Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The last of The Risør Festival's 22 concerts ended in a seething series of climaxes -- Ligeti's Violin Concerto. It was a hair-raising performance by violinist Christian Tetzlaff with the Risør Festival Strings under Christian Eggen. By this time, the Festival audience had undergone a rare immersion in superb performances of Ligeti's music.

But because of the wild and insistent applause, the very final music of the festival (excluding, of course, the hilarious caprices that erupted at the all-night party on the musician's boat) was an encore. Tetzlaff alone playing Bach.

Earlier in the program, the Orion Quartet played Bartók's String Quartet No. 5, written in 1934. When the first movement closes, Bartok holds a mirror up to the themes that have unfolded, and we hear them upside down.
My eye wandered to this wooden carving at the front of the church:

It was an indescribably compelling performance.

The Orion Quartet has been playing together for two decades now and they've developed the oneness that comes with that kind of history. Violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips are brothers who take turns playing the first violin role. The violist is Steven Tenenbom and the cellist is Timothy Eddy. They've obviously stocked their portable box of psychological coping tools for keeping things inspired. They must be sophisticated tools, too, especially given the fact that the four players were put together in the same apartment for a week... and they still came through it with an absolutely unabashed adoration of this festival! They gave nothing but ecstatic reviews about a happy, free, inspired experience.

We talked about the nature of this open-minded audience, listening day after day to truly complex and often tortured music.
It prompted a conversation about the open-mindedness of children, and violist Steve Tenenbom said this:

I wonder if in the US we're not the slightest bit lazy in terms of choices in culture …
Give young people the option, and they'll really go for the music with energy, and they'll let the music speak to them. Then, at some point, we grow and we become very reliant upon movie reviews, restaurant reviews, word of mouth –- we only want to go to concerts because we've heard of that person and they're famous, and there's an electricity in the audience really because you're there because of the star power.… Somehow in this festival, it's really about the music. It's so much that way.

And cellist Timothy Eddy said this:

Hopefully playing an instrument will be taught in such a way that from the earliest age, and from the earliest experiences, the child is encouraged to literally play with the instrument … to use their sense of fantasy and connect it with the adventure of self-expression … it's another voice.

There he hit upon the theme of the Festival itself. And that phrase the adventure of self-expression keeps bouncing around in my mind.

More photos (click on them for a bigger view) beginning with the church's wonderful ceiling, and its simple doors:

Happy festival-goers with ice cream:

Three of the Orions:

Beautiful boat:

The view from the big floating restaurant:

Co-director Leif Ove Andsnes:

And a couple views of dinner:

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