Despite all the trials and tribulations of Covid, and the increasingly worrying political situation in Eastern Europe, it’s so comforting to know that local musical events are getting back to some semblance of normality, even if there is still a deal of uncertainty hanging over us just now.
The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth’s Musica Viva concert series is going from strength to strength, and the latest event – ‘Expressionism: Emotions Unchanged’ is a week-long festival which offers a unique integration of pivotal music, visual art, and film from this most energetic and vibrant era of unbounded influence – Expressionism.
Once again Bob Taub – Music Director of The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth took a leading role in planning the week’s programme, alongside interdisciplinary colleagues from the University, and other visiting academics.
But, of course, Bob is also a highly-acclaimed concert pianist in his own right, so was ideally placed to take charge of the first half of the evening – and investigation into the musical development of Alexander Scriabin, by way of a specially-targeted selection of five of his piano works which perfectly illustrate the composer’s stylistic development from the ‘heart-on-sleeve’ Étude in C sharp minor, Op 2 No 1, to his enigmatic and surreal-sounding Tenth Sonata, Op 70.
The second half was given over to a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s iconic ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ – a song cycle of settings of twenty-one poems by Albert Giraud.
Since the first Musica Viva concert, the informal, half-hour pre-concert talk has proved invaluable, firstly by creating a more informal ambiance, and where the respective artists could give a few hints and suggestions for the listeners, to augment the already copious, and erudite programme-notes Bob had produced. Mezzo-soprano, Alison Wells, was probably right in estimating the percentage of audience-members who had heard the work before, so her brief, but very pertinent demonstration of ‘Sprechstimme’ was decidedly useful to us Pierrot-newcomers present.
The work is conceived for six instrumentalists, and voice, performed tonight by the Kokoro Ensemble. If you care to Google ‘Kokoro’, the first search usually returns, ‘Korean Japanese takeaway’. Clearly I needed to delve further, since the Kokoro Ensemble is actually the name of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s no-less-tasty group of musicians, dedicated to promoting the works of twentieth and twenty-first-century composers, here with their Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser, Mark Forkgen.
Given that the weather outside was decidedly wild and windy, it was good to see a large audience assembled, when the music was equally wild at times, and sometimes even more so, inside..
You can read my full review here at Seen and Heard International.
Philip R Buttall
Top image: from left tonight, Mark Forkgen, Robert Taub, Alison Wells, Linel Handy – credit Philip R Buttall
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