prayer, and it leads to, and so sets up, the livelier rhythmicity of the Rondo – Allegro, might we likewise see Ogawa communicating with key players of the reeds and woodwind – particularly with the principal flute, who has a near-duet with her (and which is an instrument that is to the fore in the concerto’s closing moments) ?

Also, Wikipedia® has a lengthy list of first-movement cadenzas composed by others (more than a dozen, including by pianists Wilhelm Kempff and Franz Liszt). Might we find ourselves surprised by hearing not Beethoven’s written-out ones, but someone else’s ? – or could there even be one improvised afresh on the stage of The Corn Exchange… ?

One says ‘afresh’, because, without wanting variation for the sake of it, music played is only music as long as it lives, and has life


* The same key as the concerto.

** Which, by long tradition, have been extracted from his opera Prince Igor - rather as the so-called Manfred Overture by Schumann…

*** It starts at around 16:41. It is curious : Look, alongside this one, for the top listings for performances of this Concerto, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, on, and Krystian Zimerman, Evgeny Kissin and Uchida not only all finish before the thirty-eighth minute, but within no more than twelve seconds of each other.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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