Berlin success for Cikada

A new concert with Cikada was one of the main events on yesterday’s programme. Perhaps the royal hype caused by Crown Prince Haakon’s attendance has had an effect – this night’s audience was even bigger than the weekend’s. Read the latest dispatch from Nicholas H. Møllerhaug, MIC/Ballade’s own Magma 2002 reporter.

Cikada Quartet

Yesterday featured another concert with even more listeners showing up. In yesterday’s dispatch I questioned the royal hype caused by Crown Prince Haakon’s attendance - perhaps this factor has come into effect now. Cikada’s good reputation, much caused by positive reviews from their last visit, is another factor that contributes to last night’s good attendance. During the ensemble’s last German visit, they delivered a solid performance at the Witten Contemporary Music Festival – a concert that caused rumours which seem to have travelled the one-hour distance between Berlin and Witten.

A well-filled venue was initially given an insight into the live-electronics world of Swedish composer Åke Parmerud. Cikada Duo – the non-compromising duo version of Cikada – performed the new piece Zeit Aus Zeit, featuring the composer himself twisting the mixer’s knobs. Given the diversity of this piece’s form, it could have benefited from some shortening of its length though. Kenneth Karlsson and Bjørn Rabben prove they’re fine-tuned pair with a deep sense of interplay as they manage to convey the percussive familiarity of the piano and the various drums. This interplay is also the trademark courtesy of Cikada’s most recyclable member – pianist Kenneth Karlsson. During last night’s concert, Karlsson proved to be a key player with a challenging set of piano sheets to tackle.

The Cikada String Quartet was also given ample room for expression yesterday, as they tackled the challenges of Halflidi Hallgrimsson’s Streichquartett No. 2 and Karija Saariaho’s Nymphea - two works representing differing chamber-technical challenges. In many ways, Hallgrimsson is a romantic who manages to convey romantic passages. Hallgrimsson’s forte is his ability to avoid being too pathetic – although one should be allowed to be just a little bit pathetic. His contrasting quartet compositions were elegantly intertwined and his signature slightly out-of-tune and crispy tones marked a well thought out programme strategy: ending the evening’s concert with Saariaho displayed a good sense of form and aesthetics. Saariaho’s ascetic and complex expression, lines of advanced software-generated dialogue and lyrical temperament leads to compositions sharp as a knife’s edge that interact intensely with the instrumentation.

To be visible in a larger setting and to avoid becoming a closed world for the initiated few, the Nordic activity needs commenting voices. This statement could be perceived as a ridiculous way of saying that Nordic music is a streamlined unity. On the contrary, last night proved the exact opposite to be true. Parmerud represents the Swedish electrophonic tradition from the studios of the Swedish Radio. Parmerud proved to be a striking contrast to Hallgrimsson and Saariaho. Kenneth Karlsson as a piano soloist gave additional proof to the notion of Nordic diversity.

Luigi Nono’s work for Piano Solo and electronics, Sofferte Onde Serene, displayed a strong comment to the Nordic theme. This piece was skilfully positioned in relation to the otherwise all-Nordic programme. Above all, this piece gave the audience additional proof of Karlsson’s mastery of the piano. Karlsson’s recording of this composition if astonishing – live it’s even better with the electronics finding its right aural location.

There are few ways to better explain the Nordics than relating it to a Mediterranean context. The Italian translation of the Nordics is mezzanotte – literally meaning midnight. The Mediterranean, on the contrary, is often labled mezzogiorno – meaning afternoon. All in all, it’s a matter of light and temperament, and music displays this difference brilliantly.

Nicholas H. Møllerhaug is MIC/Ballade’s very own Magma 2002 reporter. Nicholas reports on a daily basis during Magma, and returns tomorrow with another dispatch from the German capital.

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