Thursday, May 27, 2010


I can't resist some incomplete thoughts in between performances, especially to say: GO. There's more good how-we-do-Mahler to be heard.

It's not very often I head for the front stalls in the Concert Hall, but then it's not very often there is the chance to get up close and personal with Lilli Passikivi. Lilli Passikivi. Just the name.

And Stuart Skelton, out of costume, but not out of character. And both together. And in Mahler. And in Mahler's most up close and personal work of all - Das Lied von der Erde. And Friday will see me there again in our series seats, and that wouldn't be the end of it except I've leaving town on Saturday.

And if I never come back, I leave happy, driving into the desert carrying this Song of the Earth with me. The programme notes tell the story of Neville Cardus remembering that when he played 'Der Abschied' on ABC radio in 1944 (the World still at War): "From all over the continent, from Alice Springs, came requests for prompt repeats. Something in Das Lied von der Erde sought out a deep spot in Australia's fundamental loneliness."

I think he's very right. Australia is fundamentally and particularly lonely, Erde is fundamentally lonely, our existence here can on many levels be seen as a belief in separateness, separation, and loneliness. This, "my most personal work", by the now cardiac crippled Mahler, grieving father, goes to the very heart of the impermanence, if not superficiality, of our time here, and even more relevant I think, Mahler for once doesn't deal in speculation about the whys and wherefores of any 'hereafter', but only the inevitability of the end.

So there I was in the third row. Lilli was in her angel dress, if I remember correctly, and the air around her had a knowing. Stuart was jumpy, up, very up. His was about to give a very physical performance.

I'd forgotten how thrilling Mr Skelton's voice is - young, confident, strong, seemingly effortless, his bronzed golden tone taking a shining brassy heroic timbre as he opened the throttle. I'm thinking Bacchus here. And with menace, frown, and spit, he called up the darkness of judgement, or sentence, or both ( "Nicht hundert Jahre" ) not to mention horror ("Hort ihr, wei sein Heulen").

It was rivetting and I was in shock, again, not only by the power of the delivery of this song, arguably now my favorite, as the shock of the now - it was finally happening, bigger and better than I'd ever thought possible.

That Lilli Passkivi has a voice I love was something I well knew. I just didn't know how much. It is rich, beautifully rich, chocolate rich, with all but no vibrato yet a glorious shimmer glows around its outer edges and she opens it out, perfectly focused, and you feel this force move past you, expanding on its way to bloom somewhere beyond. In the Circle maybe, tomorrow night. It was for me a noble and grand performance, one of regret perhaps, sadness perhaps, but always driven by understanding and acceptance, the greatest of them all.

The orchestral texture was completely different in the front, the brass and wind quite distant, going over I suppose, but a happy emphasis from the strings, and especially Catherine Hewgill's cello.

Here she is, the spoken word, the singing voice, the philosophy, the beauty...

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