For those who find 9 heavy reeds on a 32 stop instrument too loud, please do not read below! Content below may be disturbing to some . . . Government health warning: content below can seriously infect your audience.
In all of these compositions there are a full gamut of colours and emotions. Young people nowadays often miss depth, only finding it in the instant gratification of the bass vibrations of nightclubs, and seek thrill and colour absent from our grey weather and grey lives . When I tried to exhort excellent performers here into beleiving that we can all have that Carlo Curley enthusiam within us, we just have to find it and project it from within ourselves, one member suggested that my style might risk someone asking me what hallucigonen I might be on . . . to which I replied "Who needs hallucinogens when life can be so real?"
It has been mentioned often, but without CCTV and projector-screens, even the visual aspect has to be forsaken at many a venue, whereas I can never recall a piano concert played from inside a wooden enclosure with velvet curtains. This is a peculiarity of the instrument, and one which we have to work around, by going out to meet an audience face to face.
“Spot” and I have discussed privately some of the issues, and something of the psychology of “youth appeal,” but what occurs to me, is that in the Netherlands, no-one ever sees the organist play, the organs are seldom all that loud, yet there is a real enthusiasm and respect for the instrument. Interestingly, the biggest commercial centre, Rotterdam, is where you find the Spanish Chamades in abundance. Elsewhere, you find more modest sounds and the delights of Netherlands flutes.
I wonder…..just wonder…..if the hyperactivity of the UK, and the noise and bustle which attends it, are not the reason why people only respond to things which shout, bellow or roar louder than the rest?
It’s something which is also endemic in America, where people live fast lives in a noisy environment.
Is everyone so wound up all the time, that they are afraid of quieter things and positively terrified of silence?
I believe that these are important questions, which I don’t propose to try and answer. However, even the idea of a Netherlands version of someone like Carlo Curley would, I feel, be quite unimaginable. The same, I suspect, is also quite likely in other parts of Europe, where the pace of life is slower and the environment somewhat quieter.
It’s all about relatives, and one thing I recall being said to me by a specialist baroque lecturer, was the fact that the noisiest things by far, in that era, were the church organ and the blacksmith’s hammer.
I suspect that a lot of the more negative aspects shown towards the organ may well be due to ignorance, but I also suspect that they may also be due to the quite awful programming of many organ-recitals, which often seem to lack balance. Even an all Bach programme consisting of nothing but half-a-dozen Preludes and Fugues, would soon wear thin after the first two. Similarly, a programme of gunboat French symphonies or Messaien, would soon amount to overload, and lose all sense of drama.
One thing I always try to do is to inform people WHY I am playing what I am playing. People have taken the trouble to turn up, and I think they are quite interested to know why a performer chooses particular pieces of music, and what it means to them.
I recall Francis Jackson (a master programme-builder), saying that a good recital should always have an aperitif, a soup course, a main course, a frivolous sweet course and one or two good melodies, so as not to forget the old ladies. There is truth in this, because great drama only ever happens when the highest drama is exceptional rather than routine.
Bad blockbusters are those where the action never stops, and no-one ever eats a Chelsea Bun or sips tea whilst sat on the lawn.
I would like to feel that some people actually enjoy beauty as much as they do excitement. The two are not incompatible, as anyone who owns a Ferrari will tell you.
PS: Please do no sully Brahms' name by associating him with Beethoven.