Briefly noted

October 20, 2019

A quick round up of live performances on my recent European jaunt not so far noted on this blog:

  1. 15/09/2019 – Götterdämmerung Berlin Staatsoper

Barenboim conducting the last night of a ring cycle. It was only by chance that I discovered that tickets for single performances were being sold and I snapped one up. This was a revival of a production first mounted at La Scala.

There is something funny about arriving at a Ring Cycle part way through – it is like coming late to a party – I’m sure the impact was greater for those who’d been coming to the whole thing. Andreas Schager was the best Siegfried I have ever heard in the flesh.  He is a heldentenor who retains an Italianate quality.  There was only the slightest sign of tiring (where it always comes) in the narration immediately before Siegfried’s death.   From time to time I spotted my neighbour secretly recording some of the more famous passages on his mobile phone. Waltraud Meier was luxury casting as Second Norn and Waltraute.

I was towards the back of the stalls (Parkett) in the middle. In the horseshoe theatre there was an odd effect when singers at the back corner of the stage singing in towards the middle bounced off the walls so that a couple of times I was startled by their seemingly singing to me from a spot in the wall a little in front of me to my right.

  1. 16/09/2019 – Die Blechtrommel – Berliner Ensemble

This was a one-man show, performed by Nico Holonics, who first performed it in Frankfurt a few years ago and who has followed the BE director Oliver Rees from Frankfurt to Berlin. It is basically a play of the film (Volker Schlondorf: The Tin Drum) insofar as it selects the same highlights. There were surtitles. My friend Lars didn’t think much of it from a literary point of view. I would have rather seen an actual “ensemble” piece, but it was nevertheless a tour de force and a delight to see the BE’s surprisingly ornate theatre.

  1. 20/09/2019 – Organ recital – Altenburg Schlosskirche

(Someone else’s picture here.)

This was given by the organist of the Dresden Frauenkirche as part of a tour westwards along the A4. Altenburg was his first stop and he was finishing up the next day at Weimar and Eisenach. The organ is a Silbermann organ once played by JSB, though between his time and ours the organ was modified according to romantic tastes before being taken back to something more like its original.

Altenburg is one of those places (there are many in Germany) which used to be more important than it now is. The castle is perched up above the town in a “13 Clocks” kind of way.

4.    25/09/2019 – Art happening – Munich Musikhochschule


A small group of us tailed along behind a trumpeter and a trombonist who played a complicated musical code designed to indicate the dimensions of underground tunnels surrounding the Musikhochschule and the Art Library – dating from when they were the Nazi Party headquarters in Munich.

5.    04/10/2019 – Grand Union Orchestra at Bethnal Green


A Jazz/world-music gig in an East London church with a cut-down version of this group. What I really liked is that they didn’t have a drum kit, and so although there was an electric keyboard and bass guitar, no-one else had to be amplified and the music was therefore not too loud.

6.   05/10/2019 – Werther – ROH Covent Garden

I took D, my sister and her other half to this. Although my sister is a musician and has lived in London for about 35 years this was the first time she had been to Covent Garden. An elegant traditional production. Juan-Diego Florez in the title role was terrific – even if his voice is a bit light for the role.

When I arrived I broke up a conversation between two older men to my right and a handsome chap to my left. At the end the older chaps seemed eager to renew the acquaintance with the man to my left.

In between, when I commented on the Catholic gloss which Massenet and his librettists insert on the suicide aspect, my right-hand neighbour, from Palm Springs, informed me that he was an ex-priest who had now totally turned away from religion.

The Covent Garden audience was conspicuously full of travellers from elsewhere. One man had a Peruvian flag draped over his shoulders and afterwards I saw him waiting at the stage door – doubtless hoping to see Juan-Diego.

7.     07/10/2019 Aggripina     ROH

Directed by Barry Kosky who these days is very much in demand.

Extinction protests were causing chaos in west London. My (North-American-accented) neighbour told me she had had to get her chauffeur to drop her off to take the tube from Park Lane.

Had I not paid an extraordinary amount for my ticket, I would probably have skipped this performance on account of my severe cold. I received a (justified) glare from said neighbour at the end of the first half when a terrible rumble erupted in my throat (my mouth, at least, was still shut) in Iiestyn Davies’ beautiful (but quiet) closing number. I would have had my scarf to mute this  but it had slipped down the back of my seat when I stood to let in a latecomer.

