Wednesday, October 01, 2003

A digression into classical music

Since moving out of Brussels, in April, I've been living two doors down from Sébastien Taminiau, a 23-year old violinist studying at the Brussels Conservatory. While I don't listen to much classical music, on CD or live, I have twice had the opportunity to hear him play (not counting the many times I've heard him practice, whether I wanted to or not!). The first time I saw play was in a violin-cello-piano trio, last night it was just a duo, with cellist Alexandre Beauvoir. As usual, they alternated classical and contemporary pieces.

First off was a transcription of a composition for piano by J.S. Bach (sorry I can't be more specific, they didn't give the names of what they were playing). I greatly enjoyed the contrapuntal aspects of the piece: there's so much going on, it's like being caught up in fast-moving traffic: you have the option of isolating one or the other element or taking it in as a whole.

The second piece played was by East European composer Martino (or Martinù?). This was my least favourite of the night, but still, it enjoyably mixed grating dissonances (which sounded something like folk fiddling) and a whimsical skipping from one theme to the next.

Next up was a return to the past, with Stammitz (I have no clue about the spelling), a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, we were told. Nice enough, but I do feel somewhat disconnected from this kind music. What was its function? How did people listen to it back then? What spirit was it played in? Then again, even if I knew these things, would I be able to get past old-sounding aspects and fully enjoy the music itself?

The concert closed with a piece from the 1930s by Jonghen, a Belgian composer. This one was notable for having perhaps more humour than the others (a manifestation of the famous Belgian sense of auto-derision?), with child-like melodies being plucked in unisson.