Michael Endres launches Paekakariki’s 2012 Mulled Wine concerts with brilliant Romantic music

Mulled Wine concerts

Mendelssohn: Songs without Words, Op 19; Schubert: Sonata in G, D 894; Schumann: Carnaval, Op 9

Michael Endres (piano)

Paekakariki Memorial Hall

Sunday 18 March, 2.30pm

Last Sunday, at one of the world’s very few concert halls that stand only 50 metres from a sparkling surf beach, the year’s series of high class musical concerts was launched.

Paekakariki’s celebrated Mulled Wine Concerts, bravely and skilfully promoted by Mary Gow, started with a piano recital by Michael Endres, currently professor of piano at Canterbury University; sadly, he is returning to Germany soon.

A special piano was obtained for the concert – a Schimmel, from Auckland, courtesy of several local sponsors. Getting it to Paekakariki by Sunday was beset by a series of problems and mishaps and it was only the last-minute efforts by Mainfreight staff and by the piano tuner, far beyond the call of duty, that saw the piano in place and tuned in time.

The hard wood surfaces of the hall can make it difficult to control piano sound and that indeed proved troublesome at times

But it never obscured the essential quality of the piano or of Endres’s superb interpretations of the music, much of which demands fairly exuberant and energetic playing.  Ironically, it was the encore – Chopin’s gentle, exquisite Barcarolle – that perhaps suffered most from the acoustic.

The concert began with six of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words (Op 19, one of six sets). Many of them have been permanent favourites since they were published and Endres’s treatment of the charming, romantic pieces would have brought back memories, as well as admiration for the subtle handling of the moods, rhythmic changes and, yes, the dynamic variations inherent in the music, all of which were brilliantly rendered by the pianist.

It surprised many and confused some when, at the end of the last of the Song without Words – a Venetian gondola song – Endres launched into Schubert’s Sonata, without pause or waiting for applause. Perhaps he wanted to draw attention to the kinship between Schubert and Mendelssohn, which indeed is plainly there in the warm-hearted G major sonata. The playing of Schubert demands a special sensibility and Endres’s playing was in perfect sympathy with the composer. The last movement, Allegretto, was a special delight, as the mix of grandeur and optimism emerged vividly from his hands.  How extraordinary it is to recall that Schubert’s piano music was not, as a whole, recognised as being at least equal in greatness to his songs and chamber music until, I think, Artur Schnabel took it up, between the wars, and writers like Alfred Einstein,  after World War II, gave it proper, authoritative attention.

Perhaps the most looked-forward-to work was Schumann’s Carnaval, a sustained collection of thematically-linked vignettes depicting puppet-theatre figures as well as portraits of friends and loves and his own inventions. It’s one of the most joyous creations in all music and, as Endres demonstrated at Parekakariki, responds marvellously to the most exciting, heart-warming and  hair-raisingly virtuosic performance.

This is a review, slightly altered,  submitted for publication by the Kapiti Observer


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