The Prepared Piano

Had we not known what was coming the backstage sounds may have indicated that the music that was to follow would be of, shall we say, an interesting nature. If you have ever listened to the Lord Denning of the now defunct Third programme in its modern guise, Tom Service, you will understand that we can all be composers, it is simply a matter of rearranging the notes, as we were to hear in the first two pieces for prepared pianoforte, into a new order to produce a new work.

The orchestra handled the spiky passages quite well in the opinion of this auditor though his opinion is little really to go by, and even managed to pull off some eighth tone shifts without batting an eyelid. The pianist made valiant efforts – when the orchestra seemed to be taking it too easily she came in with great gusto, increasing the velocity only for the orchestra to calm things down again no sooner had she left, so to speak, the stage. This behaviour was quite consistent and seemed not at all out of place despite it perhaps being felt to be not appropriate for a fully written out score as we had for these two pieces. The skill of the orchestra, in the hands of the conductor, not to forget that of the pianist, was amply demonstrated by these rapid and frequent changes.

The serenade for strings (Elgar), which followed, was in quite a different mood to the prepared piano pieces. The strings were much more comfortable here. There were no inadvertent eighth tones; the smooth lyricism and close romantic harmonies contrasted almost beyond measure with some of the classical jumps and leaps that Mozart had required of them.

The preparation of the pianoforte by the way had been beautifully done. It was a rich black in colour with at least a thirty centimetre polish, tuned to perfection in equal temperament. The only puzzle I had was as the concerti were in C minor and Eb major, why had they not prepared the piano with Mozart’s tuning?

As for Tom Session’s contention, the two concerti do indeed demonstrate that it is simply a matter of rearranging the notes, but it requires a Mozart to successfully achieve it, the rest of us are much more like the man on the Pirschheide tramline who though he knows the train time tables forwards, backwards and crabwise, cannot plan a journey for you from Zwiesel to Aachen. Mozart on the other hand can take Twinkle, twinkle, and with it show you the Milky Way.

The Fall of Florence

Saturday had an interesting evening, Beethoven, Ireland and Honegger. Daniele Gatti played Beethoven’s 4th concerto in a pleasant way that drew you in to the conflict that he portrayed. After a generous interval and Ireland’s Concertino pastorale for strings we were treated to what I had thought, and those of you who know anything about Honegger also would also think, would be quite a challenging piece, Liturgique, symphony nr.3.

Somewhat astonishingly however It proved however to be as lyrical as Ireland’s pastorale.