12 April 2018

This year's primer

It's an annual outing and one that I look forward to with anticipation. It's Roland Peelman's intro to the upcoming Canberra International Music Festival. Roland is a fine musician so the performances are intense, informed, virtuosic, but they are more than that. They are also seminars in the history, background, intent of the composers, with just a touch of the technical, too. This year it was Schubert, Satie and Debussy. We heard of Schubert's intimate gatherings in the environment of repression under Metternich. Roland played three Moments musicaux, apparently written as last thoughts by this social character. Then Satie, who lived a solitary life on the margins. His compositions were simple, he was self-taught, no virtuosity of grand harmonic structures, saying much with little, at a time when Wagner's complex and saturated music was in vogue in France. Roland played three of his Avant-dernieres pensees, just short pieces, mostly with deep melody in the left hand against staccatos or arpeggios in the right. Then the etudes from Debussy. Apparently he had admired Wagner for a short time, but came to be influenced by Satie. It was Debussy who orchestrated Satie's Gymnopédies. Debussy explored harmonies freed from traditional tonal and functional relationships through variations of register, orchestration and the like. Roland played etudes exploring repeated notes, opposing sonorities and composite arpeggios. In this context, Roland talked of the piano's ability to handle repeated notes as the hammer doesn't fully retract and its importance as a development from earlier keyboard instruments. That was a new one on me. All fascinating and all so well played. And from memory. It's one aspect of music that it becomes imbued in people. Roland displays that, not least with his memory in performance. Playing from memory displays a deep connection and only assists in performance. So, a fabulously interesting and capable concert and a intro to the upcoming CIMF, no doubt to be as impressive as ever.

Roland Peelman (piano) performed Schubert, Satie and Debussy at Wesley.

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