earworms: Joshua Peters and Katherine Dowling, 2015 E-Gré Winner’s Tour

here’s another instalment of earworms.
from time to time, i’ll share my thoughts and reflections
on outstanding performances i’ve witnessed.

The Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition holds a special place in my heart – through my involvement as a two-time participant and longtime fan and volunteer, I’ve become part of a thriving network of young, connected and vibrant Canadian musicians making a real difference on the national scene. I was delighted to attend the 2015 Winner’s Tour concert in Brandon on Nov. 23, featuring violinist Joshua Peters and pianist Katherine Dowling.

Starting right from the just-audible, crystalline first notes of Vivian Fung’s “Birdsong”, Joshua and Katherine played with incredible confidence, drama and integrity – the kind of dedicated conviction that can only be earned through multiple repetitions of the same program and sincere understanding of the repertoire and of each other’s playing.

Alfred Schnittke’s “Violin Sonata No. 2” was a particular highlight. The piano and violin rarely play simultaneously in this piece; rather, the two musicians forge a texture of gestures caught and received, sounds thrown back and forth, gentle dialogues and violent interruptions. In the ferocious second movement, Katherine seemed to transform into some human-machine hybrid, repeatedly grinding thick G Minor chords from the piano. She played with raw mechanical power and a heavy-hearted, weary determination that maintained a brooding sense of fatalism and inevitability.

Joshua was a consummate storyteller: his introductions to the pieces were rich with personal connections. Through his words, composers became instantly relatable, fascinating characters. Ideas and images were described in vivid detail and with a gentle sense of humour. In Weinberg’s “Violin Sonata No. 5”, the folk-like character of melodic passages was twisted into darker and darker strands, accumulating heavy tragic weight. Joshua’s incredible range of sounds and colours shone throughout this wonderfully varied program, from a warm, embracing tone in John Estacio’s “Shades of a Romance” through curious flights, gritty pangs and exhausted croaks.

It was clear that beyond the experience of playing together, Joshua and Katherine simply enjoy listening to one another. Each gracefully retreated to the background – not just in sound, but also in physical presence – when they felt it was time for the other to be heard. This was a true collaboration, a joyous celebration of Canadian repertoire, a triumphant return to the scene of their success in May, and a warm invitation to open ears, hearts, and minds. (And I swear, those G minor chords are still reverberating somewhere in my soul). Thank you both for an unforgettable evening.

earworms: Timm Roller’s Abschlusskonzert

this is the first instalment of earworms, a new blog on everetthopfner.com
from time to time, i’ll post my thoughts and reflections
on outstanding performances i’ve witnessed

THE EVENT: Timm Roller, guitar and electronics. Abschlusskonzert. with AAA—AAA (Thilo Ruck, guitar) and Hanna Madeleine Kölbel, cello. July 10, 2015.

I feel strongly compelled to write. Right now, in this very moment, immediately.

Mere hours ago I was sitting in the Orchesterprobenraum of the Stuttgart Musikhochschule to attend the graduation recital of guitarist Timm Roller. Timm is an endlessly capable instrumentalist, a bold experimenter, and a technological wizard. A vast array of cables, computers and various electronic gear had been carefully assembled at the front of the room, ready to be deployed in the service of art.

And what art.

I’ve seen Timm work in many contexts – most commonly behind a mixing board, or calmly strolling through the school pushing a giant cart full of technological gear. He is endlessly patient, assisting everyone – and I mean everyone – with their own technological projects. Recording and editing performances, programming patches, setting up speakers, testing audio balance — he does it all, and for everyone, and totally competently, with impeccable professionalism, and gladly. I’ve also seen him perform with his duo partner Thilo Ruck in AAA—-AAA, exploring the boundary between music and noise, and bravely seeking and discovering new sounds from his instrument.

But this night – this concert – was something really special. This was Timm unfiltered, unaffected by externalities, able to stand in a spotlight of his own rather than competently helping others to shine their brightest. This was a thrilling, bold artistic statement: carefully chosen pieces performed with complete commitment, featuring incredibly tight collaborative partnerships with guitarist Thilo and cellist Hanna Madeleine Kölbel, all woven together in an all-encompassing collage of light, video art and noise. The works (by Michael Maierhof,  Martin Schüttler, Brigitta Muntendeorf, and Malte Giesen) flowed dynamically from one to the next, bound together with Timm’s own variations on Peter Ablinger’s work “WEISS/WEISSLICH 17g”. The whole event was absolutely unapologetic: a full-on blast of Timm’s inspirations, his experienced understanding of his instrument and his chosen repertoire, and his passion and love for his vocation.

The German word “Abschlusskonzert” has such a heavy air of formality and finality above it, implying that the performance will close a certain chapter of one’s artistic progress. This concert was no such thing, it couldn’t possibly have ‘closed’ anything. Rather, it opened – it opened minds, it opened ears, it opened the door to reveal the exciting path that Timm is boldly travelling. It showed us what is still possible in the newest of new musics, and even more impressively, just why it is essential that performers and composers continue to mine for sounds real and not yet realized.

I applaud Timm and his brilliant collaborators, I thank him for the evening of total inspiration and I implore you, dear reader, to keep this name in your consciousness and watch out for what will surely be more exceptional work to come.

timm roller recently appeared on ALL EARS.
catch his podcast interview and read more about him here.