Making an Effort

To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also. – Igor Stravinsky


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10th July,2016 – Tine Thing Helseth & Kathryn Stott

Trumpet: Tine Thing Helseth

Piano: Kathryn Stott

Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Arthur Honegger: Intrada

Béla Bartók: 6 Romanian Folk Dances BB68(transcribed for trumpet)

Bohuslav Martinu: Sonatina for Trumpet and Piano

Rolf Wallin: Elegie

Karl Pilss: Sonata for Trumpet and Piano

Edvard Grieg: Haugtussa Op.67 ‘The Mountain Maid’ (transcribed for trumpet)

Ástor Piazzolla: Histoire du Tango – Café 1930, Nightclub 1960

Encore: Piazzolla: Libertango

Every time I have seen Tine Thing Helseth perform, I have absolutely loved it. The first time I saw her perform was with the other nine ladies of her brass ensemble ‘Tenthing’. I have also seen her perform as a soloist with HK Sinfonietta, with her jazz quintet ‘TTHQ’ and two years ago with Ian Tracey, the organist, at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral for a trumpet and organ recital. It was high time I saw Tine perform in recital with her pianist and recording partner, Kathy Stott. I have also seen Kathy perform in Hong Kong at the International Chamber Music Festival, organised by PPHK. Kathy has a career that has spanned decades and she is very well known for her partnership with Yo Yo Ma. Having looked at her rather extensive collection of recordings, I noticed that she has recorded an album with Truls Mørk, another Norwegian that I only just saw at my previous concert last week!

Tine and Kathy arrived on stage with Tine barefoot in a blue lace dress with matching nail polish and Kathy is a gold top and black trousers – both looking elegant and comfortable!

They started with ‘Intrada’ after which, Tine picked up the microphone to give introductions to pieces which gives the audience some insight into the pieces. I know that in a CD review (I think it was for ‘Storyteller’), the critic did not look favourably on her music selection. However, in such a setting as this, it feels like Tine is sharing something of herself; Tine’s selection of pieces have a special meaning for her and she obviously enjoys playing them.

I enjoyed all the pieces with Tine and Kathy performing brilliantly with beautiful tone and expression. I particularly enjoyed the Bartók Romanian dances as I had heard the mandolin version earlier this season performed by Avi Avital in HK. It is full of folk melodies and it was lovely to hear them on the trumpet.

Being Norwegian, Tine included Norwegian composers in the programme. Wallin’s Elegie was a beautiful piece tinged with sadness as it was written for Wallin’s sister’s funeral. He performed it himself at the funeral in Norway. The piece by Grieg is based on a story about a maid courted by a shepherd and the music reflects the ups and downs of the courtship but he finally gets rejected. Tine quipped that the course of true love didn’t run smooth for the characters, just like in real life.

Occasionally, Tine would ask Kathy if there was anything else to add to the music introductions but it was easy to see that Kathy knew Tine had it covered! It was lovely to see warm hugs between the two musicians at both the interval and at the end of the concert that reflects the beautiful partnership and friendship that these two talented ladies share.

Piazzolla at the end of the concert was a wonderful way to conclude, with foot tapping music, including the encore of  Libertango where Tine was swaying and stamping her feet to the music. I definitely left on a musical high after this wonderful performance!

I had the pleasure of going up to the green room after the concert. Thankfully, for me, there wasn’t too much of a queue. I received the usual lovely hug from Tine and had a quick chat and she obligingly signed a CD for my friend’s nephew in Adelaide. (I had wanted to get a signed CD from Tine to give to him as he is a beginner trumpet player and a very lovely boy, so really want to encourage him!) I was then able to see Kathy, who recognised me (due to my incessant tweeting!). She knew I had been sitting on the front row so she had given me some smiles at the interval and end of the concert. So we had a chat and I didn’t know that she had been invited to this year’s HKICMS again, but hadn’t been able to make it. I was able to have my programme signed and a photo with both of the lovely ladies before I left. I am sure I’ll be seeing them perform (together or separately) at some point in the future.

From L-R: Kathy Stott, myself and Tine Thing Helseth in Wigmore Hall’s Green Room.

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2nd November – Avi Avital and the Cologne Academy

Mandolin: Avi Avital

Orchestra: The Cologne Academy Chamber Orchestra

Venue: Hong Kong City Hall, Concert Hall

Vivaldi – Concerto in F major Autumn from The Four Seasons RV 293

Bach – Violin Concerto in G minor BWV 1056 (arr. Avital)

Vivaldi – Concerto in F minor Winter from The Four Seasons RV 297

Bach – Violin Concerto in A minor BWV 1041 (arr. Avital)

Bloch – Nigun from Baal Shem

Bartók – Romanian Folk Dances

Falla – Danse Espagnol

Tsintsadze – Georgian Folk from Eight Miniatures Tunes

I wasn’t so sure about buying a ticket to this concert at first. However, I knew the name, Avi Avital is quite prominent at the moment- probably due to following Wigmore Hall‘s Twitter feed and hearing of his collaboration with Mahan Esfahani, the harpsichordist.  I looked at the programme and saw that it consisted of equal measures of Baroque and folk music, both of which I enjoy, so why not go and experience it?!

As the players of the Cologne Academy walked onstage, I was surprised that the ensemble was mostly women. This was quite a nice observation to make as it is usually the opposite that is seen. Avi Avital and the conductor arrived and Avital sat on a chair near the front of the stage, but unfortunately for me the conductor was standing directly in my line of view! I was at the front and just at the wrong angle, but it really is all about listening to the music! The first half was Vivaldi and Bach which I enjoyed. The second half was based on folk music. Avital was fantastic on the mandolin and the balance between orchestra and soloist was excellent.

During the second half of the concert, Avital paused to talk about the concert and the pieces noting the themes of the two halves. He talked more about the pieces in the second half of the concert including the pieces by Tsintsadze, who he said many people may not have heard of and therefore may not have heard the music before. I had looked in the programme and noticed that one of the Tsintsadze pieces was called ‘Indi Mindi’ which rang a bell with me. So when I was listening to the music I recognized several sections, especially ‘Indi Mindi’ which I was quite excited about. I realized that I had a CD – probably from BBC Music Magazine around 20 years ago that was called ‘St Petersburg Classics’. I did get to mention my familiarity to ‘Indi Mindi’ to Avital afterwards, and he asked if I was a cellist as Tsintsadze wrote music for cello, but I told him that I had heard a chorale version of it on an old CD. He did comment that it was quite rare for someone to be familiar with this piece.

A mandolin concert is probably not everyone’s first choice, but Avital really makes the instrument and the music come alive, with his playing and programme choice. I would definitely recommend anyone to see Avital in concert, whether it is classical, folk or jazz that he is performing!

Avi Avital: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert