My lucky day

I started my working day on Monday in the directions list in the Equity Division of the Supreme Court.  The solicitor for the defendants rocked up and, after a brief discussion, we agreed on some consent orders.  I went back to my office (we like to call our offices “chambers”).

At noon I was back again before the duty judge.  My client had a notice of motion but had decided not to proceed with it.  So I put on my wig and gown and trotted up to tell the judge this.  All rather silly, but my own contribution to street theatre in Sydney’s legal precinct.

I then spent two or three hours preparing for a hearing tomorrow before going home early to have a nap in preparation for going to hear Cedric Tiberghien in recital at Angel Place.  Normally, I drive back in to a concert, so as to maximise the available nap time, but as my car is in for repairs at present (well, actually, just resting on Monday because the smash repairers take the August Bank Holiday) I was expecting to have to take the train back in, with a commensurate reduction in sleeping time. 

On the platform at St James Station heading home I ran into Rx, who was at school a couple of years below me (or is “after me” more anti-hierarchically correct?).  Rx lives just down the road from me in a small block of flats with Lx, my former year 9 English Teacher and high-school drama director, J, (also an ex-teacher and an old acting colleague of Lx) and N, Lx’s ex-boy-friend (with whom I was at university).  They bought this block together about 10 years ago and live in what seems, at least from the outside, to be congenial collegiality.

This was my lucky break: Lx had invited Rx to go to the recital.  Rx could see where the conversation was going, and with remarkably little prompting he offered to pick me up at 7.15 and give me a lift in.  As we picked our way through the ethnically-Chinese Sydney Boys High students to get off the train, I was feeling pretty good.

Once home, I rang my father for his birthday, and had a short conversation with the solicitor for tomorrow about a few things which needed to be done (he wasn’t in the office today because solicitors in the country also take the bank holiday).  I was able to sleep for an hour and a half.

And so to the concert.  The program was:

BRAHMS Chaconne by JS Bach, arr. for piano left hand
BRAHMS Four Ballades, Op.10
CHOPIN Four Ballades

Cedric Tiberghien (the link includes videos of him performing two works from the program, though the live performances were better than the linked ones) is a tall young man (well, he is 32), ever-so-slightly dorkish – particularly when he bends right over the keyboard; he has a bit of an issue with vocalisation while he plays.  Judging from his performance of the Brahms arrangement of the Chaconne (and guessing by sight and from his height) he has big hands with long and thin fingers (you can see this in the Brahms performance indirectly linked above). Though not a conclusive advantage, is generally pretty helpful for a pianist.

It was an intelligent program: balancing Brahms and Chopin, and in particular two different ideas of Ballade, which in rough terms can be described as a single-movement piece, sometimes with narrative pretensions (as in Brahms’s first Ballade, which is based on the ballad Edward) and otherwise more abstractly narrative (as in Chopin) and often working with an alternation of two contrasting sets of musical material (though more freely than in classical sonata form, whatever that really is).

The Brahms Ballades are rather weird pieces – not entirely audience-friendly.  With the benefit of hindsight they can seem to be the works of a composer still searching for his true style (they are early works: Op 10), which just seems to emerge in the second theme of the 4th Ballade.  Tiberghien did not try to pretty them up or “normalise” them: he concentrated on their rather off-beat (sometimes literally) creation of mood.  He wasn’t afraid to play really softy.

The Chopin Ballades, by comparison, are so well-known that it is as difficult for a player to say anything new about them as it is for the listener to experience them afresh.  Lx and Rx thought the performances rather erratic.  I try not to be such an adjudicator.  It is true that, in the big moments in particular, things got rather wild, but I took that to be Tiberghien’s attempt at a freedom of style, even at a sacrifice of a certain degree of what is sometimes thought to be the requisite Chopinesque polish.  Once again, it was his quiet playing which I found really impressive.

 At interval, Lx nudged me to glance left.  “It’s Mrs Turangalila!” he said, and indeed, there was Simone Young, who last weekend conducted Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony (with Tiberghien playing the piano solo) with the WASO in Perth, and who this weekend does the same with the SSO in Sydney.  When Tiberghien returned to the stage to take his bows, he acknowledged Simone Yong‘s presence, and announced that he was dedicating his encore to her.  It would be a long encore; it was three stories – which he proceeded to relate.  In fact it was Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.

At 20+ minutes, that possibly tempted the patience of some of the more train-timetably-minded of the audience, but I wasn’t complaining (luckily, I didn’t need to worry about the train). It really was my lucky day and a fitting postlude to the program.

On the way home, Lx and Rx wistfully wondered if Tiberghien might be gay. I’m not so sure: he sported a wedding band. In any event, I think Thibaudet (who piked playing Gaspard de la nuit as previously announced for his Sydney recital last year) has the game of tall blond (-ish or -esque) gay French pianist all sewn up. Always room for another generation to come through though…

3 Responses to “My lucky day”

  1. Turangalîla-symphonie « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Cedric Tiberghien played the solo piano part marvellously. I don’t think it is his fault that, by the time the piano had to make its sweetest contribution, it was rather less in tune in its upper register than would have been optimal. That’s the fault of the composer in requiring so much fortissimo chordal work earlier in the work. […]

  2. The Long Boom comes to an end « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] interval, I also ran into J and Lx.  They are now both AIDSocrats.  We discussed the David Russell case (because G QC is appearing […]

  3. Why I am not a critic – 6 « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] I took the train home with the Dulwich Hill gang with whom I generally attend these recitals: J and my former high-school English and drama teacher, Lx. Lx said “that was rather […]

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