Wentworth Falls School of Arts, October 12
If you can make sound tell a story it becomes music, and were Daniel Weltlinger not a musician, he would still be a story-teller. You hear it in the way he devised his recent Szolnok album, named for the Hungarian town where his violin was made in 1902. The album’s 12 pieces, eight of which he penned, trace the chronology of the violin’s travels with Weltlinger’s grandfather through multiple countries, wars and decades. Here it was presented in full.
Even without the background of this improbable narrative of migration, hardship, survival and a robustly-built fiddle, Weltlinger would still tell a story in every improvisation; in almost every note. He uses notes the way a supremely elegant writer – say, Austen or Orwell – uses words, so the sounds, rhythms and sentence constructions dovetail with the meaning so perfectly that the reader’s eye dances effortlessly along each line.
You wouldn’t know that Weltlinger’s Szolnok-made violin is apparently quite challenging to play, because the craft is completely masked by his art. You just hear how the fluency of ideas rides lightly on the luscious tone; how effervescence slides into grief as easily as the barcarolle from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann slides into free jazz.
For these Australian concerts the Berlin-based Weltlinger assembled pianist Daniel Pliner, bassist Simon Milman and drummer Robbie Avenaim, who gave quite different slants to some of the material. Pliner brought edgier harmonies to bear on 1921 (which depicted Weltlinger’s grandfather walking 350 kilometres from Szolnok to Vienna), insouciance to the 1930s salon music of Henri Albert’s Bonjour, Bonsoir, Adieu Marseilles, and a jolting series of surprises to his solo on the jazzy Tranquille a Sydney. Avenaim’s distinctive instincts for colour and for unexpected exits and entries added a slightly anarchic element that further broadened the music’s already wildly expansive terms of reference.
If the band was untidy on Erno (where Weltlinger had the Romantic violin tradition opening like a flower), they nailed the wind-swept North Africa and the toy-instrument sounds of La Famille.