Joyce di Donato was a sassy Aggripina. In the pit was the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

I had most anticipated Götterdämmerung but it turned out for me that the highlight of all of these was Werther. It is such a beautiful work and the fourth performance of it I have been to this year. I regret that it is likely to be at least a decade before I will have a chance (if I am spared so long)to see it again in Sydney.

Comme d’habitude

October 19, 2019

I have been back now for just over a week, nursing and trying to shake off a virulent cold.  Maybe today (just or almost) I am free of it.

I’m home alone: D is in China with his family.

Things seem very quiet after 4 weeks of travelling together and staying mostly with friends.  What paradise, after the perennial laundry anxiety/obsession of travel, to be back with my own washing machine and Sydney’s wonderful clothes-drying weather.  What a treat to be in my own bed!

Not such paradise, as I went at about 6.30pm  to catch the train at Sydenham for an SSO concert, to see 8 uniformed policemen, one detective cheerfully trying on his glove and a police sniffer dog.  I hope I cast a sufficiently withering glance at them, though I guess they are impervious to the surely quite widespread hatred their activities inspire.

Or am I wrong?  Do Australians like being subjected to random drug checks and running the gauntlet of their scrutiny at railway stations and other public places?  Are there really smug Australians who enjoy seeing hapless young people and demi-mondaines humiliated in public?

Sylvan nocturnal bike rides (in a Park; on an away-from-roads bike path) always invoke for me a kind of standing fantasy of riding to some French-resistance plane drop.  Police with dogs at public places likewise evoke Occupation and Third Reich associations.

I cast about in vain for some further remark I might make, but my train was coming.  I didn’t even pause for long enough to take a picture of the unsavoury sight.  It’s easier to keep your head down.  That’s how these things work.




October 1, 2019


Last night (or afternoon really, it was a Sunday at 4.30 pm) to the Rome Opera for the above work.

As the action began, Don G and Donna Anna were post-coitally clothing themselves.  There was no suggestion that Donna A was anything but a willing participant in what had just transpired.

Things started to go badly when the Commendatore entered, a pyjama-ed figure with a walker.  He was duly dispatched with a broken-off bough from the tree (see picture below).  And then Don Ottavio entered, walking with a crutch.

OMG, I thought.  What chance does Donna A stand against the Don – her father with a walker and her boyfriend on crutches?  Are the virtuous always so impotent?

It turns out I was allowing too much to art and had not paid sufficient attention to the announcement made just before the overture. Juan Francisco Gatell, the singer playing Don Ottavio, had suffered an injury but would still be performing.  Indeed, I encountered him at the front of the theatre after the show wielding not one but two (elbow or Canadian) crutches.

But in a way my misconception was apt, because this was a production for the Trump (or possibly Berlusconi, Boris J or any number of others) age.

At the denouement  the grave lay open and God’s hand from the Sistine Chapel (we were in Rome after all, though it still smacked of Monty-Python animations) descended as a reproof ready to press Don G into it.  Don G laughingly broke the hand off at the forefinger and walked away.  When the others emerged for their final moralising Don G returned to the stage and perched in the tree.

(These are the bows.)


There were some other good touches.  When Elvira, Anna and Ottavio donned masks, they did so by exchanging bits of each other’s costume.  No-one could have been deceived, even less given that Don O (shirtless, wearing Donna Elvira’s nun’s costume) still sported crutches and a cast on his shin.

A bit more mysteriously to me, Don G and Leporello wore undifferentiable shiny grey suits – so what was the point of their exchanging them (which they dutifully did)?  Are all men really the same?

The first act ended with a kind of drunken orgy which elicited boos and whistles from the audience.  My neightbours (from San Francisco but they also go to the Met) did not return which was good for me as in the first half I was a bit hedged in by a pillar.

I don’t think I have heard La ci darem da mano done slower.  There were also some sedately paced sections in the last act as the (relatively) small ensemble wandered over the vast stage.  I wondered whether Mozart should really be done in such a large house.

But back to those boos and whistles – and there were a few more of both at the end.

