All for Western classical

FRENCH FOURSOME: Sulliman Altamayer (violin), Gauthier Herrmann (cello), Samuel Parent (piano) and Quentin Hindley (alto).  

SULLIMAN ALTAMAYER (violin), Gauthier Herrmann (cello), Samuel Parent (piano) - the Trio Con Fuoco, as they have christened themselves, joined with Quentin Hindley (alto) to make for a soothing musical repertoire comprising short excerpts from 18th, 19th and 20th Century western classical music compositions at the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers on April 7. The four Frenchmen - aged 21 to 24 - from Paris were here as part of the French Season in India. The programme was organised by the Alliance Francaise, Hyderabad in association with the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton.

The Trio Con Fuoco was conceived in 1998 and has since given performances in Lebanon, England, Germany, Switzerland and Brazil. In this season, they have given concerts in Chennai and Pondicherry. For the ongoing French Season, however, the trio is joined by Quentin. Except for Sulliman Hermann, who studied in Switzerland, the others studied in Paris.The foursome have studied music since childhood.Quentin's uncle is an opera conductor and his father used to play the piano at home and that's where he picked up the strains of music. The other three do not belong to a family of classical musicians, although their parents have been very encouraging and supportive. The trio studied together at the Superior Conservatory of Music in Paris, where the idea of forming a group evolved . In 2002, the Trio was chosen to represent France in the Paris-Moscow-Berlin exchanges, where they worked with renowned composers, like theRussian Mstislav Rostropovich (who was music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. for about two decades).About the status of music learning in Paris, Samuel says "there are schools where you have enough time to do your other kind of studies (besides music) and time in the evening to practice. So you can graduate in an area other than music. But there are three schools dedicated to music." Gauthier Hermann, says, "people start learning quite young. It is of course long years of hard work. You have to pass an exam to go to an orchestra. But it is relatively easier to make a living out of music in France." What about the audience for pure western classical music? Quentin says, "there are a lot of listeners in Paris," to which Gauthier adds, "but they are old people, not young ones." Quentin informs that "pop, rock and variety music is more popular with most people. We can make a living out of concerts but not from making CDs of western classical music. Some musicians teach and play concert music at the same time. In France, a music teacher at Paris is paid by the State and by the town in smaller schools." As for the audience response here in India, Gauthier says, "although many may not be aware of western classical music here, they have a high quality of listening, which is good for us." About their performances in Pondicherry and Chennai, they all add, "Pondicherry was terribly hot; that was the worst part." They tease Gauthier saying " he was covered with sweat all over," They liked the audience in Chennai, which was `intimate' in the words of Quentin.

The Trio has not yet thought of recording CDs. Gauthier says, in all humility, "we have to be much, much better, the best in quality to think of recording CDs and selling them. We must work hard to reach that level." Samuel adds, "we are preparing for an International competition at present, which is a very tough one. But if we win, we will be busy answering many phone calls inviting us to give concerts!"

As for the evening's short concert the foursome played short pieces and single movements from the compositions of the Austrian composer of the early 19th century, Schubert (in B flat Major); the Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly, French Navy-man-composer Jean Cras; of course, Beethoven (second part of the sonata Archduke in B flat major Opus 97); Dumky in E minor of the Czech Antonin Dvorak, and Johannes Brahms' Rondo alla Zingarese - the last movement of a piano quartet (Opus 25).

It gave the audience a sample of different composers and considering the short time given for the concert, it was indeed like breezing past a whole span of `movement' within western classical music.