2016年7月5日 星期二

Yan Pascal Tortelier & Jacob Koranyi (托替利亞及古朗尼)

The name Tortelier is special to me. Whilst I was a student, I had a friend called Hikaru Sato  He had a hairstyle very much like that of Simon Rattle/Jimi Hendrix with curls radiating in all directions. He did not speak much. I remember his eyes: small, sensitive, intense, penetrating but always as if trained upon something very very far away, somewhere distant, where his thoughts truly lay. I used to listen to him playing the cello in his dormitory  with force, with feeling. He later went to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris and got first prize in the cello as well as the first prize in chamber music and is now a cellist in the Orchestre de Paris and a member of the Quatuor à Cordes de Paris and the founding professor of Plan for Professional Musical and Orchestral Education  and for more than 20 years a professor at the Noisy-le-Grand Conservoire . He learned the cello from the famous French cellist and composer Paul Tortelier (1914-1990), the father of Yan Pascal Tortelier (b 1947), violinist and the guest conductor of the HKPO in its concert of the 21st May, 2016. 

The programme that evening was an almost all-French affair. All the pieces were from such composers as Ravel, Saint-Saens, Debussy, excepting only the last, which was by Richard Strauss. The first was a light-hearted piece by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), the Valses nobles and sentimentales. Ravel was a composer who really revels in the tone colors of different kinds of musical instruments, which he uses skilfully to create, not massive musical structures like those of a Beethoven or a Brahms but ever changing ephemeral and elusive moods. The orchestral version of this piece which consists of 7 waltzes with an epilogue, was first played in Paris in 1912, as part of the ballet Adelaide or the Language of the Flowers and was supposed to portray "the delightful and ever-fresh pleasures of a useless pastime". The musical directions were as follows:
1. Moderately fast, but very bold
2. Fairly slow, with intense expression
3. moderately fast
4. fairly animated
5. almost slow, intimate
6. lively
7. less fast
8. Epilogue: slow

The next piece was a more substantial work: Camille Saint-Saens' (1835-1921) famous Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op 33., one of his two cello concertos, which he wrote in 1872. The concerto is unusual in that its principal theme appears in different forms in all of its three movements I Allegro non troppo (moderately fast but not choppy) II Allegretto con moto (a little fast with motion) III Tempo primo (reverting to the original timing), so as to distinguish it from the conventional German form of the musical genre as a symbolic gesture French defiance of Germany in the wake of the crushing French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which immediately brought down the government of 2nd French Empire under Louis Napoleon, the nephew of Napoleon I. The concerto plunges dramatically right into the main theme from the very start and maintains its power throughout. One can feel the frustration, the roar of anger and the heroic attempt to overcome the forces of bleak fate, with only occasional brief respite in the slower, quieter and rather sad passages which strives again and again after taking its breath. This is evident in the powerful and forceful bass sound and the lilting strings which seem to encourage the cello never to give up. A very energetic and inspiring cello concerto indeed. As solo cellist, we had the Swedish Jacob Koranyi, who won the 2nd Grand Prix at the Rostropovich Competition in Paris in 2009 and all the first prizes in Swedish cello competitions. He gave a very spirited performance but he's not yet a Rostropovich. But we mustn't be too harsh on our young musicians. Everything takes time. He is excellent as he is. 

After the break, we had another celebrated impressionist piece from Claude-Achille Debussy (1862-1918), his Prelude to the L'Après-midi d'un Faun(the Afternoon of an Animal) written 1876 in which the French composer tried to re-create the fuzzy dream-like rhythmic effects of Mallarme's poem of the same name. The poem is one in which Mallarmé tries to create the mood of a hot and lazy afternoon in which the Greek god of the shepherd and wine, Pan, in the form of a man's head upon a deer-body, unsuccessfully tries to approach some beautiful forest nymphs playing on the grassy hillside and then dozes off in the heaviness of afternoon heat after they ran off. Nothing describes the piece better than the words of Debussy: "sequence of mood paintings through which the desires and dreams of the faun move in the afternoon heat.", The god Pan is "represented" by the flute whilst the quick fast and light notes of the harp are supposed to simulate the effect of glistening light of an idyllic  French summer in the countryside: the very image of a magical yet ineffable sensual desires, where everything is bathed in a hazy light. Tortelier did not disappoint at all.

The final piece of the evening was a tone poem whose form was made popular by such French composers as Berlioz, Debussy and Ravel. It was Richard Strauss' (1864-1949)Death and Transfiguration, (1889) of which he gave the following description, reproduced in the Programme Notes: "a tone poem [of] the dying hours of a man who had striven towards the highest idealistic aims, maybe indeed those of an artist. The sick man lies in bed, asleep, with heavy irregular breathing; friendly dreams conjure a smile on the features of the deeply suffering man; he wakes up; he is once more racked with horrible agonies; his limbs shake with fever. As the attack passes and the pains subside, his thoughts wander through his past life; his childhood passes before him, his youth with its strivings and passions and then, as the pains return, there appears to him the fruit of his life's path, the conception, the ideal which he has sought to realise, to present artistically, but which he has not been able to complete, since it is not for man to be able to accomplish such things. The hour of death approaches, the soul leaves the body in order to find gloriously achieved in everlasting space those things which could not be fulfilled here below". A fairly detailed description indeed. Specifically, the piece was dedicated to his friend Friedrich Rosch, who played a crucial role in encouraging him to write music in the new style.

Although some purists say that theoretically, music should NOT be 'about' anything except its own sound, its own structure, its own form, its own texture, its own rhythms, its own emotional ups and downs. They say that a description may restrict our interpretation and our appreciation of the piece, which theoretically, should stand and fall upon its own musical merits. But to me, it's always useful to have some hints as to what the music is "about" because it may help to focus our mind , our ears and our imagination on particular melodic themes and motifs which may recur more than once but in different forms and it adds to our appreciation of the music. It deepens our understanding of the piece. After all, not everyone is a professional musicologist! Wherever the truth may lie, this is a magnificent piece of music. One feels the mood of the dying moments of the hero, his struggle to stay alive and his yearning for heaven, his reminiscences of the artist's past and the struggle of the human spirit in the powerful rolls of the timpanis, the stridency of the brass and the surging and re-surging of emotions portrayed by the strings and moments of final peace.

The music could be divided into 4 parts as follows:
1  Largo (The sick man, nearing death)
2. Allegro molto agitato (The battle between life and death)
3. Meno mosso (The man's deathbed reminiscences)
4. Moderato (The transfiguration)

It was most satisfying  to be given the chance to experience so many different kinds of moods all in the course of one evening. The HKPO and Tortelier made a magnificent combination. I left in the lingering mood of the last piece.