Tuesday, August 10, 2010


J rang this morning to chat about last week's Simone Young concert, and good it was too. It wasn't part of our series but C and G had used the clever 'bring your friends for free' tactic, so there we were. Very close. And I liked it. The sound I could get used to down there, and the proximity has its rewards, like the rather gorgeous Latvian violinist with a Strad with a perfect balance of sound which by the time it reached the circle may well have unbalanced itself in favour of the orchestra over the violin, small sound that it makes.

There are disadvantages though - you don't see any of the brass, or winds, or percussion, and you are perilously close to Simone's shoes, which had a strange perspex look about the back of them, but then my eyes have been letting me down a little. I kept wishing her trousers were longer... now I've gone off track -

J alerted me to a big unknown, a birthing, a big baby indeed: a new orchestra! and right here in this very city, at the local Town Hall, for cryin' out loud, and I missed it. And they've called it Orchestra Romantique. Baby and family (at least one daddy, Nick Byrne of the trombone, not to mention Ophicleide, with Nicholas Carter conductor, with midwives you could say, Kirsty Hilton concertmaster and the fabulous tireless Diana Doherty) are all doing well, very well in fact, Murray Black reports today. (He'll also tell you all you need to know about Simone and the SSO.)

The orchestra is "dedicated to performance of works by the great masters of the 19th century in intimate and accessible venues." And that's not all - there is a strong emphasis on returning to the instruments of the period (Berlioz is next with a Symphonie Fantastique you've likely never heard before), the hope of engaging a new young audience (pricing and concert times), and a wish to travel beyond the city.

There was a big spread in the July Limelight, which can be downloaded here. Full marks and hopefully, surely, there will be enough support for full steam ahead.


Anonymous said...

«…a perfect balance of sound which by the time it reached the circle may well have unbalanced itself in favour of the orchestra over the violin, small sound that it makes.»

You'll be pleased to know that her sound projected so successfully that the balance was still excellent from row G in the circle. And a colleague who'd dallied about getting a ticket said it was just as good from the very back.

wanderer said...

I am pleased T, though not really surprised, and full credit to her, Simone, and the composer. My comment was a bit of fishing and not directed at 'her' but rather 'it', the Stradivarius, after a discussion as to the effect (if any) of aging on the volume of sound.

Lets run with some seating thoughts (you've caught me with time on my hands):

Front stalls give terrific immediacy and a good look at the strings, conductor and soloist. I starting to like the sound (aging ears?), those noisy people up the back dampened a bit as it spreads out overhead.

Rear stalls is my least desirable, with little acoustic advantage, except the back row gives a nice resonance from that wall I think, but there isn't a feeling of being in the big hall with all the people, which I like.

Front circle is a good compromise with sound reasonably together, the brass getting dominant, the horns very exposed (and that can be a worry). But for example Skelton (DLvDE) was measurably more audible down the front than in the circle, and he's no vocal wimp. I love that walk up the staircase, and access to the back bars.

Rear circle can be best overall sound by far, especially for the big stuff (and I remembering the MacKerras Wagner, the Cillario Turandot) - I should have retreated up there for Mahler 8 for example.

The overhang to be avoided at all costs.

Each to his own. We spend hours, literally, fiddling with a rather fancy 'high definition hi-fi set-up', which is forever changing, getting it 'right' (and there isn't such a thing as you know) for the ears that are listening.

The Berliners will be interesting to hear there. I thought the Vienna sound from the front circle sublime.

Are we staying with black for the acoustic curtains?

Anonymous said...


Promise I won't say anything rude or even critical about B Britten today.

I still vote for the rear stalls, where the trombones are pointing straight at you, you can (almost) hear the woodwind and soloists are reasonably immediate. Unlike you, I don't like to be near the wall because I think it cramps the sound (even though it has the merit of no distractions immediately behind you). If I go upstairs to the circle, even the very front, the echo gets even woollier, and that factor which you so love - being in the hall with lots of people - also means being in the hall with their noises. The lip of the circle protects you from a lot of that if you are in the rear stalls.

I agree that close has its excitements, especially for loudness (sans balance) and most of all for soloists apart from pianists (where you need a bit of elevation to get the sound out of the top of the piano rather than the bottom.

Right at the top of the circle, the air can get decidedly fuggy.

wanderer said...

But what about tomorrow? - just kidding.

Your comments (and recent experiences) are encouraging me to address inertia and rethink things and spend more time in the (rear) stalls. I value your opinion, seriously. And I'm thinking the Mahler 2 and 3, from what you've said, would be ideally heard from there. I think I'll go twice, and very happily.

Anonymous said...

My favourite spot is row X in the stalls. I really do value that wall, not so much for the way it minimises some distractions (although it does), but because it seems to enhance – through reflection? blending? – some of the frequencies and colours that otherwise suffer in the general space of the hall. And it can give a greater sense of immediacy.

Front rows of the circle are ok, but in anything with solo singers, you begin to feel the disadvantage of simple distance.

Not fond of the boxes, but do find that it's often better to be towards the back of a box (closer to the ceiling) than right at the front.

The choir gallery is not strictly good, but gives vicarious pleasure to one who briefly contemplated being an orchestral flautist.

wanderer said...

That's an interesting observation about the boxes T, though not one I'd share from limited experience, and then only in U. I know more than a few who love the boxes next to the orchestra for the sheer pleasure of close observation of the playing.