Missa Solemnis

On Saturday night to hear the SSO play its World Youth Day leftovers, with Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. This followed a performance on Friday night which was strictly a Pilgrims Only event.

My neighbours had also availed themselves of the $39 special, and apparently the orchestra was also advertising $50 tickets in this morning’s paper. The stalls and the front circle were pretty well full but there were still a few seats going at the sides.

The orchestra was set up on risers in a fashion which was, at one stage, being advertised as “the Sydney sound.” This is just the latest of many attempts to improve the acoustic in the Concert Hall. The more often I go there, I am afraid the less satisfactory it seems, though this may in part just be a result of the human striving for perfection and envy of anything unattained or unattainable.

Maybe I have been listening to too much piano music, or maybe I am just becoming too estranged from religion, but it took me a while to warm to this performance. It could also have been a knee-jerk reaction to the program note, prepared obviously for the previous night, which quoted the pope appropriating Beethoven to his cause. (On the other hand, I am sure that Benedict XVI’s love of music is genuine. I am prepared to take that into account as a redeeming feature – even though he is the one who claims to have influence in that department.)

One thing that struck me, as the Credo followed the Gloria, is just how much stuff there is to believe.

Things looked up once the shorter movements began. Musically they are more agreeable.

On the way home, I met Lx. He has been following the piano competition from afar. He is always so well informed about these things and asked me about Tomoki Kitamura. He is going to some sessions next week. With him was Px, deputising for Lx’s mother, who had very much wanted to go but ultimately felt (at 91) not quite up to it. Lx asked me if I remembered the time when Sir Charles Mackerras conducted the Missa Solemnis and indeed I did. This was on the completion of the last restoration of the Sydney Town Hall (could that have been 1988?), and we both remembered it as better than Gelmetti’s version. Maybe we were just younger and more impressionable.

I left Lx and P at Town Hall as they were going to Petersham and I to Sydenham. I took my next train in an end compartment with one local and 5 Indian (or at least sub-continental) nuns. The local nun and the four older Indians were engaged in a lively conversation – obviously very excited by the week’s events. The youngest nun, who sat opposite me, said not a word. Perhaps she was sick – she did cough a few times; clearly she was tired, as her eyes almost closed in sleep; but I also wondered (based on my own experience of the sometimes trying nature of group travel experiences) if she was just getting a little bit over it all.

Like that nun (on my hypothesis, that is) I am looking forward to the end of World Youth Day. As with the “do not annoy” regulations, the entire occasion has been marked by the most monumental overkill in governmental and regulatory reaction. Special crowd barriers had been constructed around Circular Quay station. At both Circular Quay and Sydenham, squads of black-clad “Transit officers” lounged around with nothing at all to do in particular. Praise the Lord and pass the overtime!

In Newtown, for some reason, the entirety of King Street and City Road had been declared a clearway for practically all of Saturday. From 6 am to 7 pm. Why? In particular, why for all of that time? The answer is probably just because they can. When I rode past on the way to the piano competition, there was no obvious need for it. I sometimes wonder whether our governmental bossiness is a result of our state’s origins as a convict settlement. In the end I expect there is a simpler explanation in the disposition of the sorts of people who get themselves into the position where they are making these sorts of rules.

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