Surely Graham Vick (the director) is not the first to realise that sociopaths often get away with it?

Back again also to Juan Francisco Gatell, who was really terrific in a role which in its big moments can be incredibly taxing and which often in my experience ends up coming across as a bit of a wimp.  JFG was up to the taxing bits and made credible assertions of his intention to bring Don G to justice.  It was not his fault that the director had other plans.




All quiet on the Inner Western front

October 1, 2019

We have been in Germany.

D has been making great progress with the language.

Back in Australia, our favourite bird is the tawny frogmouth.  D, as a Shanghainese, finds “frogmouth” a bit hard to say.  In our own little idiolect it has been rendered as “Volkmar,” the name of one of our hosts in Thuringia.  We told him and he was amused to find his name so repurposed in a far-off land.

Further south, in Munich, an old friend from Sydney was the right person to receive D’s latest breakthrough:

Danke schön, Bitte schön….

….Petersham Lewisham!

Keys to the city

September 5, 2019

This was the rather natty title for a series of concerts (even: a festival) put on by the SSO featuring visiting pianist Kirill Gerstein. There was a recital and two different concerto programs.

The “festival” seems originally been designed to showcase the SSO’s proposed new venue for the (at least) 2 years when the SOH Concert Hall will be closed for improvements, starting next year.

At first that was to be the International Convention Centre’s Darling Harbour Theatre. The SSO got a $1M grant from the NSW Govt to undertake acoustic enhancement. This turned out to have been funded as to $400K by cuts to general “peer reviewed” arts grants. Then the SSO changed plans, handed the dosh back and announced that the good old Sydney Town Hall was the chosen place. Funnily enough, this fitted the “Keys to the City” theme better than the original plan.

The recital on a Monday night at Angel Place seemed to have been a bit of an afterthought for which very attractively-priced tickets were made available. I took up the offer

I especially liked the first half:

Liszt Transcendental Étude No.7 in E-flat major ‘Eroica’, S.139
Beethoven Variations and Fugue in E-flat major, Op.35
Janacek Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, JW.8/19 ‘From the Street’

Gerstein treated the Liszt as a kind of prelude to the Beethoven – segueing straight into it. Before the Janacek he gave a little talk about how the piece was a reaction to the killing of a Czech nationalist protestor (it was an Anti-Austrian demonstration in Hapsburg Brno) and dedicated his performance to a rather funny, I suppose US-centric list of present-day victims – to the victims of mass shootings in the US (the latest were fresh news that day) and protestors in Hong Kong and Moscow. Perhaps it had been a quiet day in Gaza, which didn’t rate a mention. That’s the problem with politics in concerts – everyone will have their own list.

The neat thing about the first half was that it was was all in E flat – though the Janacek is in the minor.

The second half was more disparate though WWI hung like a bit of a shadow over some of it. I enjoyed it. I’ve left it too long to remember the encores – one was the Chopin Waltz which skips into two with the figuration cross beat.

The better of the Concerto programs for my taste was the one featuring the Gershwin and the Ravel Left Hand. It was only on once, in the daytime, and I didn’t feel free to skive off. I did catch the Gershwin on ABC Classic FM. After a blazing conclusion to the first movement the good burghers of ABC 1.30pm concert-ville remained silent, as of course all good ABC subscribers know you should. David Robertson, conducting, turned around and said “You’ve shown eminent self-control.” (here at 54:35).

I instead heard the Grieg, together with a scrap of Sibelius (En Saga) and Berlioz Symph Fant. There were two ophicleides!

In the last movement, a percussionist headed offstage. Here in the corridor on the way to the very truncated gents (and opposite where a more spacious former facility has been cannibalized by a kitchen) is what she was headed for:

symph fant bells

The SSO are obviously a bit worried about the next two years. I think they genuinely don’t know: will the Town Hall be too small, or will nobody come? And if there are people who break the habit because they don’t like the Town Hall or can’t be fitted in with nice enough seats, will they follow the orchestra back to the SOH in (the SSO says) two years’ time?

At the start we got a bit of a pep talk from Emma Dunch about next year’s subscription series and ye olde Town Hall (olde worlde) acoustic.

