Tag Archives: Ben Heppner

Vienna Piano Trio, Ben Heppner and a look back at the last 12 days

Posted by Liz

How the time has flown – already we are on the last day! My midday outing saw me at St Andrew’s Church for the Vienna Piano Trio‘s third concert. Violinist Wolfgang Redik, cellist Matthias Gredler and pianist Stefan Mendl provided a stellar afternoon’s entertainment. I enjoyed the Beethoven Variations Op 44 on an Original Theme, with its fun opening theme (accentuated by Mendl bobbing along in time) and the many different characteristics of the variations. The Saint-Saëns (Piano Trio No 2 in E minor, Op 92) was musically less to my liking but again excellently performed; the first movement most entertained me – it almost felt like a whole piece in miniature!

The Trio had programmed a new work by Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud. Entitled Für Bálint András Varga, it was very varied and intense, with lots of different images – creeping, sirens, spiralling notes, and a point where Mendl appeared to be playing the piano with wild swings of his arms (possibly also elbows but from my seat I couldn’t see the keyboard)! Very rousing. After repeated applause, the Trio played an incredibly beautiful 2nd movement from Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor as an encore.

The Gala Closing Concert ‘Künstlerleben’ featuring Ben Heppner was superb. The concept was An Artist’s Life featuring songs by Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Wagner, Fall, Kalman and Lehár presented with witty aplomb by Heppner and John Hess on piano. There wasn’t a single song in there I didn’t enjoy (even Wagner and I am no big fan of his work). The only problem I saw was in some of the translations. Having French and English translations of the lyrics on slideshow is in itself a great idea, however the translations for Verborgenheit didn’t seem to follow the sung lyrics. There were also no translations for the last three songs.

Looking at the festival as a whole, on balance I think it was (even) better than 2011. The conceptual events seemed to me to be the standout concerts. The four part The Rivered Earth was by a long way my favourite series. Sadly I think some people were put off by the new music content, which is a shame because Alec Roth’s music was thrilling! Music and Dance and Inspired by Music come close, as does the Jewish Composers concert. I didn’t attend personally but anyone I talked to who went to Beyond the Bomb or Music and Dining thought they were fantastic. The variety of music on offer was also fabulous, with a good helping of new music and slightly unusual repertoire. Earthen Grave are highly commended for an excellent performance in front of an audience that on face value was slightly unresponsive; it’s regrettable that this concert wasn’t better attended.

There are now many more photos available on the Music and Beyond website to stimulate memories of your favourite concerts!


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Orchestral excellence – Denise Djokic, Zürich Academic Orchestra; Moscow String Quartet

Posted by Liz

Something of a step away from chamber concerts to something larger this afternoon. Concert-goers at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts were treated to a wonderful afternoon concert by Denise Djokic and the Zürich Academic Orchestra (AOZ). The AOZ, founded 1897, is an 80-odd strong orchestra comprising students from Universität Zürich and ETH Zürich. A fellow concert-goer noted later the smart attire of the AOZ in comparison to the occasionally less-than smart NAC Orchestra. It was refreshing to see a stage full of young people (with a good gender balance too) playing high quality music and enjoying themselves immensely in the process.

First up was an intense new work  – according to the Swiss Ambassador to Canada, Ulrich Lehner, I believe comissioned for the AOZ – by Éric Champagne, entitled Mouvement symphonique no 1. Starting with a chromatic brass element, the short piece was full of contrasts and a good amount of percussion. I thought it a shame to end so soon – the end snuck up almost unexpected.

After this invigorating opener, Denise Djokic joined the AOZ for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op 104. The crowd was spellbound by Djokic’s expressive playing and stage presence as well as excellent playing from the AOC. Whilst the final work, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5, was of equal quality, for me it felt like a slight anticlimax after the Dvořák.

A quick venue change to Dominion-Chalmers for the Moscow String Quartet. I could only stay for the first half, but Borodin’s String Quartet No 2 was supreme and Three Pieces for String Quartet by Stravinsky excellent and unusual! These short pieces were a striking difference to the Borodin piece, but included glissandi and some spiky cello parts. The second work had something of the character of a cartoon chase!

Anyone still without a ticket for Ben Heppner on 15th July should head over to iPricedit.com. The final block of reserved seating tickets are available as a ‘set your own price’ bid.

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