Tuesday, August 9, 2016


It was a dark and stormy night. Etc.

And last Friday's SSO concert was pretty special. In what I thought was brilliant programming The Rite of Spring was preceded by Steve Reich's The Desert Music - the sequence making on-the-night programme sense; nothing follows the Rite of Spring.

Now that I've heard the concert, and The Desert Music for the first time, in my head they are intricately linked, but play the other way around:  

the (early 20th C) 1913 explosive genie-out-of-the-bottle* Rite of Spring, spewing unbounded primordial passion and desire onto the dance floor and with no way the lurid musical expressivity of such genius would ever be contained again  vs   the (late 20th C) 1983 where-the-fuck-are-we-now minimalist (not withstanding some maximalist orchestration) meditations from The Desert. That's the thing with the desert - its imposing vast stillness, its awe, its empty hugeness, its temporary stripping of attachments to the essentials of survival, no room for lust or carnal wants, a meditative state a lifetime otherwise in the making. Jesus went for 40 days.

                                                               (Arkaroola June 2010)

We sat upstairs, second row circle. This was probably good for the Reich but the stalls would have been better for the Stravinsky.

The Reich: David Robertson conducted. Synergy Vocals (London) sang. The orchestral forces were huge and their arrangement fascinating with three blocks of strings fanning the stage, pianos and synthesisers 'piano side', tympani and the bangy tappy things centred. The soundscape was unusual, very 'spread', complicated (for want of a better word) by the synthesisers and vocals being miked to speakers. I wondered how much if any of the orchestra leached into the electronics. K thought the speakers seriously let the side down (well, he would). And notably, the very good ears of harryfiddler heard fuzzy.

It was good, and it was meaningful, and it was simply impossible to trance out because there was much to see with who was doing what to which, following the vocals, and general agogness. I tried closing my eyes, but just couldn't keep it up. It is a work needing to be dwelt upon and known, and immersed beyond the familiarising into its depths. For it poses in its dark reflections, amongst others:

'Now say to them:
Man has survived hereto because he was too ignorant to know how to realise his wishes. Now that he can realise them, he must either change them or perish."

The Stravinsky was fabulous. Seriously fabulous. I mean it is fabulous, and Robertson and the orchestra were in top flight giving a very sophisticated nuanced reading. Beyond bombast, this was deeply felt and informed, played with a precision and balance that made me think European. Boy were they happening together, conductor and orchestra, oozing confidence, they in him and he in they. It was one of those rare performances where the 'thing' takes a life of its own, the swaying smiling hair flying Robertson totally dissolving into the piece till there's only the piece, and the audience is as pinned to their seats as in take-off.

It wasn't till afterwards that I realised that I needed it. I was elated, invigorated. It was a fix.

* (the lovely bassoon solo with a hint of creepy sexy was beautifully played by new chief bassoon dude Tod Gibson-Cornish)

Post Script:
And now I've finally been to Théatre des Champs-Élysées,

I've been lying awake at night fantasising about that May night just a month after it opened, even down to what they were wearing.

I've just found Andrew Ford talking with David Robertson in his dressing room after conducting the programme above - here.


ken nielsen said...

Ah, Théatre des Champs-Élysées. I nearly got there once. On the Metro I had my pocket picked, very skillfully.
Instead of the concert I spent a few hours stopping credit cards, getting photos taken for a new passport and all.

wanderer said...

Oh dear. Rotten luck. Other-half K (only 6'2) was mugged just off Rue de Rivoli this May but managed to stay the assault. Wits about you I think they say. Anyway Ken (and thanks for dropping by) maybe it's time to try for twice. I don't know when 'nearly once' was, but there's a lot musical going on in Paris and the new Philharmonie with its resident orchestra with Daniel Harding in command is especially impressive. And the one you missed is pretty memorable, a delicious horse-show classic with lovely soft gentle deco features and I suspect the acoustics all around would be good - unlike Bastille.

wanderer said...

'horse shoe' of course, horses for courses of course, of course,