KVT totally rapt at the Youth Theater
Every year around this time, the date of the Polish National Day, the Poles offer us a musical experience that is totally tuyet voi… which is the Vietnamese translation of excellent, outstanding and awesome all bound up with red and white ribbon in one delicious word.
This year they almost out tuyet voi-ed themselves when they presented their extremely dynamic, talented and very internationally sought after ‘Royal String Quartet’ at a free recital at the Youth Theater on Tuesday night.
I’d been waiting on tenter hooks ever since the Polish Embassy announced the concert, not only because of the critical attention this youngish foursome have garnered all over the world, but because they were playing one of Gorecki’s three string quartets. If they’d been playing all three I’d have been hyperventilating
Although Polish composer Gorecki’s Third Symphony, ‘The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’, has been one of the well known modern symphonies since its release in 1992 and is now in most top 20 list of most popular symphonies of all time, his earlier more atonally dissonant works are not often recorded but his later works like the string quartets in a more dissonantly lyrical mode are being taken up by the more exciting groups like The Royals.
Gorecki, who died in 2010 at 76, wrote his three quartets over 20 years for the Kronos String Quartet who said that Gorecki demanded as much as their bows could handle and then some more. And the four Royals certainly gave that much more for us.
My young Vietnamese friend who is becoming a passionate classical music fan brought his latest female find along to her first ever classical concert and after its conclusion, when asked about her favorite piece of the night, she unhesitatingly said the second one, the Gorecki.
That’s how tuyet voi-ly well it was played. It had me on the edge of my seat for its 15 minute duration.
Here’s a version, unfortunately not by the Royals but good enough to get my heart racing.
If I hadn’t been tied up in TPHCM for the rest of the week I’d have been off to Thai Nguyen post haste to hear the Quartet give a second concert that featured a composition by 20th Century Polish composer, Bacewicz, and one of the most popular of all string quartet pieces, Dvorak’s ‘American’
The night started off with an easy listening, though not easily played, quartet by Haydn, the 4th of 6 from Opus 76, composed in 1797. It was fitting as Haydn is considered to be the father of string quartet compositions and Gorecki would have to be a favorite great, great, etc, grandson of the genre.
The first movement gives the piece its common name ‘Sunrise’ and our Polish players had the young audience around me with them from the first conversations that fluttered between the instruments. The contemplative mood that predominates through the 25 minute composition is pushed aside when the final movement fizzes with liveliness that sets your feet tapping.
After a long interval that must have a great relief for the frenzied fingers of the players, the four gave us a wrenching interpretation of Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ which is usually described as one of the pillars of the string quartet repertoire. It’s a dark and dramatic work and gets its name from the extremely moving second movement which is based on a song Schubert wrote when he was 20, sung by a maiden with anguished thoughts about dying and which has Death replying that it is serene and welcoming and not to be feared.
Schubert died of syphilis related disease at the age of 32 and it is thought that this composition is perhaps his attempt to give a balance between his fear and pain and optimistic hope.
The Royal Quartet were beautifully aware of the balance and their second movement had death’s relentless pursuit perfectly ominous while the violin caught the living soul’s rising panic with a touch that brought tears to your eyes.
The reckless pace of the final movement was totally breathtaking.
Brilliant night’s music …and what a great way to celebrate your national day…and all for free. It’s no wonder that Poland is a definite on my travel agenda.
Like so many of the world’s best, young, classical music groups, the Royals smoothly swing between genres of music as can be seen in a couple of You Tube clips that make you appreciate just how very tuyet voi and versatile they are. One critic called them exceptionally game and exceptionally technically adroit. Very apt!
A nice Gorecki statement to finish: ‘If you can live without music for two or three days, then don’t write – it might be better to spend time with a girl or with a beer’
|Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.|