Classical Music in a casual setting – The HMT’s course afternoons

Imagine you have the afternoon off. You enjoy classical music and you are a little short on money. Imagine there was an event or a place that would be able to fill this need for inexpensive entertainment. . Now stop: you don’t have to keep on imaging. The HMT in Rostock makes it a reality. Giving their students a chance to perform, the HMT hosts so-called course afternoons. The price? I’ts for free, but donations are appreciated and appropriate as you get to listen to future professional musicians, performers and music teachers. Without knowing much more than the starting time and the place, I went in completely unknowing what or who might be waiting for me there.

This time, the last course afternoon in December 2016, I was able to see Professor Matthias Kirschnereit’s piano class. The five students, none older than 19 and mostly younger, were debutantes, having never played for a public audience before. The pieces , all of them flowing rapidly, were all from well-known classical-music composers : Schubert and Schumann, Mendelson, Beethoven, Bach and Brahms.

The concert lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes, a pause of 10 minutes included. The Kammermusiksaal, where it took place, is a small room, which probably fits fitting about 50 up to 70 people. The accoustics were good, as it is to be expected from an institute that is specialised in music and theater. While technical help was present, there was no need for it, and even Prof. Kirschnereit’s short vocal introduction came across the room without any problems.

The course afternoons are exactly what they are advertised as. No show, no frills, only the students, the audience, and the music. The program was hastily handwritten and photocopied, and like in my case, not enough for the audience. Even the order of the songs and players had been changed in the last minute as one of the students had canceled unexpectedly. However, even though the event itself did not seem to be too organised, the audience was numerous. While I suspect that quite a few of them were friends and relatives, I am fairly sure that I was not the only one in the room who was just there for the concert.

Was it good? I cannot tell. Having in mind that all of them were students, pupils, people still learning to be professionals, it could not have been perfect. Indeed, the whole concert did feel like watching a dress rehearsal. Hastily handwritten programs, few introductory words, performers that nervously stumble in and out of the room without quite knowing what to do with their hands. However, when they sat down in front of the piano, they changed. Nervousness made place for concentration and, I dare to say, passion.

Was it good? In a sense that my unschooled ears could not make out any mistakes, in a sense that I did not even notice the tearing of a piano string (a sound extremely loud as a piano chord holds up to 17 tons of tension), it was.

Was it good? The passion of the performers seems to have rubbed off on the audience as many of them were nodding in tact, closing their eyes, sometimes gesticulating like a conductor on a smaller scale.

Was it good? I was able to loose myself in a soundscape that reminded me of a busy river, sometimes stirred by storm, sometimes just flowing happily. I have no idea if it was good, but it was worth it. And while you might choose something else when you are looking for a fancy event to dress up for, you cannot go wrong if you are simply looking for a good time to casually listen to classical music.


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