Thursday, June 19, 2014


We're in the middle of a busy music week with four nights of concerts.

At the Opera House, Emanuel Ax is now four fifths of his way through the Beethoven Piano Concertos with David Robertson and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra while in the City Recital Hall Richard Tognetti (a man of nature it should be remembered) has expanded his Australian Chamber Orchestra to embrace, as conductor for the first time as far as I know, the symphonic world with the natural worlds of Sibelius 6 and Mahler 4.

The Beethoven is astoundingly good and about to climax with the fifth tomorrow night. Ax is such a beauty to watch - self effacing, a dazzling technique without a hint of flash or dash, delivering a quietly thoughtful and meaningful look into the development of these great concerti with complete mastery (and an incomprehensibly perfect trill) supported by and supporting the orchestra in glowing form. Robertson and Ax have something going.

Tognetti's approach to the Sibelius and Mahler affected me significantly. I was in fact rivetted. We were sitting on the first floor opposite Mr Tognetti (having changed seats and nights to accommodate the Beethoven 3 and 4) and he is quite something to watch communicating the when and the how, especially the how, with his orchestra - scratch you could say with a hint of being somewhat, and inappropriately, demeaning - which had been boosted with (mostly younthful, fresh and generally gorgeous) players from all around the world:

Amsterdam Sinfonetta
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
University of Newcastle (on Hunter I think) Conservatorium of Music
Estonian National Opera
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Camerata Salzburg
Macau Orchestra
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Synergy Percussion

Did I say the word 'world' already? This was a lovely and warm and heartfelt bringing together.

The Sibelius was unusually vigorous, even muscular, without any sacrifice in the beauty of the ACO string sound (its very beautiful) and the light he shone onto / into a work I find pretty evanescent brought textures and shapes that had escaped me. This was crystalline snow in the brightest of light. One could venture to say antipodean in approach.

The Mahler 4 - again there was a measured and studied careful beauty in the parts, such that while the parts may not have ever been more than their sum, nor perfectly balanced, the sheer beauty of and joy in the music making made me want to go again and wallow in them.

But Beethoven called. And as the very contented audience left the Concert Hall the next night after the Beethoven 3 and 4, fireworks exploded appropriately over the house and harbour. Alas not for Mr Ax, who deserved no less, but apparently because we had won a football match, something Mr Robertson had kept us informed on at interval and at the close of the concert.


David said...

I wish we saw more of Tognetti & Co here. Mahler 4 can work that way - as indeed it can in the chamber version, in this context chamber-chamber - and I look forward to hearing what Robin Ticciati makes of it with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (and, for that matter, the partnership with the sublime Karen Cargill in the Kindertotenlieder). Sibelius 4 I fancy needs a really stunning bass line, but maybe you can do that with a couple of instruments in a smaller venue.

Ax - all I remember is drawing a complete blank on his Beethoven Emperor with Sawallish in Philadelphia. But then I'm no lover of the work, except for the transition from slow mvt to finale (and never will I forget Gilels, the one and only time I ever saw him, effecting that).

David said...

Sorry, read too hastily - yes, Sibelius 6 (my own favourite) would work better with chamber orchestra. Berglund conducted it compellingly with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, though I still wanted a broader sound for 7.

Susan Scheid said...

You are so lucky to have the enlightened David Robertson there. Have you seen the news of the Met Opera's cancellation of the HD of John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer? Perhaps the opera doesn't interest you (though I would recommend a listen, particularly to the choruses), but what is transpiring right now is tragic, not to mention, to borrow David's excellent word, craven. David Robertson, when in St. Louis, handled its performances of the opera magnificently, really engaging the public in a thoughful conversation. In New York, in bleak contrast, Gelb has simply caved to pressure from the head of the ADL, who hasn't even bothered to see the opera, even though Penny Woolcock's excellent film is readily available. Would you pleas call, and ask any opera-loving friends, to call the Met, the HD presentation line? The Met is logging the calls, and one can only hope that enough will come in to prompt rescission of this awful decision.

Susan Scheid said...

And now I will respond on the subject at hand. Your reports on these concerts are lovely. I'm particularly taken by the Tognetti/Asutralian Chamber Orchestra. First, what a splendid pprogram! I am just getting to know, and am very taken with the Sibelius 6. Also, the list of organizations from which the players were drawn is lovely--and reminds me, wistfully, of Abbado's hand-chosen players at Luzerne. This kind of coming together to make beautiful music is quite moving. I wish I could have been there.

wanderer said...

David and Sue, you loyal stalwarts, I apologise for my slow response to your thoughtful and welcome comments.

David, have you heard the Budapest / Ivan Fischer Mahler 4? There's a lightness of touch, and brilliance of technique, and enigmatic earthiness that makes it my favorite at the moment.

Ax has made a huge impact here, not better expressed than by a reviewer whom I respect big time here. David Robertson too. The Heldenleben I thought magnificent and was heard to say "If I should die like that I'll be happy".

Sue, I have been following the Klinghoffer debacle and meanwhile we have our own nasty business down here with hate speech and incitement to unrest/violence about to materiliase on our own stage while weasel words and back peddling only exacerbate the ugliness; don't they get that?

The Tognetti has divided opinion widely down here. I loved the vivd explorative elemental (that word) approach and think both works survived the bright lights. Others felt cheated.

Susan Scheid said...

I saw that nasty business and thought of you immediately. "don't they get that" is definitely the question.