blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Windtet and Bierfest

Eleonore in her garden,
photo by Christiane Willox-Conzemius
The German Ambassador and his wife Eleonore are very generous with their hospitality. On top of everything else that they do, they arranged for three Kulturtage (days of German Culture) in a row at their residence, this week; all and sundry were invited.

On Thursday evening they "proudly presented" a German piano and wind quintet (a Windtet, they call themselves) known as Ensemble 4.1. Two of its members, the clarinet and horn player, are in the Berlin Symphony Orchestra; the pianist, oboist and bassoon player have equally prestigious careers. Back in 2009, Thomas Hoppe the pianist was chosen as the BBC's New Generation Artist. The point is, they are obviously good friends who love playing together and sharing their usually unusual choice of music with an audience. The audience in Eleonore's reception room was packed, crammed together on the folding chairs. While our buffet supper was being prepared in the adjoining rooms (we could smell it!) we heard an hour and a half of wonderful music, all of which is to be found on their new CD, apparently.

Beethoven's Op. 16 first, a three movement, Mozartian quintet. Introducing it, the clarinetist led us to believe that Beethoven, when he wrote this early work, was competing with Mozart. (The embedded video below shows these musicians playing the Mozart piece).

Then followed a four-movement quintet by a 19th century German composer no-one in the room but the performers had heard of, Heinrich von Herzogenberg. Brahms was his wife's piano teacher, apparently, and the music was indeed Brahmsian.

The last piece on the programme was by a composer from New York, Avner Dorman, composed in 2007 for a chamber music festival in Jerusalem and entitled Jerusalem Mix. It was a sound-painting of that city, evoking the dances and Jewish wedding marches, the chanted prayers of both Jews and Muslims (the Wailing Wall, the Islamic call to prayer); the "intense, shocking" fourth section of the piece was simply entitled "Blast". Jerusalem Mix is also the name of a meaty dish served in Israel and Herr Glücksmann, the clarinetist, said that this symbolised the "cultural melting pot" that is Jerusalem: "all combined, everyone." The musical techniques displayed were quite experimental, the pianist leaning over the grand piano to pluck, hit or strum its strings, for instance, the wind players revelling in its discordant or unison passages. Some of the audience preferred listening to the Beethoven, but personally, I find this modern stuff exciting.

Arriving at the Bierfest, Friday evening,
photo by Christiane Willox-Conzemius
The German meal that we ate after this was delicious, including some Knödel (dumplings) with mushroom sauce that I'm now determined to try recreating in my own kitchen. Unfortunately Chris wasn't along to share this treat, having an appointment at the optician's, but he did join me at the Bierfest yesterday evening, Friday. This was an event for which the invitation asked people to come casually dressed, and was a relaxed, very well-attended affair, with frothy German Weissbier served in the tents, consumed with Pretzels and chicken legs or hot-dogs with coleslaw at tables on the lawn and a central marquee for traditional, Bierfest style, accordion / saxophone music and dancing. Several of the guests were wearing Dirndl –– which are flattering garments for all women (I'll have to buy one next time I'm in Germany) –– or Lederhosen shorts with leather braces, not so flattering for the men, really, although I liked one chap's felt hat with its flamboyant plume of feathers. This party too was excellently well put together. We made some new acquaintances, a Finnish couple, a lady married to a Dutch diplomat, the newly arrived German Defence Attaché, and also met and talked to a good few people we already knew, including a young couple from our flying club, Tanner and Christine, who were doubtless looking for ideas for the Oktoberfest parties they like to throw at their own house.

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