Dagbladet reviews The Rosendal Festival
The intensely beautiful landscape of the stately Rosendal Barony was filled with music. And not just any music, but with chamber music of the highest level. It sounds like a fantasy, or a pipe dream. But now its really there. The Rosendal Chamber Music Festival is established, and the long weekend was not a one-off phenomenon, but the first in what will become an annual series of festivals in roughly the same format … Andsnes has led chamber music festivals before in Norway, even one of the finest – in Risor. And now he is possibly even more established, has a greater musician network to draw on and is even richer in repertoire than before.
All this left its mark on this year’s festival from day one, where it was clear that the festival did not consist of the familiar exercise of finding some – preferably not too specific – headline theme and then programmed by whim on the availability of musicians. No, this year’s theme was Franz Schubert, and not a general focus, but specifically, “Franz Schubert – 1828”. In other words an in-depth look at Franz Schubert during the last year of his life, which is known for an incredible wealth of compositions written before he died aged 31 on 19 November. It was an incredible journey criss-crossing through the late universe of Schubert, with a few detours along the way …
One completely separate complaint was the transformation of the barn at the Barony into a concert hall. For when the restoration was nearly complete it apparent that the acoustics were not up to standard for a concert hall. So an acoustic system was designed – one of the most advanced available. The musicians play and the sound is captured by a large number of microphones. It is then distributed back into the concert music through a sea of smaller speakers, scattered throughout the auditorium. It all runs thanks to the most experienced sound engineers. And they face a huge challenge – The first concert was not unproblematic. The Brentano String Quartet had a reverberation that was not in proportion to their own way of playing … But wonder of wonders, when we got to the third concert, which included Ravel’s Piano Trio and Schubert’s Octet, the system was corrected, the experienced soundmen had listened in and the music was victorious.
… For the artistic exploration of Schubert 1828, Andsnes brought in a top class group of musicians including cellist Sol Gabetta, violinist Vilde Frang, clarinetist Sharon Kam, baritone Matthias Görne and pianist Bertrand Chamayou as well as musicians from the younger generation: Guro Kleven Hagen on violin, Eivin Holtsmark Ringstad on viola, Frida Fredrikke Waaler Wærvågen on cello and the Chinese, but now Norwegian based, Jie Zhang on piano.
One day we heard Schubert’s intricate and subtle Piano Trio No. 2, D929 with Gabetta, Frang and Chamayou, played at a level I have never experienced before, then later in the festival we experienced his Piano Trio no. 1, D898 with Guro Hagen, Frida Wærvågen and Jie Zhang, played with all the vitality and extroverted grandeur that characterizes the work. Both piano trios were written within a small time interval, at the end of Schubert life and they provide two very different ideas of what it was Schubert was looking for, musically, in his final years.
For the closing concert in Kvinnherad Church so many of the musical threads were brought together. Vilde Frang and Bertrand Chamayou played the Schubert Fantasy in C major, D 934, with tremendous virtuoso. Mari Erikmoen and Andsnes gave us two of Schubert’s late songs as well as “Shepherd on the Rock”, D965 where Sharon Kam joined on the clarinet. Erikmoen sang splendidly and Kam shaped the clarinet line exquisitely – the whole thing held masterfully together by Andsnes. It was Schubert’s very last composition – immensely beautiful and life-affirming. And the festival closed with Andsnes and Chamayou performing the duet Fantasy in F minor, D940 – music of an almost ethereal beauty.