Wednesday 31 July 2013

Urban Perfume - Helbig's Pocket Symphonies live

The Faure Quartett in action at Saatchi and Saatchi
The Faure Quartett in action at
Saatchi and Saatchi
A car-park is not the most obvious place to hear a concert, but this was no ordinary car park but the one behind the office of Saatchi and Saatchi and we were sitting outside their private pub 'The Pregnant Man'. The event was the first of two on 31 July 2013 to celebrate the release in the UK of Svein Helbig's Pocket Symphonies (see my review of the CD) with a pair of performances by the Faure Quartett, the first at Saatchi and Saatchi and the second at the Apple Store. I attended the first, and was treated to performances of Helbig's new versions of four of his Pocket Symphonies arranged specially for the Faure Quartett (on the CD they are played by the quartet along with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra).

The results had a very powerful and very urban feel to them, the version for the piano quartet came over with an extraordinary directness and the the performances had a strength that overrode the rather determined talking from some people at the adjacent table.  The acoustic was remarkably sympathetic, with a large brick wall behind to reflect the sound, and the players seemed entirely unphased by the unusual nature of the gig.

They started with Gone, a strongly evocative rather Piazzolla inspired piece. Then Eisenhuttenstad, named for Helbig's home town. The reduction made the music more immediate and even the lyrical passages had an underlying toughness. Next At Tear, with its quiet but tough opening leading to a very expressive tune, given a powerful and intense performance. Finally, rather aptly, Urban Perfume which came over as quite violent and rather dramatic. I did rather detect hints of Stefan Grapelli in the string playing

The music came over strongly, despite the rather determined talking, and at one point in the last number a woman walked past with her bicycle, ready to leave for home. Great energy and a great gig.

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