Tonight to the first of three concerts by the TSO, as previously anticipated.
On my arrival, I could see that the concert was sparsely attended. The usher told me the house was only 500, and if that was based on all tickets issued, then the large number of uncollected comps sitting on the TSO service desk at interval should be deducted from it.
I can’t say I am surprised. Not because the TSO is not worth hearing, because obviously I am not of that view, but that, apart from the fact that I had already booked my tickets, I did not see any other trace of their trip to Sydney. I suppose I would have if I had walked past Angel Place itself, but that is a walk on an obscure, narrow and fairly unfrequented laneway.
Someone whom I see regularly at concerts quipped that maybe there were 6 music lovers there. That was an under-estimation, but my guess is that the Tasmanian Tourist Commission had about 120 – 150 there; there were another 100 or so relatives and friends of orchestra members, and another 100 or so on the free list (I saw a few of the usual suspects). That only leaves 100-150 paying members of the audience. OK, maybe I’ve pitched the figure too low, but it couldn’t have been more than 250 at the most.
To put it another way, in an auditorium with a capacity of about 1200 people (1238 is the official figure) there were probably almost 800 empty seats. The entire top level was untenanted. In the second half I counted perhaps 35 upstairs on the keyboard side, 15 upstairs on the non-keyboard side and probably 50+ in the central gallery (I moved there from my initial cheapest-possible seat behind the pianist), and the remainder were downstairs.
What a shame and a disgrace.
Were they even trying to get an audience? What steps did they actually take to do so? Who was looking after this for them?
I hope things look up tomorrow and on Saturday, when the most popular (but in fact least interesting apart from a reasonably distinguised violin soloist) items are programmed.
As mentioned before, the program was:
MOZART Symphony No.29, K201
MENDELSSOHN PianoConcerto No.1
MOZART Symphony No.39, K543
The highlights of the program for me were both in the first half. The Symphony No 29 was described in the program note as his first “recognized” symphony, and I certainly recognized it. I am a sucker for muted strings (in this case, just violins) and so I especially liked the second (slow) movement which featured them. I also tip my hat to the horn players, who in both Mozart symphonies played natural horns.
But definitely most exciting and novel was the Mendelssohn concerto. Neither of these often get a concert outing and certainly not in Sydney: I wouldn’t be surprised if the last time I heard this one live is when I played second piano to Marilyn Meier in some eisteddfod in about 1976 or 1977. It was interesting (to me) to see how deeply it remained imprinted in my musical memory. Kirill Gerstein, the pianist, was a persuasive advocate, though he sadly looks at least 5 years older than his rather fetching publicity photo and has distinctly thinner hair and a higher forehead.
As an encore, he played the Liszt arrangement of Schubert’s Erlkönig. This was quite an apt choice, given Mendelssohn’s associations with Goethe (who wrote the poem set by Schubert). Perhaps it was a bit meaty after the almost Offenbach-esque finale to the concerto, but Gerstein did a good job right up to the last moment (I prefer the denouement more abrupt) to capture the three different personae of the child, his father and the sinister supernatural Erlkönig who calls the child to his death.
In the second half I was sitting further away – I wanted to hear the hall a bit more. Maybe the TSO is an orchestra that sounds better close up (the empty-ish hall may have been a factor here), or maybe I just am not so keen on Symphony 39, as it was a bit of an anticlimax, but not disappointingly so.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow night, when I go for the next instalment. I hope then to continue a conversation with my criminal law lecturer from 1989, and to canvass my first proxy for next year’s Opera Australia AGM – my second-half neighbour (a former teacher at Ascham who knows Rowena Danziger well).