With all the dirty laundry being publicly aired over at the ENO these days, we were slightly concerned to read that Paul Kildea had resigned as artistic director of Wigmore Hall a while ago. Sure, maybe he really does simply want to "concentrate on conducting" as the publicity would have it, but BBC Music Magazine, among others, ever-so-coyly speculates that he just might have been forced out because of his adventurous (read: good) programming by the "Wiggy traditionalists" (read: wretched old people with money).
Let's hope that's not the case — we'll have a better idea what's going on when Kildea's successor is named. Just in case the Hall is headed for reactionary retrenchment next year, we intend to enjoy all the young performers and new music scheduled for this season while we have the chance. Like, for example, the Yukawa-Chan Piano Duo last night.
Cassie Yukawa and Rosey Chan are technically solid and interpretively subtle pianists, but it was the repertoire they chose — half the works written in the last 5 years, including a UK premier of a piece by Louis Andriessen — that made the concert unmissable. Well, there's also the fact that, um, Yukawa and Chan's milkshakes bring all the boys in tha yard, if you know what we mean, and we think you do (see picture above).
More on what they played, and what they were wearing — oh good lord in heaven what they were wearing! — after the jump.
Each half of the program began with a reworking by a contemporary British composer of a keyboard piece by J.S. Bach. First Philip Niel Martin's very brief, witty reworking of the 2nd prelude from the WTC, and then, after the interval, Robin Holloway's much longer and more "interventionist" reworking of the Goldberg Variations, titled "Gilded Goldberg." Both were a lot of fun, and there were moments of real delight in the Holloway.
Henri Dutilleux's "Figures de résonances," written in 1976, sounded like nothing so much as really good Free Jazz — including some very Thelonious Monk-ish sounding harmonies — with some modernist trappings around the edges. Transfixing. Both the flashy, nonchalant showpiece "Flyer" by Anthony Powers (premiered a few months ago by Yukawa and Chan) as well as the get-out-of-your-seat-and-dance performance of "Fuga y Misterio," by the colossus of the Tango Nuevo Astor Piazzolla, pleased the audience without pandering. (We got another Piazzolla tango as an encore.)
The meat of the concert consisted of a four-movement Rachmaninov suite, and the aforementioned Andriessen premier, "Hague Hacking." The Rachmaninov wasn't really our thing — too many melodies seemed ready for cooption by Celine Dion, although maybe that's just us — but it was wonderfully played and intelligently interpreted, even if some of the little notes weren't typewriter-perfect. Louis Andriessen, by contrast, wrote very little of what could be called "melody" in "Hague Hacking." (And what does this title mean, by the way? The idiotic program book gives no clue...) He was once a direct-action leftist radical, and is now the Grand Old Man of Dutch musical life, so it was fascinating to hear him, in this new work, return to a musical technique that characterised his very earliest mature works — that is, "hocket," fast back-and-forth interlocking parts for the two pianos. It is not a long piece, but it is exuberant and confrontational. The sonorities were abrasive and uniformly loud (this is an Andriessen hallmark), but the harshness never became self-indulgent. It sounded like a clanging, half-broken machine. Thrilling.
The program closed with the "Paganini Variations" by a very young Witold Lutoslawski, which were showy and fun, but had enough interest and spice to fit in with the rest of the program.
Oh yes, and then there were the dresses. Where to begin? You may find this incredible, but you must believe us: There were bejewelled serpents around their necks. Bejewelled! Serpents! We're serious. The frocks themselves looked like a TopShop version of what Fay Wray wore to get sacrificed to King Kong. They looked like... extras in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Or maybe backup dancers in a Shakira video.
And you know what? They looked great! More power to 'em, we say! It was fresh, it was glam, it just on the right side of tacky. Just two things: when you're wearing bejewelled sepents, you can afford to be a bit more adventurous with the makeup — darker eyes, redder lips... it looks better under stage light anyway. And Cassie, darling, can we talk about your hair? Because we just don't understand this bun thing you were sporting, and that fringe isn't helping anyone.
But the dresses? Four stars! You looked fab, ladies, and don't let anyone tell you any different.