Thursday, August 29, 2019

BISQC, day 4

This morning saw the final concert in the competition's Romantic round. The hall was close to full. Although most of us with the full week package are older folk, many of the day trippers this morning were much younger, in their 20s or early 30s by the look of them. So much for younger people having no interest in classical music.

Unfortunately there were also some considerably younger than that, and I found myself seated immediately in front of the Squirming Little Kids section, with extra Kicking Of The Back Of My Seat added. I don't blame the kids: it's inhuman to expect preschoolers to sit still for this kind of music, and the same thing happened as always happens with small children at a serious classical concert: by halfway through the first long work, the squirming and talking were enough that the parents took the kids out and did not return, thus having wasted the price of their tickets as well as annoying everyone else in the auditorium. Since that always happens, perhaps the parents are merely clueless. I blame the presenters and the venue for not stopping them at the door and saying, "This is not an appropriate occasion for small children," and I had some strong words with the BISQC administrators afterwards. They kept assuring me they agreed with me, and I kept thinking, "Then why don't you do it?"

Otherwise the audience has mostly been good. Recorded pre-concert announcements have, so far at least, put an end to the plague of cell phones going off during concerts, and the worst that's happened was a couple days ago when a loud cough arrived at the beginning of one piece just as the bows were about to hit the strings.

The work that got squirmed through this morning was Mendelssohn's Op. 80, heard in this round for the third time, this time from the Eliot Quartet. They played with the same dramatic spirit as the Marmen yesterday. If it was not quite as dazzling, there was more of a variety of moods, with added roughage and some of the Elmire's alarming way with dissonances. The squirms didn't prevent me from giving this a good rating.

Then a good run-through of the Ravel from the Ulysses Quartet, far more encouraging than the Vera's. It started fairly plainly, but enough tangy accents and crisp phrasing built up to keep it interesting. The finale was best, full of pizzazz.

Lastly a composer we hadn't yet heard here. The Callisto Quartet brought their characteristic light and clear style to Dvorak's heavy-duty Op. 105. This clarified a lot of inner lines, such as bird calls for the second violin I'd never noticed before. But during the more energetic passages, the Callisto unleashed a heavy grinding sound, more often than strictly necessary but never inappropriately. This put the real heft in the music. Characteristic visual image: Callisto's violist, flush-faced, hunched over her instrument to get the maximum grind out of it.

The afternoon was off, and I rested up and accomplished some mundane tasks like laundry. There's a laundry room in the basement of our residence building. Strangely, the elevator does not go down to the basement.

The evening, halfway through the festival, saw the alumni concert. At each BISQC I've attended, they've invited back the previous session's winner for a special concert with other musicians. So please welcome the Rolston Quartet, or rather 3/4 of it because they've had a change of personnel in the interim, to perform with a recent winner of the Calgary piano competition in a tense, but not tensed-up, performance of the Franck Piano Quintet. Followed by a collaboration with two of this year's competition judges (who are all, of course, string players themselves) in Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, which is a string sextet. (Tchaikovsky loved Italy, because of the lack of snow.) This was absolutely sizzling, Tchaikovsky with all of the fat baked out. The Rolston has been doing very well for itself since wining BISQC three years ago, and one can hear why.

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