Archive for September, 2013

A Weekend at Wyastone

Wyastone Concert Hall is an imposing, austere, monolithic structure.  High walled, red bricks and windowless, its purpose, its functionality is obvious at first glance.   Inside it has a spacious auditorium, a generous balcony.  The walls are adorned with large-scale colourful modern abstract art works.  Taking centre stage is an imposing recent Steinway which speaks with a bright sounding upper range and a sonorous rich lower.  Mary liked the instrument from the moment she commenced her warming up, her keyboard callisthenics.  Alex van Ingen began setting up his vast array of equipment both on stage and in the control room.

Two hours later the recording of Piano Sonata No. 7 commenced.  Take after take.   Mary and Alex working slowly to a perfection, an ideal, myself interjecting with some small advice, offering optional approaches to the ways the music could be played.  A short break for lunch whilst the piano was tuned again and then on into the late afternoon.  The meticulous, painstaking professionalism of performer and sound engineer never faltering.  Alex’s forensic ear always ensuring the best possible sonic qualities in the recording, whilst at the same time exhorting and encouraging Mary to yet higher levels of performance.  Hour after hour of unbroken focused attention to detail.  At the end of the day a quiet satisfaction with what we had accomplished.

Much the same the following day with the recording of Piano Sonata No. 9.  For the first few playthroughs Mary dallied with the lyricism and sonorities in the music.  Alex and I managed to reduce the duration of the first movement from 18 to 12 minutes although I sensed a certain reluctance in Mary to play at such an increased tempo.

The High-order movements were, at the same time, again a vindication of my Non-Prescriptive ideas and a platform for Mary’s incredible skills.  As we had planned some days previously when I visited her in London, Movements 2 and 4 in Sonata No. 7 saw her employing her extended techniques to amazing effect.  The Second Movement of No. 9 provoked several scintillating realisations, performance fireworks, a veritable tour de force.  It is a loss that the world will never hear these amazing performances, as only one can be selected for the C.D.

The editing I leave entirely to Mary and Alex as I do not wish to be further involved in determining the outcome, which of the countless takes are to be selected and included on the master.

Read Full Post »

A most rewarding, fruitful visit to Mary.  Each of the movements of Piano Sonatas Seven and Nine played and subsequently discussed and forensically examined.  Ideas, comments exchanged.  Alternatives weighed, tried and evaluated.  Some accepted.  Mary absorbing everything and reacting immediately.

Our allotted time together passed quickly.  We managed to accomplish what we intended.  And now, as Mary makes her final preparations, I find myself in a state of helpless suspension looking forward to what the midwife is to deliver this weekend at Wyastone.

Read Full Post »