FolkyThings review Tracing Lines concert

This concert and evening showcased the relationship between the Fidelio Trio and the composer Rob Fokkens. The programme featured original compositions which had been created for, and work-shopped in progress by the Fidelio Trio.

The compositions focused on the differing elements of Fokkens’ identity, taking influences from both his South African, and Western roots. Each movement or composition reflected these conflicting identities in a variety of ways. Fokkens imaginatively uses the elements of Western harmony and structure mixed with extended techniques (to evoke native South African instruments), alongside African “sound worlds” and some melodic influence of traditional South African songs, to create a unique blend of musical sounds and styles. While all the pieces on the program will well-crafted and highly engaging, one of the pieces that most inspired me was “On Disruption and Displacement”. As it states in the programme notes, this piece focuses on the ideas of collision, compromise, and the ways in which two different elements change as they try to find a pathway through and around the disagreement. Fokkens replicated this by using the two instruments (cello and piano), assigning them two very distinct roles. These musical roles were then juxtaposed as musical ideas against each other, the piano having the role of being more aggressive, bigger, bolder, and stronger than the cello line. The cello line was a quieter more melodic influence, but what was really impressive was the way in which the two ideas began to slowly take on elements of each other until they reached the point where they could no longer dance around each other, and no more compromise could be made. At this point there was an obvious musical collision and then one voice (the cello) rose out of the chaos victorious with the gentler motif now being support by the piano line, rather than being attacked by it. The way that this was handled both by the players and by the composer was enormously effective and made a really lasting impression on me.

The performers were not only technically stunning easily finding their way through fiendishly difficult music, but they were also totally and utterly engrossed and devoted to each note they played. It really showed that they had been involved in the development process for these pieces, because every element of the piece was understood by the performers, and they were able to use this to make their performances imaginative and inspiring. The evening as a whole was run with an informal atmosphere, but at no point was any part of the performance or presentation anything less than utterly professional. There was an interview with the Fidelio Trio and Robert Fokkens after the concert which was not only really interesting, but it allowed me to gain a better understanding of Roberts influences, and gave yet another dimension to the already very effective pieces.

I would recommend buying the CD Tracing Lines and especially listening to “Mammals of Southern Africa” and “On Disruption and Displacement”, both of which exhibit very different sounds and styles, and both of which are highly effective in their evoking the required atmospheres and images.