The last 3 days have been a hectic mix of events starting from Thursday which was my last day teaching my theory students in Norwich. One of them has made a delightful amount of progress while I’ve been teaching her, but the other student’s entire work ethic was summed up by this last lesson (he didn’t show).
Friday was also my last day teaching my home student. She’s probably been one of my most successful students in having really come out of her shell. She gave me a really nice card too! Then that evening was my last night playing piano at The King William for a while. I love working there too, which is shame.
All of this is because I moved to London this weekend to start uni. Goldsmiths music department is my new home.
Last Thursday I saw Mammal Hands live at the arts centre. They were supported by Go Go Penguin, a Manchester band who’s influences were screaming at me the whole time they were playing. There was a lot of sound textures that reminded me of 69 Days of Static and Venetian Snares, but because of their line up and instrumentation these influences took a completely new spin. The gig itself was celebrating Mammal Hand’s debut album being released, and they played a collection tracks from the album during their set. As always (this is the fourth time I’ve seen them live now) they’re incredibly tight with the most delightful rhythm textures. I was sad to miss the end of their set, because I had to leave, which included the tabla performance.
On Saturday I went to a concert in Tunstead, which is a very out of the way place, but I was intent on seeing the Orchestra of St Paul’s. They performed works by Britten, Elgar, Vaughan WIlliams and two world premiers of piece by James Kenelm Clarke.
This publication features an article I wrote about opera in the cinema and how it stands as an effective business model, so give it a read!
This is pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont’s second album release, and if anything it marks another innovative milestone in his career. Dablemont is known for his bold statements online; criticising concert life, calling out the “death of CDs” and documenting his own career via his now-concluded blog. All of these frustrations have lead to a somewhat unique career shift, whereas he now refrains from live performance and his creative outlet has become more focused on producing recordings.
This digital only release explores Beethoven in as fresh a light as possible, and is accompanied by a series of online videos that explain Dablemont’s journey, entitled “If Beethoven Blogged”. This collection of 5-minute videos exemplifies Dablemont’s ideals and sophisticated knowledge of the scores while also displaying his technical proficiency while creating the album.
Upon listening, one quickly gets a sense of Dablemont’s style and the details he pays most attention to when refining his sound. Articulation was a big one I noticed. Left, right and centre Dablemont creates these vivid characters with his sense of touch which becomes an essential factor considering these three sonatas all display a huge development in piano music. Beethoven was pushing the boundaries of the piano when these pieces were written, and still they allow modern pianists to think about their instruments in different and creative ways. Dablemont definitely approaches these works with seemingly abundant creativity, often taking risks; some I agree with and some I don’t.
From the very first note of this album you can hear Dablemont’s articulate experimentations with Op.27 No.1’s left hand figures and the legato appoggiaturas that follow. These articulatory moments bring so much colour to the works, but on a rare occasion, can take away from some of Beethoven’s excellent craftmanship. During the Presto from Op.27 No.2, there is a rapid chromatic scale towards the end with various rhythmic figures that is shrouded almost completely by the sustain pedal and it’s very essence is lost. These moments are few and far between; this example being only two bars from the whole movement. His dynamic touch throughout this album brings to life the contrasts and themes within each sonata and even more between the inner sections of the movements adding more of Dablemont’s character and also drawing out most of Beethoven’s own; one I know and love.
As I already said, these works contain some explorations of the piano’s abilities that gained Beethoven his name. This includes textures reminiscent of string quartets, symphonies as well as the grandiose piano sound. The Allegretto of Op.27 No.2 just screams cello sonority with those bass chords in the trio, with the first movement of the Op.28 having plenty of symphonic voices dotting in and out all over the place. There are many textural pitfalls in these works, and others like them, where taking into consideration the dynamic and emotional subtext alone overshadows that of the texture but Dablemont does well to balance all of the voices buried inside Beethoven’s diverse part writing and chordal movements.
The only real let down for me that occurred a few times was relaxation in the tempo. Beethoven often incorporates pauses to expand on cadential points, but sometimes these breaths in the music are overdone by Dablemont’s addition of ad libitum to the decorative material beforehand. A crucial moment that is ruined by over exaggeration of the tempo is the completely unscripted pause between the andante and allegro of the album’s opening track. By distorting the flow it removes the sense of pace that this tempo change holds at its foundation. Similar moments occur in other movements like the Rondo of Op.28 where the tempo switches to Più Allegro; however the momentum is completely lost by an added molto rall. during the pauses leading up to it. Aside from this Dablemont does manage to use this same tool effectively in other movements; often to a degree I have greatly enjoyed. I must also note, I was over the moon that the first movement of Op.27 No.2 wasn’t depressingly slow
The overall production of this album is well done. The piano’s range contains a lot of clarity and balance right from the very lows to sparkling highs. There is one aspect of the mixing I both enjoy and can’t get my head around. The final mixdown of tracks 2 & 3 overlap, which I think is great. It really keeps the pace going and makes it feel even more like a performance of the entire work. But for whatever reason, this doesn’t work quite how I expected it to when playing it back. I always seem to notice the skip.
Aside from any minor instances I felt I couldn’t overlook, this album as a whole is definitely one for the collection, giving a new insight on familiar works to anyone with an interest in Beethoven. I’m looking forward to Dablemont’s next installment of Beethoven sonatas.
You can download this release here.
Yesterday evening was my last gig with Rabo De Foguete before I move away. The gig itself went great, and in my opinion we were all on top form. It’s sad to think that that was the last time I will be frantically running around in between songs swapping between piano, bass or tambourim. I’ve really enjoyed being in the band, learning all about Brazilian music, and better still learning a lot about practical musicianship.