Wednesday, November 14, 2012

London Jazz Festival: Celebrating Friedrich Gulda

What is the definition of good music? There are thousands of answers to that. Mine, at this moment, is a simple or even primitive one: when you leave the venue, whether a tiny, basement club or a 2000-seat concert hall, you still have the beat, the vibe and the mood. So the actual concert is only the beginning of a longer personal association with that piece of music.

Last night, after the first set with the BBC Concert Orchestra playing Fredrich Gulda was finished, and when an interval of 20 minutes began in anticipation for the next set with Shabaka Hutchings, me, standing on the terrace of Queen Elizabeth Hall and its magisterial view to the Thames, and smoking the life away in hand-rolled cigarettes, felt that music of the first set was still physically present inside my - growing in me. What moved me so profoundly and brought the joy so easily was Fredrich Gulda's cello concerto, conducted by Mark Lockhart and soloed by Benjamin Hughes whose sensitivity as a great player was mixed with authority and preciseness. What could easily get into your system was a joyous "mish mash" (Lockhart's words) of the Viennese swing and marches, flickering sounds of woodwinds on the background which elaborate the tense presence of cello. It was good enough to literally overshadow what was followed in the concert.

I've written about Gulda on at least three occasions, and have addressed the tons of potentials in his music for contemporary jazz musicians, whether small-scale combos, or bigger bands with a wider majority of classical instruments involved. Mark Lockhart, the principle conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, daringly, and justly, said that if Gustav Mahler was alive today, he would have been doing the thing that Gulda is doing on this concerto: the combination of earthly music and sublime music, folk music and military bands, and rock and jazz.

This awesome concert, for the UK listeners is online at the BBC iPlayer.

Also on the second set, Babylon, the new BBC-commissioned piece for the orchestra and a jazz group, written by Shabaka Huthcings was premiered. It was about the dirt and movement in the new Babylon, London, but sounded to me as if it was a very long prologue which was never connected to the main story, the story of the city. As a matter of fact, I felt that story was never told, probably because Hutchings added no solos or no jazz textures to the various sound textures he was producing.

Later, Hutchings went back to the stage, with his Sons of Kemet band (two drums and the tuba of one Oren Marshall), and this time he played some materials which he had obviously more passion on and showed how good a clarinet and saxophone player he is.

For the ending of the story, you can watch some minutes of Gulda's own take on the cello concerto from this YouTube video:

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