Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Elgar Violin Concerto

Mating quasihemidemisemiquavers
Not earthquake related, the quasihemidemisemiquaver is a 128th note - a long tongue-twisting name for a very,very short note written with five flags on the stem - it almost looks like an insect crawling  alighting on the page. Rarely seen, it's so fast - it's like a speeding bullet and almost impossible to really means "play this as fast as you possibly can" - quasi, meaning almost. Almost because actually precisely playing at that rate is unlikely.

We're going to Disney Hall on Thursday to hear the Elgar Violin Concerto and I looked at the score noting there are many hemidemisemiquavers - 64th notes,  played as glissando - these will sound like trills. An amazing piece, it takes about 48 minutes and the music is incredibly complex and taxing. We're hearing the Danish violinist, Nikolaj Znaider who is young and fit looking - I think you'd have to be to play at this breakneck pace for 48 minutes. Of course, some parts of the concerto are slower and less strenuous but there's not much time for catching your breath or collecting thoughts and emotions.

Nikolaj Znaider
Nikolaj plays the “Kreisler” Guarnerius “del Gesu” 1741 violin on extended loan to him by The Royal Danish Theater. A quote from a Wall Street Journal interview: “’My relationship to my instrument? It's monogamy with episodes of forced promiscuity -- those famous moments when a string breaks, he says. Then you need to borrow the concertmaster’s violin." The instrument is valued at about 7 million dollars.  I'm sure he sweats on it, even if he plays with a neck rag. Does sweat make it more or less valuable?

There's a fascinating back story about  Elgar and his romantic dedication of this concerto to .....  Just five dots. Most believe the five dots stand for "Alice" which was the name of a very close friend and muse and conveniently, the name of his wife.  The "friend" gets most votes as the inspiration because of the uber-romantic nature of the music; Alice the wife was more practical than romantic, managing the business and providing support in every way. Her job was "taking care of a genius". That included encouraging the muses (there was more than one) and whatever else it took to keep inspiration flowing.

Elgar, looks like Matt Lauer
Last night I was looking at the score of the concerto online, reading about Elgar (there's volumes), reading about the "del gueso".  At 1:00 AM, I couldn't seem to quit until I read Dudamel's  bio.

Never ceases to amaze me - the volumes of information we can have in hand in a couple of minutes.  But when I get trapped like last night, eyes drooping, barely able to hold my head up yet compelled to google just one more thing, I confront the fact that I've become an info addict. Is this officially a mental illness yet? Have the big pharms come up with a medication?

We're looking forward to hearing this dazzling piece of music in the wonderful Hall.  I wonder if I can take my Ipad into the performance and google as we go? I hope not. 

1 comment:

  1. How was it? We haven't been to a concert there yet.