Well let’s wait and see about that – it is pretty boomy though sympathetic to the bass and also to the piano. The problem really is the flat floor which is bad for sight lines. The orchestral sound seems to float past above you if you sit in the front stalls and a tall person will probably block your view if you are further back.


Ye olde air conditioning system could also do with a bit of attention to reduce its noise level.

I was not the only person dismayed by the seat I had been given – close-ish and to the side. This is the view from there:

Front side view

SSO ambassadors were mingling in the crowd and one offered me a seat in the Eastern Gallery (that’s the furthest but square-on to the stage). I found an excellent seat up there at interval. The view was splendid:

East Gallery View

but for me that’s too far away and too much is lost in the echo on the way.

Except for a few special occasions next year for which I’ve secured downstairs aisle seats on the outer side of the aisle  looking inwards, I’ve plumped for a side gallery about a third of the way down and wonder if I shouldn’t have gone even closer.  It’s a trade-off between a good balance and twisting your neck.

Time will tell.


August 25, 2019

Last night to the SOH for the SSO.

Simone Young conducted. The program was:

SCHUBERT The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: Overture

SCHUBERT arr. Liszt Wanderer Fantasy

LISZT Dante Symphony

I heard the SSO play the  overture twice in 2008.  I’ve been a bit more into Schubert since then, and I got more out of it this time.  There is some quite high trumpet writing and a tricky trombone trio.  But it was still just a curtain-raiser.  I was here for the Schubert-Liszt and the Liszt.

To a pianist, “Schubert-Liszt” is an evocative compound, mostly denoting the many song transcriptions.  The arrangement of the Wanderer is on another level.

Until recently I didn’t have a very favourable opinion of the Wanderer Fantasie.  It is an exhausting work for the pianist and the big writing at the end tends to come across as harsh and bangy. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve come round to it on the strength of a recording that finally won me over.  I would still be wary of what I might encounter if I heard it in the flesh. Perhaps I’ve heard it too often in the (Sydney) Piano Competition.

The great thing about Liszt’s arrangement is that it frees the pianist from the burden of maintaining the ground of the rhythm.  Adding an orchestra works a bit like adding a rhythm section (bass, drums) to a jazz pianist.  Whilst that then leads to some flashy Lisztian enlargement of Schubert’s figurations, I suspect this ends up being less demanding for the pianist than the original.  There is a romanticisation and a cute-ification – the opening is more remote from the Waldstein, but a bit more charm does no harm.  I enjoyed Louis Lortie’s performance.

Liszt must have a bad reputation still amongst some – probably for meretricious bombast, because there was a marked exodus from the upper rear stalls at interval. Maybe they had come for the “Vienna” theme of the concert and considered it spent. I moved up and back a bit for the second half.

Leavers were losers.  Albeit with a certain amount of hellish musical noise (up and down some altered/diminished chord in repeated figures) the Dante symphony was terrific.  This is the “new music” of the mid-nineteenth century – half way (roughly) between Berlioz and Wagner.  Simone Young was an ideal exponent.

And the orchestra played terrifically for her.  The string playing had a sheen in the violins – and grunt in the violas and celli and basses – that the SSO does not always achieve.  There were many other well-realised orchestral effects, and a beautiful ending with the upper voices of Cantillation singing from upstairs half way up the circle.

This was the day that Sydney trains were (again) in total disarray.  On the advice of the station attendant at Circular Quay I boarded the first available train, described as terminating at Central.  By Central it had turned into an all stations to Lidcombe (not-via-Bankstown) train and I stayed on it and got D to pick me up from Lewisham.

One of our little joke phrases when I return from a concert is “CWG”  – standing for Concert was good. D considers that a joke because exceptions to it are so rare.  This time, when he asked, I told him “CWT.”

That was “T” for “terrific.”

In the cheap seats

August 22, 2019

My friend UB emailed me at about 2pm yesterday:

Dear [Marcellous], let me know what operas you are going to this year and dates so I can try and get tickets on the same night.

Opera Australia’s online calendar for 2020 was still mostly blank, but I soon confirmed that UB (and I too, at home) had received the brochure. It was time to move quickly. UB sent me pictures of the brochure calendar from her phone.

