Thursday, July 14, 2011


There's a few half started posts from the trip I'll get up soon - things are fading fast.

Firstly, back to Amsterdam and the Concertgebouw. We actually went on the guided tour after we'd been to two concerts, two wonderful concerts, in themselves enough to make the trip worthwhile - Brahm's German Requiem, June 9, and then a thrilling Russian night, June 11.

So that opening sombre funeral beat of the Brahms, Residentie Orkest, conducted by Claus Peter Flor (Leipzig born), with Ingela Bohlin, the amazing Dutch bass-baritone Robert Holl, and the Nederalands Concert Choir, were the first sounds we heard. It was quite overwhelming. The thing is, the sound doesn't come to you - you are just in it, immersed. It is warm, and soft, and caressing, and most interestingly, with little sense of directionality, made even more so when the organ was playing. K said it is 'wet'. Whatever resonances and reflections are occurring, it seems little is lost (maybe there's some smudging of detail, loss of brilliance in say the brass, it would take more visits than this to say) and everything good is reinforced. The changes in dynamics are immediate, in front of you. I felt I was completely in the middle of the music, but I was sitting a few rows back in the stalls on the aisle. It is, can I say it again, a very beautiful sound space, and as we were to find out (another concert and a tour during a dress rehearsal for Handel's Messiah, with a lot of moving around), it matters little where you sit. Hence the legend of the Concertgebouw.

The choir (I counted 80 plus - the sopranos and altos separated by the men - producing one blended voice, again the room at work also, such as I've not ever heard) was conducted by Claus Peter Flor as if they were the only ones there. He lent into every word, syllable, with them and they were with him. They are very close to him, on his left. It makes our choir arrangements seem so distant. It was profoundly Germanic reading, heavy, funereal, but never despairing. Humanistic. Robert Holl was deeply emotionally involved, red faced, the pages in his hands trembling, leaning to the choir, the conductor - such an intense and genuine singer, the voice of enormous depth with the most beautiful subtlety.

Then comes silence. At the end of the performance, the audience sits, absorbed, replete. It goes on, more than seconds, forever, a self perpetuating acknowledgement of the power of the work and the performance, till gradually sporadic applause starts, and slowly gathers, till unison is achieved, the volume swells, and then another phenomenon - some people stand, here and there, till, like birds taking flight, the audience, separate yet together, and without the slightest self-consciousness, slowly stands. This is not some routine reflex indulgence. This is understanding.

Two nights later it was 'From Russia with ...' : The Shostakovich Second Cello Concerto op.126 (no, I'd not heard it before; why?, don't know), Stravinsky's Petrushka, and an unexpected amuse bouche, the dangerously familiar Romance from the film music for the Gadfly (Ovod), op 97. Well no danger here. Beware Thomas Hanus and the lady concertmaster for they will steal your heart and make you cry.

Below is Daniel Müller-Schott, cellist (in rehearsal). See that cluster of seats in the upper corner - that's where we sat this time, and again it's in the middle of the music. A magic place.

The cello was amazing and the concerto stunning. I own a copy now, and that's just the beginning. Has this been played here? Cop this -

The Pertruska was just brilliant. Then that Silence again. I am out of adjectives and gush.

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