Madeleine Peyroux is a female jazz singer whose songs and lyrics I loved. So I could be forgiven if I went to her one and only concert at the Cultural Centre the night before last with some expectations. I couldn't be more wrong. It turned out to be an experience I'd much rather forget because it destroyed all my illusions about her. I really don't know what happened. Is it because Peyroux was tired and didn't have the energy to make it an unforgettable experience? Is it because it was so very poorly planned? Or is it that there was no planning to speak of at all? If there's any planning, is it because of poor choice of the sound engineering company or a bad choice of its technician/engineer? Or Is it because the three local violinist, viola-player etc. were not of the right kind? If they were, did they ever rehearse together?
Jazz is a musical form which depends for its success upon the spontaneous rapport between the different players making up the musical group performing on the band stand or the stage. I saw a lead violinist, a second violin, a double bass, a guitarist, a drummer on stage. They were all playing and for Peyroux both playing and singing. Some had a score in front of them, some not. But whatever they were doing, they were not playing together despite their physical proximity to each other. And as if that were not bad enough, the sound engineer/technician seemed to know absolutely nothing about music, let alone jazz music or even anything about the right kind of sound level: the amplifying equipment seemed perfectly posed to fight and overwhelm the screams from teenage lungs run wild in a rock concert. He might have forgotten that he's doing it not at the Hung Hom Sports Stadium but at the Cultural Centre and there were few teenagers. About the only thing he knew appeared to be restricted to how to avoid any "mike-feedback" from re-entering the sound reproduction/amplifying system. I had thought of walking out after the sound failed to improve after the third number. No matter how good Peyroux might be, my mood was completely spoiled by the sound trying its best to pierce my eardrums and from time to time threatening to do them permanent damage. Peyroux tried to put up a brave face and made some feeble attempts to lighten the atmosphere by her mis-fired jokes which evoked hardly any response worth mentioning from the audience. I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for myself. But I congratulated myself for restraining my urge time and again to storm out and my unbelievable patience in enduring the ordeal right to the end of the concert and still managing to stay all in one piece. At the end of that rare episode of musical hell, I did not have to revise my initial impression that I could do much much better reverting to listening to Peyroux's CD's.
The concert last night was a completely different matter. On stage appeared two middle aged musicians who somehow still manage to maintain their youthful love of music for its own sake: Leonidas Kavakos, the violin soloist and Enrico Pace, his partner, certainly not merely his piano "accompanist". Together they made music the way it's supposed to be: flowing, lyrical, poetic, agitated, exciting, passionate, faithful to the score, as required, without any unwanted exaggeration. I really admire their dedication to the musical muses,, the spirit of music. The man and the violin had become one. The man and the piano had become one. Two instruments have become one. Two souls had been joined into a third, greater than either, without however losing the uniqueness of each. One can feel how they must love their instruments, how they love playing with each other. It was sheer joy listening to them. I could sit there forever. They played for us three pieces in the programme; all Beethoven violin sonatas: Violin Sonata No.1 in D, Op. 12.1 his earliest one. Violin Sonata No. 5 in F, Op. 24 "Spring" and Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Op 47 , the "Kreutzer". The two artist enjoyed playing for us so much that they gave us 4 encores, much faster and at places more lively and certainly much more "contemporary" than than those in the formal programme. If I can never find enough superlatives to describe how good their seamless and impeccable treatment of the music were nor how wonderful it felt listening to this pair of musical partners. If one word could be used, then it had to be "heaven".!