Saturday, March 10, 2012


It's been raining and raining. But since I've started this post (several times), we seem to have slipped into some lovely early autumn weather. It changed the day the photograph of the Queen Mary 2 in the heavy morning rain was taken. By that evening (when we heard Isabelle Faust play a brilliant Prokofiev Violin Concerto with the most interesting Matthias Pintscher conducting) as if by the wave of a giant hand, the skies cleared. We hurried around to Mrs Macquarie Chair after the concert, the Queen's three horn blasts echoing around the city, and stood in the cool night air, clouds scattered. Now back in perspective, no longer dwarfing anything and everything, there she went, a black on black shadow except for the lights to hint at the whole, slowly swallowed up by the blackness of Sydney harbour outlined in silver moonlight.

A few Fridays ago Vladimir A conducted the most wonderful concert with Beethoven's 4th piano concerto in the hands of Stephen Kovacevich followed by a particularly thrilling An Alpine Symphony. As already noted, we sat in the stalls with a good eye on the keyboard, and pretty much en face with the strings. Mr Ashkenazy was in fine form and there seemed some special conductor/pianist to pianist/conductor, magic (the magic of understanding) at work between the two.

As tone poems and musical stories go, they don't come much more overt, and as much fun, than Strauss and his mountain. Was this the first time I'd heard Mr A and Strauss? The sheer luxuriousness of the sound, not by force of numbers and organ gel but by terrific ensemble playing, wonderful dynamic control, restraint that was more a tease than a rein, and then that fabulous arrival at the peak in Diana Doherty's worthy control. Here's some shots from a trip up Mt Rigi last year, and the giddy heights of the music I think well had its measure, and certainly trumped the summit, all mist and blue train was all we could see.

A week later there was considerable anticipation for a similar styled programme, this time the Brahm's Violin Concerto and the Strauss Thus Spake Zarathustra. The former is I think my earliest musical memory, from the first age I have clear memories, and what I remember is that it was a time when things just were. It must have been before significant opinions were held, before judgements, before what I think used to be called the age of reason. Amongst all the other things that just were, this was what music was. Needless to say, I hold it dearly for what it is and for where it takes me.

Perhaps not able to escape tiredness and then the shock of disturbing foyer news of another's illness, I found the whole evening less then compelling. And expectation is not a good thing. The Strauss, admittedly far from by favorite work, whose structure I find piecemeal, and now suffering form overexposure and hype, sounded pretty ordinary from where I sat, ordinary of the under-rehearsed kind. Never mind, I was there for the Brahms and Lisa Batiashvili played most elegantly on her Strad. while I sat there wondering if L should be on the plane to Mt Sinai right now instead of sitting just over there. But then what healing music?

Back in those innocent days, Sunday afternoons in a large sunroom on the harbour slopes, a flowering red coral tree against the blue shimmering water and a hazy Manly beyond, this was probably what I was hearing.


Susan Scheid said...

"what I remember is that it was a time when things just were. It must have been before significant opinions were held, before judgements, before what I think used to be called the age of reason. Amongst all the other things that just were, this was what music was."

In this elegiac meditation, you brought me back to my classical music roots. The Prokofiev and Brahms Violin Concerti were two of my earliest loves (though, for me, the time was early college days, not so far back as for you). I played them over and over at full volume. (The Prokofiev Piano Concerti were also particular loves, and Ashkenazy was my man for them.) The Alpine Symphony came a little later, and was an enthralling discovery. I was dazzled by Strauss's ability to evoke place—I was there on a summit, too.

I am sorry to know, and send my best wishes, of the worrisome reason that may have led you to back to Brahms's Violin Concerto, yet the choice of that sublime music has to be exactly right. Thank you for reminding us all when music just was.

Herringbone said...

Hi Wanderer- I think an aspiring fan adds to the culture. I struggled with a lot of it. I felt your concern for your friend. I've been through a lot of this stuff. Maybe the music is the best route. I found Lisa very interesting. Young, talented, beautiful, energetic. Almost athletic in a way. Her story was compelling and inspiring and, I heard her.

wanderer said...

Susan, Oh I remember over and over as loud as I could, and that I can say included the great Roy Orbison, the big O; so now there's a hint of the era. My friend is still in a dilemma and as we speak I am trying to bring some resolution. Fear is the thing, aint it so?

Hello H. How can we look and listen to these young musicians and not take heart that the world will be alright? I'm so happy you're with me in these little excursions.