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Beethoven from home: Enjoying classical music in quarantine

Shadine Taufik

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, August 13, 2020  /  02:47 pm
Beethoven from home: Enjoying classical music in quarantine

‘Keroncong’ recomposition: Cendy Sukma Triananda recomposed and recorded a traditional Indonesian interpretation of “His Boat Comes on the Sunny Tide” with help from other musicians, such as singer Dessy Permatasari (top left). (Courtesy of Goethe-Institut Indonesien/-)

Partnering with Goethe-Institut Indonesien, the Jakarta City Philharmonic Orchestra presented “Beethoven from Home”, to celebrate the 250th birthday of illustrious German composer Ludwig Beethoven.

Conducted by Budi Utomo Prabowo, the experience consisted of five different performances that could be viewed by visiting Goethe-Institut Indonesien’s YouTube channel.

Budi said that, because of the pandemic, the concert could not be carried out according to earlier plans and preparations.

“We, the Jakarta City Philharmonic, then found a different way to celebrate, just as many other orchestras around the world, which is by sharing our music experience with you all through the internet,” he said.

Pianist Aisha Pletscher and violinist Arum Kusuma Dewi performed Scherzo from Beethoven’s “Violin Sonata No. 5, Op. 24”, also known as the “Spring Sonata”.

Showcasing their talent from their respective homes, the duet demonstrated the more joyful facet of Beethoven’s compositions.

Involving their families and children within the miniature performance, the musicians put on a cheerful show, providing an intimate look into the lives of the orchestra members in quarantine.

One-man band: Evpan Sinaga adapted “Der Kuss”, which is classically performed by a singer and a pianist, to an all-trombone ensemble.One-man band: Evpan Sinaga adapted “Der Kuss”, which is classically performed by a singer and a pianist, to an all-trombone ensemble. (Courtesy of Goethe-Institut Indonesien/-)

Following this, one of Beethoven’s “Lied” pieces – a poetic, romantic polyphonic composition, was presented.

Accompanied by Nesca Alma, baritone singer Joseph Kristianto led an at-home imagining of the upbeat, lyrical piece, “Der Kuss, Op. 128”.

In a dramatic routine acted out by the singer and subtitled in Indonesian, this lighthearted portion of the concert brought a humorous twist to the traditionally somber music Beethoven is known for.

Brimming with creativity, the next performer, trombonist Evpan Sinaga showcased his inventiveness with a retelling of the prior composition “Der Kuss”, adapting it to become a brass piece.

Evpan played and overlaid every single part in the piece, creating the unique sound of a one-man band.

The recomposition was accompanied by a video, a feat of spectacular editing that shows Evpan performing the various components of the melody, superimposed into an entertaining recomposition that transcended the realm of classical music.

“Creativity [expressed through] the creation of videos such as this is a way out, and I believe it is a good process that is awakening, primarily for musicians and workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Evpan said.

Composer and host Budi revealed the little-known fact that Beethoven not only made original compositions but also created arrangements for folksongs from the British Isles.

With this, he introduced the next performance, a true interpretation of “His Boat Comes on the Sunny Tide”, a piece from WoO, 152, a collection of 25 Irish folk songs Beethoven arranged in his lifetime.

Mezzo-soprano singer Anita Kristiana led the performance, backed by a piano trio consisting of Glenn Afif Ramadhan on violin, Dubertho Christnoval on cello and Stephanie Onggowinoto on piano.

In a performance faithful to the original composition, Anita dazzled with her vocals, complemented by Stephanie’s piano and deepened by Glenn and Christnoval’s strings.

Working from home: Violinist Arum Kusuma Dewi performs from the serenity of a field near her home.Working from home: Violinist Arum Kusuma Dewi performs from the serenity of a field near her home. (Courtesy of Goethe-Institut Indonesien/-)

This intercity collaboration taking place in Jakarta and Yogyakarta proves the enduring quality of music, even when arranged and premiered online.

The ensuing performance was a debut of an Indonesian reimagining of the same folksong.

Flutist Cendy Sukma Triananda was tasked with recomposing the piece, as he performed on the flute as well as the Indonesian string instruments cuk and cak, alongside Dessy Ananta Permatasari on vocals, Bevy Hanteriska on guitar, cello, and bass, and Iqbal Harja Maulana on violin.

Dessy highlighted the challenge of adapting a classical piece to a different, yet similarly nuanced genre.

“I was given the challenge of singing in the traditional Indonesian keroncong [folk music] genre, but it’s a Beethoven song, it’s extraordinary. The challenge was improvisation, because we as singers have to create the melody and identify the genre”, the singer said.

In another masterpiece of sound and video editing involving the same seven instruments for an ambitious crossover, the players, dressed in traditional garments, but a beautiful local flair on a classically Irish piece.

Grand finale: Beethoven’s famous Triple Concerto was performed by (left to right) Bernadette Wijnhamer, Alexandre Armaputra and Suwita Siladjadja, bringing a spirited denouement to the virtual event.Grand finale: Beethoven’s famous Triple Concerto was performed by (left to right) Bernadette Wijnhamer, Alexandre Armaputra and Suwita Siladjadja, bringing a spirited denouement to the virtual event. (Courtesy of Goethe-Institut Indonesien/-)

The closing performance was the beginning of the ingenious “Triple Concerto in C Major Op. 56”.

Featuring violinist Bernadette Wijnhamer, cellist Alexandre Armaputra and pianist Suwita Siladjaja, the notion of a “triple concerto” is rare, as concertos are by design created for a soloist accompanied by an orchestra.

With the affordances brought about by the internet and digital technology, this collaboration of instrumentalists was created without the musicians ever having practiced together.

What resulted was an intense, dramatic audiovisual experience that shows off the talent of each concerto soloist whilst harmoniously playing together, accompanied by the digital orchestra mixed and mastered by Andios Resioktopa.

Pianist Suwita explained that, to record his part in a complex, classical music concerto using this technological setup, he had to rely on imagination.

“You need imagination, so for me, I’ll play the violin in my mind, the cello as well, so even though I’m recording alone, it’s as if I’m performing with them,” he said.

The cellist of the trio further elaborated on the importance of meeting and practicing in real life in order to understand each musician’s style of playing and to successfully collaborate and compromise.

“When this is analogized, it’s like driving a bus with three people, plus the orchestra, so four. Each has their own role. Each person’s (musical) texture can be different,” Alexandre explained.

Beethoven is not only known for his musical legacy but also for his unfortunate life story. Abused by his father as a child and gradually descending into deafness from the age of 26, his enduring talent and the image of the tortured artist has solidified the legendary status of the composer.

In the question and answer portion prior to her performance, Bernadette described how she resonated with his persona.

“His life was quite tragic. I like Beethoven, because when I was younger, I had to get an ear surgery, because my deafness before that required me to go through life feeling sound vibrations. I like him because, there are similarities between us.” (ste)

-- The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post

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