Australian Chamber Orchestra

Tonight I went to Angel Place (straight from work: the concert was at 7 pm) to hear the Australian Chamber Orchestra in a program entitled Sonic.  The concert received a generally approving review here.

The program was:

Copland Appalachian Spring (original version for 13 instruments)
Pateras Autophagy [2007 Barbara Blackman Commission]
Philip Glass, movement from String Quartet (played with double strings plus bass tripling the cello)
Saint-Saëns/Leunig Carnival of the Animals/Humans
with new poems by Michael Leunig, personifications by Drew Forsythe and improvisatory music links by Anthony Pateras

The distinctive element in the concert was the involvement of Anthony Pateras. His piece, Autophagy, was for amplified string quintet and prepared piano, together with computer generated sounds. This was pretty wild, even if, personally, I find instruments played at such extremes of their capacities do not exhibit their most interesting qualities. It was also totally amplified and this was inherent in its style. So be it.

Pateras’s set up at the prepared piano dominated the stage for the first half. This was a practical question, but it did weaken the impact of the players when they played first the Copland and then the Glass (an extra item announced at the beginning of the concert).

In the second half, the Saint-Saens was recast, with fresh verses written and read by Michael Leunig, as a “Carnival of the Humans.” Drew Forsythe “personified” these in mime. The extra element was a kind of “soundscape” by Anthony Pateras between some of the numbers. This was of necessity played through the Recital Hall PA system. Leunig’s readings were of course amplified. It is perhaps not so surprising then that the players should also have been amplified.

That is an understandable consequence of the concept, but to me this was very much at the expense of the music.  If I wanted to hear music through loudspeakers, I might as well stay at home and listen to a CD.  At a concert I like to hear the performance as actually played and balanced by the musicians, rather than as mixed by the fellow at the sound desk.  It was also a terrible waste and indeed trashing of Angel Place’s beautiful acoustic.  They had two very good pianists, but you couldn’t really tell, and most refinements disappeared into the reverb.

Still, nobody else seemed to mind, so I guess they’ve found their audience.   Of course I managed to salvage enjoyment from my Luddite (I prefer: ecological) grumbles, but were it not for the kind invitation and good company of Px (who had been given some friends’ tickets), I don’t think I would have gone and I am unlikely to go to such a concert again.

Oh my: what a cultural tory I find myself to be!

On the bus on the way home I mentioned to Px that D and I went to see Holding the Man at Belvoir St (just near Ninglun‘s) on Sunday night.  Px had read the book and wondered how it could be turned into a play.  When I started to describe to him how the death of John Caleo was dramatised, he said he didn’t think he could bear it.  Whatever costs we might have paid by way of wasted youth as a result of our late vocations as gay men, it fortuitously kept us out of harm’s way at a critical time.

2 Responses to “Australian Chamber Orchestra”

  1. ninglun Says:

    Re your last paragraph: as you know, I was not at home much Sunday afternoon/evening. Otherwise I might have met D at last, perhaps.

  2. BB King Says:

    You should try Australia Pro Arte (www.proarte.com.au). None of the tricks, all of the virtuosity of an ensemble with depth and purity of great music.

    Close to spam! I would try them if they were in Sydney, though I don’t know what “tricks” are being charged against others which the the Pro Arte disclaims. That sounds just a bit like a trick in itself.

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