20 November 2011

Rumble or thunder

Obama was in Canberra and you could hear the distant rumbling of FA-18s between the movements, but Beethoven on a grand piano at close quarters was thunder: powerful and passionate and also a source of a greater awe. Pianist Robert Schmidli was playing a concert for a small audience at a little church in Lyons, across the way from Woden. These are lunchtime concerts, held monthly, organised by Louise Page. I hadn’t heard of them before but I’ll do my best to attend a few more. They are local and presumably not by the professional elite (although Louise sings the next). Robert, who was playing this day, has a demanding day job. But it was intimate and personal and also purposeful, which is how I like it.

Robert played two pieces. The first was John Field’s Sonata no. 1 in Eb major. Field was an Irish pianist/composer who studied with Clementi, was friends with Czerny, originated the nocturne, lived in Moscow and influenced the Russians and was admired by Chopin and Liszt. I read in Wikipedia that, apart form the piano nocturne, he’s known for “chromatically decorated melody over sonorous left hand parts supported by sensitive pedalling” and “ostinato patterns and pedal points”. Chromaticism and ostinatos sounded stylistically modern but that was his later Russian period. The first sonata was dedicated to Clementi and I found it lively and relatively formal and, I thought, stylistically predating both classical and romantic. The Beethoven that followed just highlighted this. It was Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Piano Sonata no.21 in C major. This is strong, impassioned, brave music. Repeating themes of heavy left hand chords and rabid left hand scales and delicate right hand responses and trills. Dance and drama throughout. Pedals that meld the heavy and release to allow the detail to show through. A middle movement that was sparse and halting. Robert played both pieces with understanding and love for his small but attentive audience.

The jet planes may be technically stunning and fear-inducing, but they were mercifully distant and Beethoven was there with us. You can hear Waldstein and its like in the concert halls of the world but give me a decent, committed performer in an intimate setting any day. This was a lovely and satisfying outing and thanks to Robert. Robert Schmidli (piano) performed Beethoven’s Waldstein sonata and John Field’s sonata no.1 at St Alban’s Anglican Church in Lyons.


Anonymous said...

Oh, you know I've heard of these. some from Len's Mum's retirement village would go occasionally but I'd completely forgotten. Do they have a programme on their website? So many things to do in Canberra, eh?

Eric Pozza said...

See stalbanschurchwoden.weebly.com for the concert program. There's a concert on 15 Dec then third Thursday each month from Feb.