Saturday, February 13, 2010


It is good to be back home, to feel the city again, and wow! , what a magnificent start to Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's two year Mahler Odyssey beginning its recorded run through 2010 and 2011, finishing with Mahler's 2nd in November 2011.

There was just the right kind of build up: the first concert after being away (which can be a bit of a test - it's so easy to look at the best of foreign cities and the worst of your own), the beginning of the Odyssey with very good reports about the first performances on Wednesday, as well as it being the start of the 2010 Season (although the galah opening is not till this week's sold out Mahler 8). And if you think galah means money spinner think again; the costs of the staging exceeds published ticket price returns by some $100,000 - enter special fund raising.

Anyway, there we went, into the car park on a hot steamy night, storms predicted and storms we got, inside and out.

Strauss' contemporaneous Don Juan got everyone, them and us, well warmed up. Mahler's Blumine, first time hearing for me and many others I'd wager, was a gorgeous romance of trumpet (Paul Goodchild with endless breath and lovely arching phrasing) and oboe on a bed of strings. I liked big Markus Eiche's baritone a lot, with a distincitve edge to it, good weight in the lower registers and lovely light rounded highs. He gave a masculine strong without loss of warmth or tenderness 'Songs of the Wayfarer', feet apart, score in hand, towering over Askenazy. He'll be back in the 8th.

Interval - things were going well. Buzzy. There was a sense of occasion. It was the beginning of a big enterprise, and the night was being recorded for release as well as going out live. Ex-prime ministers, actresses, lots of new year hellos, a crowd eager to get back.

The first two movements of the First went well enough. I like Michael Dauth - he seems to leave his ego behind. The augmented horn section was relatively on the mark, that was reassuring. But as soon as that double bass started into the Feierlich und gemessen a confidence seemed to settle over the auditorium that we were onto something big. It was on. I love that expanding awareness. You don't get it often but when you do the communication and the collectivity raises consciousness to some higher level, I think. Ashkenazy was in masterful control and drove a magnificent and thrilling finale in what, when it slips off the rails, can sound nothing short of a mess. With superb musicianship, precision, tremendous dynamic balance, we were treated to something very special. The applause and yelling said it all. It augurs well.

Into the torrential thunderstorm outside everyone spilled, slowly working their way to the broken escalators to the downstairs covered way home. The air was full of pleasure and excitement. C thought he'd not ever heard them better. A roar and applause from those way behind us suggested someone special had just emerged from the green room. As we inched our way through the Opera Bar ( I like the ying yang it provides) my eyes met a young drinker. "How was the show?" he asked. "Even better than this" I said, nodding at the teaming rain and lightening, and he knew, and threw his curly black haired head back laughing with his girlfriend.

"See you on Thursday" was about all you heard as the crowd thinned out. Yes, indeed, see you on Thursday.

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