PARRY SOUND - As Week One of the Festival of the Sound unfolded, we were treated to some of the finest Beethoven playing to be heard today.
Tuesday, July 24, marked the Canadian debut of noted British pianist Martin Roscoe. That’s a debut that should have happened years ago, based on the music-making heard from Roscoe this week.
In separate concerts, Roscoe played three of the better-known Beethoven piano sonatas with a meticulous attention to detail and a level of musicality far beyond some much better-known names.
Phrases were carefully shaped and notes clearly articulated from moment to moment, yet each movement, each sonata, developed into a natural organic unit in his hands.
Just as marvellous was his work as chamber pianist when he joined with three members of the popular New Zealand String Quartet in the Piano Quartet No. 2 by Brahms.
This large-scaled piece invites symphonic treatment, but Roscoe kept the symphonic-scale playing for a few select passages at climaxes. Some pianists are known for blowing their string colleagues out of the water with Brahms’ heavy-duty piano writing. The string players and pianist meshed seamlessly as if they had performed the piece together for years.
On Friday night, Martin Roscoe joined with the Afiara Quartet in Dvorak’s Piano Quintet No. 2. This performance had a heavier, more symphonic style from both pianist and strings, but the precision remained intact and all the performers found the necessary lighter tone of fantasy in the third movement scherzo.
In a different kind of music, Adrian Fung of the Afiara Quartet was invited by Jim Campbell to plan several concerts as a Guest Artistic Director. Fung’s unorthodox but fascinating choices included a young composer-in-residence, Dinuk Wijeratne. Along with Wijeratne in two concerts came the unique Indian instrument, the tabla, played by Ed Hanley. Hanley used only his hands to coax dozens of different types and qualities of musical sound out of what looked like a simple pair of drums. Watching the speed of his fingers at work was a mesmerizing experience. Wijeratne’s improvising and playing ability at the piano went right along with Hanley for dynamism.
Another of Fung’s unique concerts used Elvis Presley as a point of departure for some unique musical explorations. Especially intriguing were the uses made of pre-recorded sound as well as of sound recorded and played back while the performance unfolded.
For total entertainment value, you couldn’t beat the noon concert entitled “The Storied Harp” on Wednesday. Lori Gemmell not only drew the usual heavenly scales and plucked chords from her instrument but also struck and slapped the strings, and drew metal picks across them. At the same time she had to play quick notes and passages on half-a-dozen assorted percussion instruments.
All this frantic activity was part of Murray Schafer’s virtuoso showpiece, The Crown of Ariadne. Gemmell also played beautifully in the more conventional style of Marjan Mozetich’sSongs of Nymphs. Both pieces were narrated skilfully, and with warmth and plenty of humour, by well-known CBC storyteller Tom Allen.
The Festival continues until August 12.