Aberdeen Cycle Concert 4 – Kurt Schwertsik’s compelling companion piece, On the way to Heilgenstadt

Saturday, 07 November 2015

In this recital, Beethoven’s sonatas no. 8 in G and no. 6 in A were paired with new pieces by Jeremy Thurlow and Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik.

Beethoven’s eighth sonata was preceded by its companion piece, enigmatically titled Mehlschöberl. Thurlow explains that this was one of Beethoven’s nicknames: the   Mehlschöberl  is in fact a light Viennese pancake, eaten with beef broth. Indeed, Thurlow’s composition did have a special lightness. The piano part was brittle, glassy even and the violin part full of smaller and larger leaps integrated into the music with a remarkably smooth sense of continuity by Krysia Osostowicz.
Thurlow’s final bars matched Beethoven’s opening motif perfectly, leading seamlessly into the sonata. The opening movement of the eighth sonata is very much a showpiece for the violin, while the attractive second movement is an essay in  teamwork for the players and I loved the delicacy that Krysia brought to this gentle Menuetto. In the rustic finale I could imagine a vigorous stroll through the Vienna Woods with Beethoven before retiring to a café to enjoy a Mehlschöberl with beef broth.

Beethoven’s sixth sonata received a delightfully elegant performance, followed by Kurt Schwertsik’s compelling companion piece, On the way to Heilgenstadt. Schwertsik (b. 1935) is the most senior of the “Beethoven Plus” composers, and his music has been described in The Financial Times as “ homespun, witty, nostalgic, vegetarian, politically liberal, intelligent, anti-authoritarian, and deeply in love with tradition”. His first movement suggested the spirit of a Mahler Ländler, while the second section was unapologetically romantic. This was certainly one of the most immediately attractive of the companion pieces, clearly appreciated by the audience.