Concert “The Bellflower Family”
Imbi Tarum, Ene Nael, Julia Ageyeva Hess, Kristi Mühling, Corelli Consort
Mirjam Tally, Kristjan Kõrver, Tõnu Kõrvits, Anti Marguste, Rein Rannap
Tallinn Creative Hub
April 16, 2016

One of the last events of Estonian Music Days was at the same time the starting bang of the 10th Harpsichord Festival, the repertoire of which included contemporary Estonian music: Mirjam Tally, Kristjan Kõrver, Tõnu Kõrvits, Anti Marguste, Rein Rannap. I was at the concert as a guest of EMD but this is no PR text or critical analysis, but merely embodies the notes of my personal impressions.

As I was too stingy to spend two Euros on the EMD booklet, I don’t have background information on the performed pieces, which I could now share or which may have influenced my own understanding of the works. If there were deeper concepts behind these compositions, which should be explained in detail, I know nothing of them. I took it all as a clean slate. And I will only write what comes to mind first, as this is how memories, which are really only fragments of the past, are born.

A week, a month, or a year after the concert itself only the brightest moments of it will have remained in the memory, but the details fade. What is it that stays?

Tally’s electronic sounds were somehow too loud, too dominating compared to the harpsichord – it was overpowered by them, too quiet. It would be more logical for the electronics to play a supporting, accompanying role, but it overrode the harpsichord.

Then again, it could have been the fault of the fact that my ears were full of wax as it turned out later, so some sounds did not come through. Here comes lesson no 1: always go to a concert with clean ears.

Kõrver and Kõrvits were so sleep-inducing that I closed my eyes for a while, and some smaller children did in fact fall asleep during their performance.

This in itself is not bad. If there are numerous people willing to pay dozens of Euros for sleeping an hour or two to the sounds of gongs, there might be a similar niche for harpsichord music, but… lesson no 2: if possible, go to a concert after you have just woken up.

Marguste simply did not let the audience sleep. The recently deceased composer’s last joke was making a fire alarm ride into the work several times. I had just acquainted myself with the building’s evacuation scheme, but as no one else seemed to be anxiously looking for an exit, I stayed put as well.

Therefore, lesson no 3: not everything is predictable, but be ready for the unexpected (including the possibility that some alarms may sound for actual reasons, not be a part of a composition).

Rannap’s concert for the harpsichord and strings shook everyone up completely. It really sounded like harpsichord rock or something that is called “classical crossover” in English – it goes well with not only the insiders, but a wider audience.

If, in the current case, the pop elements were melted into the language of classical music, almost as interesting results could be produced by mixing these ingredients in other ways. It has not been done with the harpsichord, but it has with violin (for example, Vanessa Mae almost twenty years ago, and now Lindsey Stirling, a Youtuber who is even more popular than Mae was). Why not try to do something like this with the harpsichord?

In conclusion, four elements of a perfectly memorable harpsichord piece can be derived from the above: first of all, cover it with electronics, then lull the audience almost to sleep, then resound the fire alarm and finish off on the note of hard rock. Additionally, you also need the radio waves as not everyone makes it to the concerts.