Classical music is usually surrounded by an air of exclusivity and high culture, but the Chamber Music Society of Colombo has been delivering a series of accessible, intimate performances with the Goethe Institut series. With tickets available at the venue for Rs 750, they’ve been selling fast and there’s just a few left and we think it’s a concert worth checking out.
Lakshman Joseph de Saram, the artistic director of CMSC, let us sit in at one of their rehearsals for the show, and spoke to us about the nature of the performance. A piano septet is an unusual combination of instruments, we learned, as the usual fare comes in the form of Piano Trios and Piano Quartets. Among the instruments being played, there are violins that are between one hundred and two hundred years old, with quite fascinating backstories of past owners.
At the rehearsals, we got to peer in to the inner workings of the performance, where each musician is communicating to each other on how they’re going to approach the piece. What’s great about CMSC’s approach to classical music is that their performances are often held in smaller venues that allow the audience to really feel a part of the experience, and it’s actually much less intimidating than a full-on orchestra. Look out for the pizzicato exchange between Lakshman and cellist Saranga A Cooray. It’s when they start delicately plucking the strings bringing in an almost childlike, playful feel to the performance.
We were able to catch every dramatic movement of the more animated performers, Lakshman and Ramya de Livera Perera (piano), particularly, and noticed the constant lines of communication between each instrument, be it eye contact or subtle gesture. Othman H Majid (violin), Avanti Perera (viola), Saranga (cello), Naveen Fernando (trumpet), Surekha Amarasinghe (flute), Ananda Premasiri (clarinet) and Nilanthi Weerakoon (double bass) will also be performing.
The Bratislava-born virtuoso pianist Johann N. Hummel (a student of Beethoven, and a mentor to Czerny, who in turn taught Liszt); wrote two of them. The second of these is the brilliantly tuneful “”Military Septet””, scored for piano, flute, trumpet, clarinet, violin, cello and double bass, of October 1829. Just over 50 years later (1880), the French composer Camille Saint-Säens, a famed organist and prodigious pianist, no doubt inspired by Hummel’s ebullient work, premiered a delightfully mellifluous, yet dramatically inclined Septet for piano, trumpet, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. The juxtaposition of these two connected works, uncommon by themselves due to the combination of instruments, is a rarity; and to have them both in one evening promises to be a treat indeed.
Septets were designed for groups of professional as well as aristocratic musicians for performance in residences of the European nobility at musical soirees and fund raisers, but you don’t need to be a part of all that to experience high quality musicianship in Colombo.
Time, Place, Tickets
The show starts at 7PM on October 18, 2015 at the Goethe Institut Hall on 39 R G Senanayake Mawatha (Gregory’s Road), Colombo 7. You can grab your tickets (Rs 750) from the security counter at the Goethe Institut, but head there fast as these events are usually booked well in advance and there’s likely just enough tickets for you and your friends.