Artistic Director (a more apt title would be “chief buyer”) Lyndon Terracini has given the Opera Review of a few years ago which recommended 11 operas be performed the finger.  Next year OA is spruiking not one, not two but four musicals. It’s not that a case cannot be made for any of these, but the two at the SOH are displacing operas.

I used to joke about WA Opera in Perth that it wasn’t the case that you couldn’t see plenty of opera, you just had to see the same operas multiple times.  That’s where I now am with OA’s Sydney offering.

A couple of years ago I gave up my long held centre-front row seats in a set series. That’s partly out of frugality, and partly because of OA’s constricted operatic repertoire.  Well-exposed popular works come around all too soon.  I’m a “mature market” and am more interested in things I haven’t seen yet.

My approach now is to see a new work multiple times, saving the best (still cheap) seats, when I also take D, till last.  If I see something 3 times, I will take restricted view from each side.  If an unfamiliar work, first time also needs surtitle view.

This requires a bit of wrangling and is best done over the counter at the OA box office – the earlier the better for the best choice of cheap seats.  The staff are very helpful.  By c.o.b. I had done it. I took a snapshot of my list of performances and SMS’d it to UB.

I’m seeing La Juive, Roberto Devereaux and Attila, all rarities I’m looking forward to, as well as a couple of others I’ve seen before.  D is coming to 4.

This morning UB sent me an email with the four nights she and her husband have chosen once the tickets became available online.

Back home last night, I perused the brochure at more leisure.

The title page touts OA’s NYE Gala offering. You can have dinner, see a show (La Bohème or an Opera Gala in the Concert Hall – in my opinion the latter is definitely the short straw) and then watch the fireworks from an exclusive after party (there must be two parallel parties) in the Northen Foyers. All for a mere $1,422.  Each.

That’s not for the likes of us. UB’s, her husband’s, D’s and my tickets for the whole year came in at less.

Academically approved

August 21, 2019

On Friday with D to the Conservatorium to see/hear a “dress rehearsal” of Psyche, billed as an opera by Meta Overman.

What is she? I hear you ask (not) – assuming you’d even determined the gender.

MO was born in Rotterdam in about 1907. She emigrated to Australia not long after WWII with her young son and pianist husband.  The impetus seems to have been to escape post-war privations in the Netherlands – relatives had accommodation on offer in Perth.  To escape the Perth heat, they moved to Albany.

Albany!  I have spent time there on account of my late aunt.  In the early 50s it must have been a remote spot indeed.

Overman wrote Psyche for the first Perth Festival, in 1953.  It is based on a novella/fairtytale by the Dutch writer, Louis Couperus.  A 1908 translation is available online.

The Perth Festival was and remains a venture of the University of Western Australia.  Psyche was conceived to be performed at the sunken garden there which was used as an outdoor theatre (my mother related to me more than once seeing Jacqui Kott there in Midsummer Night’s Dream).  It’s a special place amidst the sandy wastes of the West.  Meta Overman’s ashes were scattered there and, as it happens, I scattered (unauthorised by the University but at her written request in a document found amidst her effects) some of my Albany aunt’s there when the time came.

Psyche eventually had 10 performances there in the 1955 festival.  It was poorly attended and a financial disaster and this amongst other things apparently led to the end of Overman’s marriage.  She decamped to Melbourne with her son and  (I infer: he is  apparently still living and was active as a jazz pianist as recently as 2012) a rather younger man (not that there is anything wrong with that).

It is easy to imagine why Psyche was not a success with the 1955 Perth public. Aside from the obscurity of its fin-de-siecle source, it  was a novel work – scarcely an opera in conventional terms.  Only two characters – Eros and Psyche’s elder sister, Emeralda, are portrayed by singers.  Psyche herself was represented by a dancer, a male (I assume) dancer represented the Chimera and a Satyr who interact with her – with the Satyr (shades of Debussy) also shadowed by an obbligato flute soloist.  Psyche’s younger sister was represented by a harp solo.  The balance of the instrumental music was provided by Overman’s husband on the piano.  Two other characters were spoken by actors.

For this revival, Jeanell Carrigan semi-orchestrated the piano part for a small ensemble whose makeup seems to have been determined by the availability of the SSO fellows – a string quartet, double bass, flute, oboe and bassoon.  The solo harp and flute parts  were retained and JC herself played a still-extensive piano part.

