Nathalia Milstein @ St Ann’s Church, Dublin (11 October 2016)

Last year she won the Dublin International Piano Competition, in February she gave a recital at The National Concert Hall, and tonight Nathalia Milstein (“mill-shtyne”) begins a ten-day tour of Ireland with this concert in St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street.

Her wide-ranging programme takes in Bach, Mozart, Bartók, Liszt, Ravel, and the piece commissioned from Gráinne Mulvey for the Dublin International Piano Competition. The insightful programme notes, written by classical journalist and reviewer Pat O’Kelly, supply background and context for the diverse pieces: Bach walking for ten days to hear an inspirational keyboardist, Mozart as a busy 18-year-old musician performing his latest sonatas in Munich, and of course a few hints about the composers’ love lives. It is necessary (and frequently fascinating) to have these human reference points alongside an art form that can so easily become rarified.

Milstein gives a riveting performance of Gráinne Mulvey’s Interference Patterns, drawing on the lyrical style of the Liszt that preceded it, and also the intense energy of The Chase from the Bartók suite. Mulvey’s piece is inspired by the work of 19th century Irish scientist John Tyndall on the behaviour of waves when they meet an obstacle. A most vivid expression of this is achieved towards the end of the piece. It was as if Milstein sent two shockwaves through the piano – a remarkable gesture, the sound almost visibly emanating from the instrument.

(A very effective transition is achieved between the prayerful ending of Liszt’s Sonneto and Interference Patterns. Having consistently stood up to receive applause at the end of each of the pieces in the first half, the pianist remained seated at the end of the Liszt. This meant the audience didn’t applaud, and Milstein could begin the next piece without breaking the atmosphere just created.)

Maurice Ravel’s suite, Le tombeau de Couperin, was written one hundred years ago and remains one of the most delightful pieces of solo piano writing in the canon. Beginning with her head up, her demeanour calm as the delicate machinery of the opening Prélude flutters into life, Milstein’s performance of the six movements is a joy to behold. Ravel’s extraordinary writing for the piano is brought to life in her hands and the luminous shimmer in the last bars of the Prélude is a beautiful moment. Ravel dedicates each of the movements to friends and colleagues killed in World War I. Behind the piano, the ornate rolls of honour that flank the altar in St Ann’s serve as a reminder of its congregation’s own grief at the loss of their sons during that war. The Forlane carries itself with swagger and Milstein gives an assured reading of this courtly dance, gracefully partnering with Ravel’s melancholy harmonies and finely-wrought invention. There is something personal and intimate in Ravel’s writing. It’s there, too, in Bartók’s The Night’s Music, sometimes stellar and sometimes scrabbling, and in the Bach Toccata that opened the concert. Witnessing the artistry and technique of Nathalia Milstein’s playing tonight in the hushed church is a sublime experience.

Programme:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata in C minor BWV 911
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Sonata No 3 in B flat K 281
  • Béla Bartók – Out of Doors Sz 81
  • Franz Liszt – Sonneto del Petrarca No 104 S 161
  • Gráinne Mulvey – Interference Patterns
  • Maurice Ravel – Le tombeau de Couperin
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Nathalia Milstein at St Ann’s church, Dublin / photograph by Frances Marshall

Click the photo for more of Frances Marshall’s photos from the night.

This review was done for GoldenPlec.com

FLECKS to play Gigonometry – Thursday 13 October

FLECKS will share the stage at The Workman’s Club on Thursday with three other acts, Buffalo Sunn, Dreaming of Jupiter, and Maria Kelly. Last week, we played at The Bello Bar alongside David Rooney and The Straw Gods. Here are some photos and video from the night:

Another one of @weareflecks from last night! #flecks #weareflecks #rockjamvi #rockjam

A photo posted by Jenny Wilson (@jennywilson) on

I want to be like Scotty & Freya when I grow up! #flecks #weareflecks #rockjam @weareflecks

A photo posted by Jenny Wilson (@jennywilson) on

 

@weareflecks rocking my world with some new songs! #flecks #weareflecks #bellobar #rockjamvi #rockjam

A video posted by Jenny Wilson (@jennywilson) on

‘Hide and Seek’ video by Irish barbershop quartet, 4 in a Bar

I visited this room for the first time only last week — the City Assembly House, just beside the Powerscourt Townhouse on Dublin’s South William Street. It’s a beautiful, surprising, melancholic space and it works as a perfect backdrop here, an extra character in 4 in a Bar’s video for ‘Hide and Seek’.

Spin me round again…

…walls where pleasure moments hung before…

Like their Facebook page to encourage further beautiful things from this group: 4 in a Bar

Music for dancing (quote from ‘Every Song Ever’ by Ben Ratliff)

When people start dancing, a kind of ownership ritual takes over. They’ve marked out their own physical space: it now belongs to them. Likewise, they’ve started to take ownership of the music they’re hearing. They don’t want it to stop. After imitating other people for most of the day, or week, or year—their mothers or fathers or supervisors, their smarter or more beautiful acquaintances—finally they’re playing themselves, in whatever form they want. They can be as free as they want, as elegant or debased as they want. 

