Review: The Hunting Gun, Paul Lewis; Aldeburgh Festival; Snape Maltings; June 7-8
PUBLISHED: 17:46 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:46 17 June 2019
© Stephen Cummiskey 2019 +44 (0)79 2978 6305 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2019 festival opened with the UK premiere of Thomas Larcher's opera The Hunting Gun, written for and first performed at the Bregenze Festival in 2018. The libretto, by Friederike Gosweiner, is based on a novel by the Japanese writer Yasushi Inoue.
The opera deals with a man - the Hunter - and three women linked to him in ways that are not quite as straightforward as might appear: his wife, lover and niece. Much of the work is set in the past, concerned with states of mind rather than actions.
An open rectangle drew the audience into the work which began in a wintry forest and the voices of the Exaudi ensemble. The Poet, performed by Samuel Boden, reads a letter from the Hunter; soon he appears, followed by the three women. Peter Schone (Hunter), Sarah Aristidou (niece), Giula Peri (wife) and Iris van Wijnen (lover) were dramatically and musically exemplary.
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The music is modern, but there is also a great deal of calm, reflective writing and inspired use of keyboard and percussion. The Knussen Chamber Orchestra under Ryan Wigglesworth were sensitive to the score and the thoughtful contributions from Director and Designer contributed to a compelling experience.
Paul Lewis's piano recital consisted of Beethoven's monumental Diabelli variations prefaced by Haydn's lively sonata in E minor and Thomas Larcher's Movement for Piano, the world premiere of a Festival commission. Both were excellently played - Haydn confident and spirited as ever, Larcher creatively searching, beginning with high oscillations and moving through chordal passages to pealing tones reminiscent of Debussy.
Beethoven at his most creative and expansive is never to be approached lightly by performers or listeners but Paul Lewis, in a remarkable display of intellect and virtuosity, was the ultimate guide and explicator of this masterful work delivered to a full and rapt hall. Diabelli's rather insignificant yet oddly memorable tune was firmly set before us and although Beethoven stretches far and wide, Lewis kept purposefully on course and the 'cobbler's patch' of a tune never seemed to get lost. Piano playing at its very best.