The music was accessible and dramatically apt without stretching many boundaries and to that extent can be excused criticism of the sort that Dr Carrigan (in my opinion unduly dismissively) levelled against Elliott Gyger’s music in her review of Oscar and Lucinda .

In the scene involving the Satyr the music launched slightly incongrously into treatments of O du lieber Augustin and another song which I recognized but still cannot name.  There may have been other songs referred to here.  The best I can do by way of explanation for this is that in the novel as translated the Satyr is dismissive of “classical music” and these songs therefore represent something more popular. he Wikipedia entry on O..Augustin, which should be updated in the section on “Use in other musical works” to include reference to Psyche, mentions that “The melody is also used in “Daar wordt aan de deur geklopt”, a Dutch children’s song for the celebration of Saint Nicholas Day

I felt the instrumentation was a little cautious and could profitably have expanded, even with the available forces, more beyond the still very evident backbone of the piano part.

The actors both had microphones, which was in my opinion a misstep even if necessary for them.  Singers and actors had books (not always consulted) and it didn’t look to me as if this was just for the dress rehearsal.  The dancers (who were excellent) gave the most fully realised performances.

I enjoyed my encounter with a slightly clunky oddity.

Some peculiar properties of glass

August 13, 2019

On Friday night a couple of weeks back and with D the following Saturday to  Carriageworks to see Sydney Chamber Opera’s production of the new chamber opera, Oscar & Lucinda, based on Peter Carey’s novel. Tthe music is by Elliott Gyger and the libretto by Pierce Wilcox.  They collaborated a few years ago on an adaptation of David Malouf’s Fly away Peter, which I didn’t see.

That makes two new Australian operas seen within a fortnight of each other.  You certainly can’t say that happens often.

In comparison to Kats-Chernin’s, a member of the Dulwich Hill gang who’d been to Whiteley earlier that week described Gyger’s style as “academically approved.”

If so, not by Associate Professor Jeanell Carrigan of the Conservatorium, who didn’t think much of the music at all.

In an opera adaption surely the most important feature is the music and how well adapted to the story it is….[I]n the opinion of this reviewer, the music did not react to or reflect the action on stage or in the story.

Had one not had the visual aspect and the text ….displayed on surtitles, hearing the music would not have given the listener the effect of what was transpiring….

Gyger writes in the program notes:

The guiding metaphor for the music is one not found in the novel …In a kaleidoscope, small fragments of coloured glass fall into arbitrary relationships which are then mirrored geometrically to create the illusion of order. Different settings of the kaleidoscope generate particular harmonic colours

If this was the guiding principle behind the composition then Gyger was successful, as the music does sound like a kaleidoscope, pieces of coloured glass falling into space. However, it seemed to this listener that the music never changed to reflect the story presented.

In the love scene, the kaleidoscope of colours did not reflect a warmth normally associated with such a scene. In the death scene, which was rather protracted, the colours were again so much of the sameness of other parts of the action. What began as colourful and very exciting became uninteresting and no longer captivating.


it was doubtful whether the music portrayed enough of the story line to warrant putting this story into an operatic medium.

That’s harsh.

On first listening, I had something like Carrigan’s reaction, though not as adverse.

A particular bugbear of mine with much contemporary music is that often intricate details, which can themselves be quite rhythmic (in this case, often coming from the words), are laid out against a basically time-measuring background seemingly devoid of  metre.  Where is the ritornello rhythmic pattern that we can (metaphorically) tap our feet to?  Where are the non-duple metres?

That’s probably also a stalking horse (switching metaphors in mid-stream) for regret at the absence of the straightforwardly lyrical.  Give us a song, not mere declamation!

Actually that’s an argument which goes back beyond antagonism to contemporary music.  People made that complaint about Wagner’s vocal writing, and I felt something a bit like that in relation to the constant (and ever so admired by critics as responsive to the text) recits and ariosos in The Return of Ulysses.

There is a bit of a lyricism deficit in Oscar and Lucinda – or at least there is lots of very angular and leapy music.

