Day 1: Dundee Chamber Music

From Richard:

The sensible thing to do might have been to play the same programme five nights in a row, but for our Tunnell Trust tour this week we decided to play all ten Beethoven sonatas for piano and violin and one crazy brilliant piece by Enescu. The basic format is two sonatas per concert, with Enescu’s Scenes from Childhood between them (except in Glasgow tomorrow, which is a lunchtime so no Enescu). The complete Beethoven set is over 4 hours of music, and the Enescu is 25 minutes long – so it’s been a massive undertaking to prepare for this, and one we’ve been planning and rehearsing for for over a year.

Last summer we toured together in China, where we played the same pieces each night. Our programme there included Enescu’s Scenes and the Beethoven ‘Spring’ sonata, both of which feature in our concert tonight – so we’re setting off on familiar ground. In China we were able to enjoy honing our interpretation through repetition. That kind of familiarity is liberating, too, but we wanted to challenge ourselves this time with something different.

One of the motivating factors behind wanting to play all ten Beethoven sonatas was the idea that in order to play any single one of them better it’s worth knowing all of the others too. Over the past month or so we’ve been intensively rehearsing and performing the sonatas we hadn’t already played, and this concept has really rung true. There were points earlier on in the process at which I felt sceptical about it – was the time we spent practising one sonata really having a positive impact on another, or would we have been better focussing on only a handful? Gradually, though, subtle connections and differences became more apparent and meaningful to us, and I feel a much deeper connection to each of the pieces now, knowing them in the context of their family, so to speak. We also had some terrific sessions working on the sonatas with Anthony Marwood and Richard Ireland, through ChamberStudio at King’s Place in London, which I might write more about later on in the tour.

We’ll be writing something each day for this blog, sharing some of the highs and lows of our experiences here. The highlight of the journey so far (we’re currently approaching Markinch) has been the coining of a hashtag – #BeethovEnescu – to promote the tour. It’s been a crushing disappointment (a low, already!), however, that – inspired as #BeethovEnescu clearly is – it’s gained little to no traction on social media. It’s currently languishing at 1 – yes, ONE – ‘like’ on Twitter. If you’re reading this in Pollok, though, which marks the end of our tour, you’d be well advised to order your #BEETHOVENESCU t-shirt now, as the hashtag will almost certainly have gone viral by then and the associated merchandise might become difficult to get hold of.

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