Dublin Brass Week concert (29 June @ TCD chapel)

I was invited along to this concert by my violin-playing friend, Feilimidh (pronounced FELL-uh-mee). I’ve just come on board with GoldenPlec.com as a classical reviewer, so I was happy to have a reason to write something before I get my first assignment from them!

Dublin Brass Week is now in its fourth year and, despite not receiving any public funding, is going from strength to strength. The calibre of guest players in evidence at this concert, the palpable enthusiasm from the attendees, and the remarkable energy and capability of its organisers will hopefully mean that funding can be secured for next year and beyond.

The concert was in the beautiful chapel in Trinity College. It’s an odd venue in some ways, with its rows of stepped pews facing each other across the central aisle. As the night went on, the various performers processed down the aisle, providing lovely moments of interaction for the audience. I sat up near the front, on Feilimidh’s advice, since the acoustic was rather reverberant for some of the crisper, rhythmic music in the programme. Best seat in the house!

The concert opened with one piece that was perfectly suited to the chapel’s acoustic – a sonata by Gabrieli, performed by eight players from the choir balcony. Four players stood on each side, forming two distinct groups that showed off the composer’s echoing and overlapping musical ideas.

Of all the amazing musicians performing at the concert, trumpeter Reinhold Friedrich stood out for me, utterly connected with the music and his fellow musicians. In the bars when he wasn’t playing he couldn’t help but ‘conduct’ with his free hand. Music of this period – the Baroque era – is usually not conducted in the modern sense, but is rather led by a communal language of gestures. This makes it wonderful to watch. I do think Baroque music represents a pinnacle in music as a beautiful artform. Music of later periods seems to move away from the togetherness of the Baroque (necessitating a conductor) and also into a celebration of a hero pitted against an orchestra. A generalisation, to be sure, but there is truth to it. Reinhold Friedrich’s ‘conducting’ was a reminder of just how enjoyable this music is.

Listen to him playing the Telemann concerto in D major that he played that night – tracks 6-9 on this 1996 album (link to Spotify).

If the trumpet sounds high it’s because it’s a clarino trumpet – a teeny tiny trumpet that Herr Friedrich made sing more beautifully than I’ve ever heard before. My friend Pat Morris, who was sitting beside me, turned to me after the first movement and whispered “I could listen to him all day!”

The backbone of Baroque chamber music is the continuo – usually a harpsichord and a cello. Both instruments play the bass line and the harpsichordist improvises an accompaniment, following the ‘figured bass’ notation on their part. David Adams is a master of the keyboard and it was a real pleasure to hear the sparkling flourishes of his playing underpinning the excellent ensemble. Yseult Cooper Stockdale, the cellist, almost stole the show with her sublime playing in the middle movement of the Vivaldi double horn concerto. The two soloists in this piece, the world-class French horn player Richard Watkins and (making her professional solo debut) Hannah Miller, stood on either side of the group, a choice that again gave an interesting manifestation to the musical interplay.

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Reinhold Friedrich and his fellow musicians after a triumphant rendition of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F

I just can’t get them to practice and I don’t want to nag!!

Great article for the parents of kids learning instruments. Thoughts on encouraging practice.

Blogging at Piano Teacher Press

‘He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice,

and don’t want to nag!’

I’ve heard this refrain oodles of times in my years of teaching and my answer to parents is …..frustrated-parent1

NAG BABY!!

OK; let me refine that a bit …. PERSUADE BABY!!

Let’s take a closer look at that statement.He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice, and don’t want to nag!’

Your child loves his teacher.  That’s a huge positive. The comment implies that you want your child to succeed in piano.  That’s also a huge positive.  This is NOT the time to give up when so much is going on in the plus column in the ongoing familydrama of piano lessons.  Like I said, I’ve heard this refrain from scores of parents over the years.

When a piano…

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Chattanooga Choo Choo

Today is the birthday of Mack Gordon (1904 – 1959), songwriter and lyricist. Soon after Mack was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1904, his family emigrated to America and he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He and his songwriting partner, Harry Warren, wrote ‘At Last’ — Etta James’s signature version is the finest — and also ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’. Check out these brilliant lyrics:

You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four / Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore / Dinner in the diner, nothin’ could be finer / Than to eat your ham and eggs in Carolina / When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar / Then you know that Tennessee is not very far / Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’ / Whoo whoo, Chattanooga, there you are!

The melody that goes with this verse part of the song is really catchy. Listen to Glenn Miller’s wonderful arrangement of Chattanooga Choo Choo (from the 1941 film “Sun Valley Serenade”) which features the voices of Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, and The Modernaires. It was the first record to sell more than one million copies and Glenn Miller was presented with a gold record at CBS Playhouse in New York City in 1942.

 

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