When I returned on Saturday – better rested than I had been on Friday and with the advantage of already having heard the music once – I found much more variety – even metrical variety – in the music than I had noticed first time around.

As for the two scenes Carrigan picked on: as to the first, her complaint should possibly be with the libretto rather than the music. It is an “in love” scene rather than a “love scene” – the whole point is that they are happy together without having declared their love to each other.  I thought the music captured this well, though perhaps you could have wished for something warmer.

The scene which Carrigan calls the “death scene” is more than that. The libretto ingeniously manages to wrap up the Miriam-Lucinda plot at the same time.  The scene is fittingly a culmination of the glass-themed style which has featured throughout the work.  True, it is a bit static (so a bit of that time-measuring that I am not so keen on) but a glass church on a barge is sinking into the river.  It’s too late to slip into a waltz.  in truth I expect Carrigan just didn’t like the style that much and by the end was sick of it.

Perhaps she should have gone again to gain a better impression.

There is more I could say about the the staging (minimalist, imaginative) and the performances (energetic, impressive, though some of the chorus-commentary harmony could have been better tempered)  and even about the music, but I’ve run out of energy for that right now.

I enjoyed both nights and they made me think about the novel afresh.  The audience was enthusiastic.  Carriageworks is a funky venue.

The ticket price of $35 was very accessible.  It was even more accessible to me because on the Friday, expecting to be too tired, I made a special trip to Carriageworks to book a ticket for the Saturday so as to be sure of one for the last night. Naively I also thought I might avoid the hated booking fee that way.  That was not to be, but there was a consolation: as I was concluding the bargain, a man returned a ticket to be given away for free.  “I’ll take it!” I cried, leaving no chance before any more tentative bystanders could put in a claim. If I flagged, I could always leave at half time secure in the knowledge I still had a ticket for the next night.  In fact, though impaired by a long day and a couple of post-work drinks I never felt the slightest bit tempted to leave.  It was totally engrossing.


PS: the title to this post is set by Gyger to a melodic fragment not entirely unreminiscent of “Peter Grimes I here advise.”


Narrow taste and the three “B”s

August 12, 2019

Our rented house has two front rooms either side of the entrance hallway.

One, called by D “the study room” (a translation of the Chinese 书房 (shufang)), contains my piano, desk, bookshelves and books.

The other is D’s bedroom.

About a year ago, D proposed these rooms  be swapped.  I wasn’t keen. One week-day a few days later I came home to find it done. D had enlisted the support of some visiting friends to move the piano and other furniture. D himself had emptied the bookshelves and then restocked them according to his own principles.

Yesterday I finally got around to re-alphabetising the piano solo portion of my music. There’s surprisingly little of it: it just about fills a single Ikea “Billy” shelf.


That’s not all my solo piano music.  It excludes anthologies (the alphabetical order I have used is by composer), and my own personal anthologies in tatty scrap-books. These were mostly what I would have lugged to and from piano lessons in later years.

The single red  volume to the left of Beethoven Klaviersonaten I and II  (Henle, cloth bound) is one volume of a Peters edition of the Beethoven sonatas which had been given to me by my grandmother when I was about ten or eleven.  In about 1985, cycling home from a piano lesson in North Sydney, I failed to detect that I had dislodged with my heel a pannier holding its mate as well as a few other volumes. That (and the rise of photocopying) is one reason for the scrap book practice.  You can also fix up page turns more conveniently that way.

I probably have some even more tattered sheet music boxed away somewhere or in a filing cabinet.

At roughly the mid-point of the “collection” so arranged is the yellow spine of the the Schirmer edition of Cramer’s 50 Etudes.

The plastic covered blue spines which catch the light immediately to its left are Henle editions of Chopin.  To the left of Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Bach occupy most of the space – so about an eighth of the total for each.

There is a bit of a clump at the right for Schubert and Schumann.

Which composers take up space isn’t a direct indication of what I’ve actually played.  It’s more a question of which composers’ works I have bought in volume form.

Nevertheless, the relative under-representation of Russian and French composers (leaving aside for now that Chopin was arguably half-French) is conspicuous and probably consistent with under-representation in my repertoire.  Partly that’s because they are too hard, but I also suspect it is to do with my own musical upbringing and hence blinkers.