Monday, September 5, 2016
News from the Guardian this morning of the death of Richard Neville, aged 74, " ... the warmest and most generous of friends, a man with a deep moral vision and, when it came to the crunch, the courage of his convictions."
And finally in his own words:
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
This Mahler 2 with the SSO conducted by David Robertson was a strange affair. There was always something odd about it - a late addition to the calendar, very poorly marketed right to the end, in the Sydney Town Hall rather than the Concert Hall. And for this massive work, with Robertson getting the orchestra in good form and now doing his first Mahler anything in Sydney, there seemed to be not nearly enough interest. It showed on the night with the side galleries barely half full. Perhaps the venue and the composer were filters and only true believers showed up.
A hazarded guess might be that they were testing things out for the concert hall closure.
The Town Hall wasn't my first exposure to the SSO. That was orientation week 1965 in the Great Hall where I stumbled into Dvorak's New World. Revelation is an understatement. But, with a gentleman companion, there were to be notable concerts ahead in the Town Hall and usually in the East Gallery, where Sheila Scotter would be ensconced, in black and white. That said, most memorable was the front of the main hall for my first ever Mahler - DLvDE with Yvonne Minton. Revelation is an understatement. The most recent I remember was the Shostakovich Festival where I opted for the East Gallery and thought it was all terrific.
So here we were for Mahler 2 in the front row of the East Gallery where, note to self, the leg room is limited. Everything looked splendid, especially the great organ. The concert platform had been extended well out (to Row M). Harps and double bass had swapped sides and the cellos were behind the first violins.
It is a warm sound, but suddenly you recall and wish for some of the clarity of the Concert Hall acoustics. The choir sounded a bit 'through a scrim' with their usual impeccable diction sounding less impeccable, though the stunning Urlicht from Caitlin Hulcup (the high point for me) came though beautifully. From where we were, the strings seemed light on (and they've been sounding anything but, lately) and the double bass lacked depth (and foreboding) when you needed it most. Friends sitting in the South Gallery, such that they couldn't see the double bass, thought the strings were fine.
If this is a test, then I think South Gallery mid hall might be the answer for where to sit. I wish I could have gone again Sunday - to change seats, and to hear that Urlicht (I played it at Mum's funeral, so it's pretty special) again.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
In the second of the run of Three Stravinskys, David Robertson and the SSO did it again.
The programming was excellent, again:
Sculthorpe's short 10 minute 'Sun Music I' (1965 and a SSO commission to impress the poms) made great sense, or rather David Robertson made great sense of it. He gets this stuff. Beating a wide brown land into submission and respect indeed, but I'm sure I heard some melting bitumen in there. I hope we get more Sculthorpe. There's surely room for some major visuals to run alongside his music.
Then Syzmanowski's first Voilin Concerto with the brilliantly emotive Christian Tetzlaff, and finally The Firebird, three years The Rite of Spring's junior. The audience was especially appreciative, more so than with The Rite, which I actually enjoyed more and that's not a reflection on anything but the works themselves, and I'm mad about Firebird.
With only one evening performance, I'm sad I can't get to Petruska which David Robertson (in the Andrew Ford interview I think) noted was what he considered the truly forward looking composition.
We've watched the Mahler 4 and you have a couple of more days to see it free. I recommend it. And don't forget there's the Berg Violin Concerto with Isabelle Faust in half a space suit. There is more audience noise than we had (the night before) unless the mikes were picking it up
The Mahler speaks for itself, but quickly: I thought the orchestra very good; Harding extremely facially animated and interesting to watch face on after the wonderful balletic total body look as seen from the stalls; the tempi are the thing, stretched to their limits - especially the first movement (marked not rushed) coming full-on brisk and frisky, and the third (somewhat slowly) is etiolated with a delicacy yet strength worthy of a spider's web, the sheer beauty of it alone worth hanging on to (and I teared up again, and had to walk around a bit thinking how Mahler had finally got a glimpse of the other side) before a very grand climax; and the details of Christina Landschamer's lovely vocals are actually the better for the recording process -she was double miked (Sydney soloists only get a single I think). The miking was generally close.
I'm tempted to say they are taking on the Berliners - new hall, same name, resident orchestra, and now live broadcasting, which the French turn out to be very good at, and very photogenic to boot.
The biggest difference is probably the camera work. The French are hands-on and hand controlled (vs remote) and it shows. Nine camera people are listed in the credits, although I don't know how many cameras were used, but nine is a lot if there were. The camera angles are good and the general feeling is that much more personal.
The close ups were exceptional, well cued musically, and some lovely framing - the face of a cellist (say) with the bowing of the cellist behind also in the shot giving a human multi-screening effect. Plus things like lovely lips on reed, bow on strings, player and the score. The sound is very clean.
For something really fun, watch this organ recital.
The organ console sits centred on the concert platform, connected to the electronics by a single cable. K loved this - sooo digital. Most of the pipes are behind a 'scrim' and can only be seen from the hall by special lighting, with the opportunity for stunning visual effects - spotlit organist, a slash of red across the hall, ghosty blue organ recess, etc
(from our high up seats on the first visit)
And the puppy slept at our feet for the whole thing.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
The Philharmonie de Paris is offering selections of its 2015/2016 Season free of charge. I haven't had a good look at what's available, but it looks like the selections are very eclectic. Some performance are complete, others extracts, and the access periods look variable.
For example, the Mahler 4 with Daniel Harding which so moved me in the house is available complete for 7 days. (Actually, it's the performance the night after the one we attended.) I'll play it through on the weekend, a little bit anxious that the magic may well not be reproduced. I ducked the recent SSO Mahler 4 not wanting to yet overlay the memories. Silly probably, but there you are.
By the way, the recent SSO Reich/Stravinsky was televised for later showing on Foxtel Arts.