With my two previous posts I have been writing a series of blog entries on my recent visit to Berlin - the 'second home town' of the mid-1990s when I was working at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). My motto is the same as that of other alt-Berliner who long for getting back - "Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin". In my previous blogs I have told of my sightseeing rounds - walking in Berlin - and of my encounters with friends of old - meetings in Berlin. But now it is time to come to the highlight of the visit and tell the reason for being in Berlin during those sunny days. I was there to attend a concert that was announced as "Paganini-Marathon". I have reported in my blogs of December 2017 how I got enthusiastic of classical music at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in June and how I have followed a brilliant multi-instrumentalist Sergey Malov after the festival. But perhaps it is worthwhile to recapitulate some points of that story before going to the concert of Tuesday the 10th of April.
The "Kuhmo Magic" and its impact
Well, how did it all start and how did it develop further? For many years I have been going to Kuhmo to listen chamber music because my beloved Johanna has always been a passionate fan of classical music. We had been shuttling ourselves from the neighbouring Sotkamo (frome Johanna's home grounds). I have enjoyed the music as well but when we have been attending just a few concerts, it has not made that great impact on me. But in summer 2017 we decided to give us a treat - to take the weekly tickets for both two weeks and to get the accommodation from the centre of Kuhmo - walking distance from the concert venues. And that gave us an entirely new perspective for experiencing the Kuhmo Magic.
Well well. how to explain what is so special in Kuhmo. Perhaps it is better that I don't even try to do it now with my own words. Instead, I am better of recommending the short article written by the British-Italian top violinist Hugo Ticciati, who knows Kuhmo as a special place and with a special atmosphere. And in his article "See you in Kuhmo!": A performer's perspective he has given a complete picture - so, please have a look and enjoy his explanation:
And if the article itself doesn't give a sufficient impression on the place, let us have a look at the landscapes of Kuhmo as the background for musical performances - here for Daniel Rowland and Marcelo Nisinman:
In my blogs of December I have told, how I got into conversation with Sergey Malov on his use of special effects in his Paganini concert in Kuhmo (which reminded me of a special scene in Emil Loteanu's film "Lautarii"). And when we both had found the film on YouTube and shared our impressions, we had more themes and I was happy to follow Sergey's other concerts and his performances in the Salakamari ("The seceret chamber"). Below we see firstly Sergey performing with Klaus Mäkelä and Antti Tikkanen. In the second photo we see Alberto Mesirca performing with Daniel Rowland. In the third photo we see Marcelo Nisinman performing with Daniel Rowland. Such experiences made all the difference when compared to the previous years - we all were residents of the "Kuhmo planet" and it was very easy to for music-lovers to start a conversation with artists who were around. And we enjoyed the "Kuhmo cocktail" provided by the festival program.
The concerts in Helsinki and Tampere
After the Kuhmo experience I made my homework by searching all possible videos of Sergey Malov and by examining his concert calendar if I could possibly attend his concerts in the autumn or winter. Most of the time the dates of the concerts clashed with my travel schedules and I couldn't be there. But I was lucky to watch the concert of Klaus Mäkelä (conductor) and Sergey (soloist) with the Helsinki Philharmonic orchestra. This was a special event since it took place two days after the 100th Independence Day of Finland and on the 152nd birthday of Jean Sibelius. It is obvious that Sergey played Sibelius and he did it well. I was happy to watch the concert on livestream and afterwards as a video recording. Unfortunately this video is no longer available, but the interview of Sergey after the rehearsal is still available:
Then, finally, in the beginning of March I had the chance to attend the next great concert of Klaus Mäkelä and Sergey - this time in Tampere (my old home town) and in the concert hall Tampere-talo (next to my old university). This was an opportunity not to be missed. And I managed to get the young hobby-violinist Karita from our family circle to join me in the concert. So, there we were, firstly listening to the warm-up talks before the concert hearing all kinds of things about the pieces of music to be played. But we heard also of Sergey's sport exercises on the ice of the lake Näsijärvi during the week before the concert. And we had a discussion on the role of violoncello da spalla in his forthcoming concerts in Kuhmo and Kuusamo (further North) in the following week. Unfortunately there is no video recording of these talks nor on the concert. But it was great to listen to Sergey playing Stravinsky.
During the intermission we had a chance for catch-up talks with Sergey and I told him that I would come to Berlin as well. And Karita was happy to get the record "Hommage à Ysaÿe" signed by Sergey as a belated birthday present.
Then it was the time for the 'Paganini-Marathon' in Berlin. To be sure, we knew that Sergey had produced a great record as "Hommage à Paganini" and an equally great video "Paganini live" in addition to the trailer of the video. So, many of us knew what to expect.
Also, the guitarist Alberto Mesirca had played nicely Paganini cantabile with Daniel Rowland in an interesting location.
Yet, what we got was something more vivid, something more creative and something more seamlessly played than anything what we had expected before. The chain of Paganini's caprices was opened by Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and by music of Nicola Matteis. But when we got to Paganini, everything worked like a clock. A major clock was projected on the wall and when the music moved on from one caprice to another, the pointers of the clock were moved one hour further. So, in this way we were kept informed of what was currently going on, Yet, there were imaginative blends played in the middle of the music. At a certain point I and my Scottish colleague started to pick some Scottish influences - and then there were some parts of "Scotland the brave" inspiring Paganini to the final run. In the next phase it seemed to us that there was some Hungarian flavour integrated into the music of Maestro Paganini. To be sure, this didn't disturb us at the least. Here a short clip of the sounds of Maestro Paganini at the concert:
Altogether we all in the audience, in particular Maria Lazareva from Moscow, my ex-colleague Alison from Berlin and myself were overwhelmed and stunned of what we could see and hear. And the encore - Henri Vieuxtemps' Capriccio for Viola - was completely disarming us. There was no other response to that than a standing ovation - and all the others in the audience felt in the same way. We enjoyed very much and we hope that the video that was recorded will be edited for public viewing.
The 'debriefing' extras after the concert
At the end of the concert we noted that there was no restaurant or cafeteria in the same building or in the neighbourhood that could have accommodated us for some kind of group talks after the event. So, most of the audience faded away while I was getting the CDs signed by Sergey. And suddenly we were only a small group of family members, musicians, support team members - and me. I was very pleased that Sergey and Anna could host our little group at their place. And we had some nice talks on music, technical support, films and videos as well as other topics. And in the middle of all that Sergey presented us yet another instrument and explained how it works. Here we only have a still image of it (on Instagram Sergey has uploaded a video with sound.) So, at the end of the day there are no limits to creativity when our top artists are concerned. Altogether, we in the audience were happy with what we had experienced during that evening.
I guess this is enough of the background and of my impressions on the concert. After the event we in the audience were overwhelmed, stunned and speechless. Gradually we are getting our impressions together. But it would be a great thing to get a video recording of this magnificent concert to refresh the memories. We are looking forward to it and to the next concerts of our musicians.
More blogs to come ...