More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
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22 March (24 March, image added)
The programme was directed by Thomas Gould (@ThomasGouldVLN) in Locatelli and Bach (arr. Sitkovetsky), and conducted by Carlos del Cueto in works by Tom Coult (@tomcoult) and Hans Abrahamsen
Known as The Goldberg Variations***, BWV 988 - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), arranged by Dmitry Sitkovetsky* (1954–)
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, conductor and violinist, is the uncle of British violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky (born in Moscow)
In 32 further paragraphs, an attempt to characterize Sitkovestsky’s arrangement and the performance, whose principal players, other than Thomas Gould himself (TG, associate leader of the Sinfonia), were (in order around the stage), Caroline Dearnley (CD, principal cello), Stephen Williams (SW, principal double-bass), Clare Finnimore (CF, principal viola), and Miranda Dale (MD, principal second violin) :
1. The aria à 5 for the principals – too early to say what Sitkovetsky has done ?
2. A cleanly executed bass-line, and, with orchestration as clear as Schoenberg’s of Brahms, this is going to be a pleasure !
3. Listening to the separation of the lines across the various string-groups…
4. A longer treatment of this variation, with a feel of a duet with TG, after CD has initially been to the fore (and in a style of voice that is reminiscent of the Cello Suites, BWV 1007–1012), and then with SW and MD joining in
5. Beautiful bass-lines, plus perfect tutti
6. Fun with fast writing for CD, playing with TG, who then duets with MD
7. A sensation as of swooning, to which touches from the double-basses are added, and then back as we were, before further slight touches, this time within the texture
8. The ambience passes to TG and CD again (and BWV 1007–1012 ?), with sympathetic accents from the former on what the latter is playing
9. An alternation between Lightly skating and Straight
10. A trio of TG, CD and MD, and with a gracious tone from him
11. We are passed from the desk of cellos to other desks, to bring out the line
12. CD duets with CF, with CD’s part, at first, complicated, till the complication moves to CF, and then TG enters, with a brief duet with CF
13. The mood that Sitkovetsky accesses is triumphant, but the tone and intensity ease off and back again, bringing out the detail in Bach’s writing
* 14. A scoring for obbligato violin (TG) and a small group (the violas and cellos)
15. A sense of energy, and Sitkovetsky identifies the tension, not least in the skittish cello-writing
16. Sparingly deploying the violas, against the brightness of the violins, then reducing to forces of TG’s heart-wrenching violin (with CD and CF), before going back up to full strength (minus double-basses), and back to trio mode – and are we not a little reminded of how BWV 1080 (Die Kunst der Fuge) seemingly ends mid air ?
17. An opening of flourishes, with first violins, cellos and double-basses, then to MD, across the stage from TG, and adding in CF and CD – an excitement to this, with the rare use of the basses
18. A variation for quartet, closing with a big smile from CD to TG
19. Restraint, and restrained elegance, which quietly come down
20. Pizzicato, played pp, to accompany the violas – the proverbial pin did not make its drop heard
21. With a pulse from the double-basses, a notion of tumbling, and with fast writing, alternating between TG and CF
* 22. The sadness is in the cellos, but moves to CD playing with CF, and with colour from TG blended in
23. A sprightly variation, with tremulous / trilling string-dazzle
24. TG opens, links with CD, who passes to MD, and with colour from SW
25. The mood of dance, with a pulse of basses, and Sitkovetsky brings out the writing through the second violins, and with further trills, but not dazzlingly this time
* 26. CF (joined by the violas), to which CD (and the rest of the desk) adds, is heard under TG, playing feelingly, and with a slightly jazzily inflected tone – as the section recurs first, one is beyond grief, and then, the second time, TG renders it very finely and tenderly
27. A stately treatment, moving to fast writing for CD, then for CF
28. CF alternates with MD, joined by SW, and then their desks alternate, with the strength of both double-basses, until we end with TG and CF
29. The variation has a clear quality of sheen to its opening section, but it becomes somewhat spiky, with TG playing against pizzicato strings, before the sheen reverts (for a while)
30. CD was clearly enjoying the cello gestures at the start, and it then went back and forth from TG to CD to MD to CF
31. Low and slowly paced bass-notes grounded a sense of unity, and, in the tutti, the ensemble as a whole became softer, fractionally quieter
32. To close, we had the quartet of TG, CD, CF, MD (later joined, in the under-texture, by SW), and, as Gould played molto espressivo, there were beauty, and pathos, and tears in this aria
Inevitably, there have to be a few more words than the 32 paragraphs…
No one quite felt free to applaud afterwards, such was the impact of this tremendous performance – and in no way restrained by the performers.
For, in her programme-notes, Jo Kirkbride had written ‘As the listener is led back, after Variation 30, to the Aria once more, its simplicity shines anew, basking in the reflection of all that has come in between’. Yet, although we had probably been there countless times before, with different performers and versions (Keith Jarrett’s recording, for ECM, on harpsichord had accompanied the journey to the venue), nothing felt quite like this :
The pride at our Britten Sinfonia, with this insightful performance, and our pleasure in the players whom we have not only followed down the years, but also come to know and to trust their judgement and intuition.
And, as Kirkbride says, this arrangement has been lovingly and painstakingly done, which was originally for the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, but we can always say that this was for his 330th (his birthday was 21 March, after all) !
In the first half, were works by Locatelli and by composers now alive, Tom Coult and Hans Abrahamsen : reviewed here (as Part I)
* Sitkovetsky dedicated his arrangement to Glenn Gould (no relation ?).
** As it stands, the account given is of this one work, in the second half of the concert – the rest of the review is a work in progress...
*** Printed, in 1641, as Clavier Ubung bestehend in einer ARIA mit verschiedenen Verænderungen vors Clavicimbal mit 2 Manualen
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)