Monday, March 23, 2015


On Friday we went to our first SSO subscription concert for the year. It was our first because we'd missed the first. I can't remember why we missed it but suspect we ran out of something like time. We missed Schumann's First and Second Symphonies and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto conducted by David Robertson who also delivered a very good Gala Opening of Bs - Bruckner, Berg and Beethoven.

Robertson might be an exception to my musings that it might just help to have been born and/or raised in a country of the music's origin to get between the notes. Robertson seems good at whatever he puts his mind and baton to. Therein lies the answer. Exceptions make the rule and make for greatness.

I've spared you another photo of the Opera House by the way.

On Friday we heard the Brahms Violin Concerto and Sibelius 5th Symphony in the hands of the husband and wife team of Dutch violist Janine Jansen and conductor Daniel Blendulf, Swedish born. Nigel Butterley's Never The Sun This Watcher opened the second half marking his 80th birthday with acclamation and acknowledgement of his presence.

As soon as I hear the opening bars of the Brahms, I always return to Vaucluse. It's as strong as the smell of cut grass. We had moved from the country and were waiting for settlement (I now understand) on our house-to-be on the North Shore. Mary, my mother's widowed sister, lived there with the younger of her sons, Robert. Mary had red hair and bags of style. The house was a Spanish Revival bungalow high on the slopes of Vaucluse with a fabulous view down over Parsley Bay and across the Harbour to Manly. It was a gentle view, soft and embracing, not the kind to drop jaws so much but something much more: never the same as the harbour light shifted and the big twisty Coral Tree at the bottom of the terraced garden splashed red on the blue.

Robert was a spastic. Spastic was the word then. He went to the Spastic Centre everyday in the Spastic Centre Bus. He was older than I, by at least ten years I'd guess, so he must have been late teens. He smiled a lot. It looked like a grimace, but I thought then and am sure now he was smiling. I'm sure he was smiling and used to think he was smiling at me. He could walk. A harbour blue budgie was always on his left shoulder, as he swayed like on high seas, the bird unflinching. Down the long hallway to the sunroom. With the view.

He couldn't talk, but grunted with an upward inflection when you guessed the word he was typing out with his foot on the big alphabet mat on the floor. If when you die you meet people again I want most to meet my cousin Robert.

Ms Jansen wore a very sea green dress and swayed a lot, leaning to her husband often. It didn't sound like Brahms to me. He's too young for this I thought as the crowd went crazy for her and the critics wrote lovely things.

After the Butterley sunrise, which was really interesting, and I was thinking how down here we write so much stuff about the earth, came the most thrilling Sibelius Symphony I think I've ever heard live. The fifth.

I'm not even going to try and describe it, except to say it worked because Mr Blendulf knew what it meant and how it went and they played for him like they knew too. Of course they did. He's only 34 and while, to my mind, the Brahms escaped him but there's time for that, if I never hear that Sibelius again I am satisfied I've heard it right. No need to meet after death.


Anonymous said...

You know you are flying in the face of received critical opinion, don't you?

Of course you do.

On the Sat, I enjoyed all of it. The Butterley grew on me as I listened to it.

As to the Brahms and the Sibelius, both were fairly muscular, especially in the fast bits. I'm sure Ms Jansen was responsible for those as much as her husband in the Brahms, so I don't know if it is fair for you to blame him for not equalling an impression in your mind's ear (probably by a more mellow interpretation)but then he can take the credit (with the players) for a Zinger of a Sib.

Incidentally, what is it about Brahms and Vaucluse and Parsley Bay? The Horn theme from Brahms 1 also features in Michael Blakemore's Personal History of the Australian Surf (alternative title Confessions of a straight poofter) as whistled by his father on the way down to the baths.

wanderer said...

I was hoping to hear your thoughts, so thanks.

The thing with the Brahms is memory. I must have first heard it there in that house where circumstances, and my cousin, are very strong emotional memories, tightly linked with the music, forever it seems, and there's something unresolved at work.

I'm not saying I didn't think it well played, heavens. i just didn't particularly care for the reading. It's personal. Would a lack of nobility be a way of expressing it? Or maturity? I suspect I was embedded with something like this.

The Sibelius was in a class of its own for me. Perhaps the dry acoustic helped as well but full honours to him and the orchestra.

That Blakemore doco/film is completely unknown to me. You've really tweeted my interest and I'm on the look out for it.