The language of music

Western classical music enthrals audiences, both young and old, during a recent event at Alliance Francaise

Activity in any organisation’s event calendar is always welcome, so it was not surprising that The International Music & Arts Society accepted the offer of a duo piano concert, The Language of Music by Natallia Kapylova and Liudmila Drazhnik.

This duo of local piano teachers has often been heard in the city and Natallia has also accompanied many vocalists. Their programme largely consisted of popular pieces; pupils of the keyboard would not only have recognised them, but were also probably taught many of the shorter ones. Natallia interacted with the audience, introducing each piece with customary aplomb, her showmanship counterpointing Liudmila’s contained, quiet personality.

Before the start of the concert, it was intriguing to see books and other objects being placed on the strings of one of the pianos, which had its lid up. The reason became apparent when they opened with G Anderson’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s A Rain of Tears: as the strings did not vibrate, Natallia’s staccato notes sounded more like guitar strumming, not an effect one expected to emanate from a keyboard!

“Yes, I thought of this idea myself. It is nice to experiment, though I had to be very careful not only while placing the weights, but also when removing them, so the piano would retain its tuning for the rest of the pieces.” Vivaldi intended this operatic aria to be a metaphor for sorrow, with external elements mirrored internally by tears and weeping.

Therefore, Natallia’s innovation cleverly suggested the pointillistic patter of rain, while Luidmilla played the more sombre rubato, suggestive of gloomy downpour.

The First Movement of Mozart’s Symphony K550 is so popular as to be almost trite. Not only is it probably the most heard of his symphonies, it was also heard by Indian audiences who did not normally listen to Western classical music, as Salil Choudhury copied much of it in his Itna na mujhse tu pyar badha in the 1961 Hindi film ‘Chhaya’. When plagiarism from Western music went unchallenged, the industry freely “borrowed” from all genres, the other well-known instance being Dil Dekhe Dekho, a blatant clone of the pop song ‘Sugartime’.

Audience appreciation was audible with the first bars of Mozart’s Sonata K545, for it is one of the piano pieces students learn early, Mozart himself having catalogued it as ‘for beginners’. Grieg arranged it for two pianos, his additions being mostly for the second piano, leaving the first to render Mozart’s score largely as he wrote it. Luidmilla sensitively rendered the almost nostalgic regret that the second movement Andante suggests, when it modulates to the minor keys of G and C, her piano’s lovely mellow tone underlining the mood.

Mozart’s Fantasy K608 was originally written for a mechanical clock with a built-in organ, a trendy novelty in its day. He undertook the commission with reluctance, as the contraption’s high-pitched range was limited. “I always have to break off as it bores me”, he complained. However, the piece was subsequently adapted so often, that versions of it were even more popular than the original, particularly in the nineteenth century, when Busoni arranged it for two pianos. The middle fugue section clearly echoed Bach, whose music Mozart studied.

After the interval, the programme switched to Romantic and Modern pieces, lesser known than those in the first half. Some of them were written for two pianos, rather than being transcriptions: Bruch’s Fantasie op 11, Rachmaninoff’s Lilacs and Medtner’s Russian Round Dance op 58 #1. The inclusion of the last was a nod to a founder member of IMAS, the late Maharajah of Mysore who founded the Medtner Society, thereby ensuring that the composer’s works were recorded.

Rachmaninoff’s Italian Polka was delightful with its catchy tempo, and Argentinian composer Guastavino’s Two Romances op 2 were also punctuated with dance rhythms. The concert closed with a very popular piece, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2, Kleinmichel’s transcription diluting Lizst’s fiendish playing demands between the two pianos.

While both pianists played competently, their commitment in no doubt, there was little opportunity to gauge either emotional expression or technical excellence, as both these essential elements of a performance were shared, particularly as most of the pieces were adapted for two pianos, dividing the onus normally carried by a soloist. Even the pieces written specifically for two pianos, demanded neither a great degree of virtuosity or intense feeling.

It is not surprising that the opening bars of the encore, the famous Czardas by Vittorio Monti, recalled Liszt, as it owes a lot to the Hungarian folk dance, with dramatic changes in tempi and dynamics. Nattalia hoped that the audience would hum along, but perhaps they were too young to recognise that its allegro vivo bars figured in Danny Kaye’s delightful comic song, The Little Fiddle, or that Shankar-Jaikishan liberally filched portions (more Bollywood plagiarism!) of it for the immensely popular 1951 film Aawara. It was an appropriate close to a pleasing and entertaining evening.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:36:38 PM |

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