Monday, December 21, 2009


That line in the sand, or vortex, or whatever Christmas has become, is looming. There are a few things I need to make mention of before the veil descends and we slip through that ridiculous divide.

Chapter 1

On Friday the 11th, The Sydney Symphony Orchestra turned out a fine Haydn's Creation (1798), perhaps, in an antipode kind of way, to mark the 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, or maybe the 150 years since the publication of 'The Origin of the Species". The Parisians, in Parc de Bagatelle, managed a wonderful indoor-outdoor exhibition about the great man (Mr Darwin), his marriage (to the well-heeled Miss Wedgewood) and the famous voyage, marking the ship's progress across the globe with walk-through plantings of the regions, Australia included, of course.

Anyway, back to Creationism in the Concert Hall, with a hapsichord dressed with two Poinsettias in white pots. Martin Haselbock debuted and led a good, clean (horns excepted) and ultimately quite moving account of this fairly straightforward piece on a fairly straightforward subject, now that Darwin has muddied the waters, so to speak. 'Six days' was much more simple. The flowers were a nice touch, especially as the hall seems to have settled into funereal black acoustic drapes. Now I think about it, what happened to flowers? Soloists used to get flowers, huge awkward bunches of them, and is it that hard to pop a bunch of gladdies around the conductors dais? , or the odd pot of the deepest blue Hydrangeas you can find? Surely not too expensive? It's the little aesthetic that often counts most, and often overlooked. Except in Japan.

Cantillation were/was fantastic, again; after all, they are led by Michael Black, chorus master of Opera Australia, joyous, reverent, hushed, haunting. Maybe I was the only one hearing Steve Davislim's beautiful warm confident expressive and bountiful tenor for the first time. Lyndon Terracini have you heard Steve Davislim? Mozart. Britten. French (v.i.). Bring him back. Funnily enough, December's Gramophone has this review (Marc Rochester) of Melba's release of Chausson ~ Vierne, The Queensland Orchestra/Guillaume Tourniaire:

"These [Vierne] are four brilliantly crafted songs with almost Wagnerian orchestral accompaniments which are dazzlingly reflected in performances of breathtaking intensity".

"Certainly Australian tenor Steve Davislim is every bit as impressive here [Chausson] as in the Vierne - and this is highly distinguished singing by any reckoning - "

"On every count, this is a magnificent release. It is also a truly revelatory one, not least in highlighting the outstnding work being done by this distinguished Australian label"

There he was, with Sarah Macliver, at the little desk down the front after the show, smiling at the crowd, and signing anything that stayed still long enough. 'Rather nice, quite friendly really' I heard an Englishman murmur to his wife. Come back, come back Steve.

Chapter 2

Buoyed by all the oratorio, we then took ourselves off the the ACO end of year show with the god-he-looks-so-young Dejan Lazic on piano, MC'd by Barry Humhpries, with two guests, friends of Mr Humphries. It was very memorable.

After a high spirited The Marriage of Figaro overture, Mr Humphries took the floor, holding everyone captive with story-telling of a style all but lost, and introduced his first choice - Marcel Poot's Jazz Music. It was evocative, I suspect, almost to the year, 1929, of the world as it then was, increasingly uncertain. The grey-bearded man next to me, jeans and slip-on black shoes with a gold chain, hard to miss as they found comfort apparently only on the rail of the front row of the circle, reverted to using his i-phone thingy. Scrolling, lights flashing, sending, receiving, sending, scrolling.

"You must be very important" I suggested during the applause, of which he took no part. "Having to use that - during the performance - you must be important" I prompted.
"Well I didn't like it!" he spat out boldly, head cocked towards the concert platform.
"Do you like Ravel?" I asked and watched him hesitate a tellingly long time, perhaps scrolling through his cerebral thingy - sauce? pasta? watch brand? - before he declared confidently "Yes".
"Good, then we wont be having anymore of that distraction" I said, a bit too archly, nodding at the electronic devil still clutched in his hand.

Humphries sat grandly in the comfortable leather chair as Tognetti led us through more of Humphries early years, almost his birth music, the equally uncertain and darker Ravel Violin Sonata no.2. William Walton's Facade followed. My only memories of it were earlier Australian Ballet days, when alongside Pineapple Poll, the company could camp it up, outrageously and with considerable flair. Flair is what Barry Humphries has lots of. The Sitwell "abstract" poems
were barely intelligible, neither neceesary, nor desirable probably, incomprehensible as they are, as Humphries repeatedly reminded us. But the cadence was lovely, loosely matched with Tognetti and the team, and it felt like a look indeed behind a facade, into a time well past, and then the preserve of just a few. It was an exceptional and rare event.

Enter Sir Les. The vulgarities were much as expected, filthy, funny, and yet even more as he zeroed in on the weak, the different, the unable to respond. And stayed well past his welcome, as important as every other reminder of the worst in us.

After a jazzy, exhilarating Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Dejan Lasic flying high, on came Edna. She was fabulous, and very very funny, and very like old times, that lingering at the door, I expected a hissed " 'scuse I" any moment. I thought the guy behind me would die. And all the while accompanied on the keyboard by the beaming Croatian, who was still beaming, but now with lipstick lips on each cheek, as he waited afterwards at the desk out front to give autographs. 'Which will I buy?'. 'The Rachmaninoff' he said, pointing. Its the Rach 2, live with the LSO, but I especially like the gentler Moments Musicaux, and particularly the warm embracing comfort of the no. 5, Adagio sostenuto


Jarrett said...

Great fun. Thank you.

wanderer said...

And there I was thinking you were spending nights in a tent plucking leeches from ankles after days in wet National Parks.

Have a great 2010 Jarrett.