They came to NENA’s exclusive club tour in the spring of 2015: to 15 concerts in intimate venues like the Pelmke Cultural Center (which used to be NENA’s elementary school!) in her birthplace Hagen, the legendary Mojo Club in NENA’s hometown Hamburg, Batschkapp in Frankfurt, Modernes Bremen in Bremen and the Meier Music Hall in Braunschweig. Places with no room for razzle-dazzle, routine churn-outs and anonymous entertainment. Sight, sound and experience is right there, with band and fan on equal footing. The bottles at the bar clink and the wood vibrates when the beat starts, metal fogs up with a thin film of sweat, and the sound pierces all the way back onto the streets.
Simultaneously with his piano studies Scriabin studied first counterpoint with Taneyev and later fugue with Anton Arensky. Again his classmate was Rachmaninov and again Scriabin found himself in trouble. Arensky was irritated by Scriabin, whom he considered arrogant, and in 1891 Scriabin failed his examination in Arensky’s class—Rachmaninov passed brilliantly. The Fugue in E minor (1891) dates from this time. Arensky had set Scriabin the task of completing ten fugues during the summer of 1891. Apparently only one was completed, probably the Fugue in E minor. Interestingly, this fugue has for many years featured as part of the standard teaching curriculum in Russia and has been required study for all fourth-year piano students.
My own approach is based on the conviction that a negotiation between action and meditation can be achieved, not by replacing one set of rituals with another, but through a considered deployment of the musical forces within a church or on a concert platform. Give me a bare concert stage (not a picture frame) peopled with choristers freed from their scores and soloists interacting with the obbligato players, moving to and from their allotted positions in a simple dignified choreography, and I believe the audience’s imagination will fill the performing space with images far more vivid than any scene painter or stage director can provide. For it is the intense concentration of drama within the music and the colossal imaginative force that Bach brings to bear in his Passions that make them the equal of the greatest staged dramas: their power lies in what they leave unspoken. We ignore that at our peril.