SSO, Trpceski, Strauss, Saint Saens, Sibelius

Tonight (Friday) I took a break from SIPCA and went instead to hear the SSO in the above, very attractive program, namely:

Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
Piano Concerto No 2
Symphony No 2

D came too as my usual neighbours were unable to come. I took their tickets and after various unsuccessful attempts to interest others in my own ticket, ultimately exchanged it yesterday for a second ticket (for D) to hear Yefim Bronfman with the SSO on August 9. Bronfman was originally to play the Bartok Concerto No 2 but has now substituted Tchaikovsky 1, which will doubtless suit D better though less so me, as Bartok’s concerti are the one part of his piano oeuvre which I actually like. I wonder why the substitution: were the tickets proving slow to shift?

Michael at the box office (who also doubles as an usher at the opera house – talk about vertical integration!) told me that tickets for the two matinee performances of S,T,S,S&S were selling like hot cakes, and that there were only a few pockets of seats left for the Friday evening performance. My old seat did not sell – ridiculously, I felt strangely slighted.

Trpceski had attracted a sizeable Macedonian contingent. This is his second trip here. He had been billed as “the best thing to come out of Macedonia since Alexander the Great.” Possibly, given Macedonia’s long dormancy as a state, the only thing since A the G. I’d be intrigued to know if Trpceski had his own channels of publicity, or whether the SSO had indeed managed some ethnic marketing of their own. At the end of the Saint-Saens, he gave a contemporary rather jazz/Bartok treatmen of a Macedonian folk song, newly composed for the tour. There was definitely a different feel to the audience as the Macedonians injected a whole new range of people. There was some heroic coughing between movements in the second half but the feeling was sort of cosy and in a way (I think because they were such a partisan audience, for Trpceski, at least) warmer than usual.

In the second half, Sibelius 2. This is probably everybody’s first Sibelius. It’s one of those pieces where I can quite clearly remember the moment I first heard it, probably because it was at a concert rather than simply as a recording, when the BBC Symphony played it in Canberra, where I lived aetat 21-23. I remember it as more of a gentle thaw than Thomas Dausgaard, the conductor, seemed to conceive it. His approach was more in terms of cracking glaciers. It was strongly played.

More and more I become annoyed at lack of clarity in the Concert Hall’s acoustic. De Waart was right to start the push for some improvement here, because definitely that is a limiting factor both on what an audience can hear or even, I believe, what the orchestra can hear to enable them to improve. In this case, a lot of woodwind detail, in particular, had a hard time, in both the concerto and the symphony.

Till E was loud and jolly.

There were even some slogans hung from the organ gallery and displayed in the choir stalls. In the first half, these were clearly in honour of Trpceski and Macedonia. We were all taken by surprise when, at the end of the Sibelius, two Danish flags were raised in the choir stalls. This was in honour of the conductor, who is chief conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. Who would have thought the Danes would have gone in for something like that? (Admittedly, the flag raising was effected as demurely as possible.)

What with the piano competition and all, we have been running into Lx rather a lot of late. In a pleasant extension of the sociable basis of the evening, we walked together to the car (at a location indisclosable but fairly distant from the opera house) and then dropped Lx off a few hundred metres up the street from our own (that is, our rented) Dulwich Hill abode.

Lx has a thing that the SSO strings have a recurring fault of what he calls “scratchiness.” In the big sul G violin tunes this is not a problem, but it tends to emerge in sections of eneegitic but detailed fiddling. Lx says “They can get everything else so good, so why not this?” I hazarded the view that it could be because of the disparate backgrounds of the string players, that the lack of a uniform tradition is exposed as a scratchiness which is partly just a kind of lack of unanimity – after all, all fiddling is really scratching, or at least scraping. I sometimes think what we are picking up are the clashes from how individual players’ notes are speaking as a result of multiple but microscopic differences of attack, bow speed and weight through the note, rhythm (at the sub-articulation level); etc etc. Oh well, this is a theory. But it is also and has been a bee in Lx’s bonnet for at least 20 years, so he wasn’t ready to accept that explanation just yet or so easily.

The alternative explanation is less kind, and that is simply (though in fact just as realistically) that sometimes their concentration or technique or a combination of these fall between the cracks. My own theory is that this sort of thing really needs a bit of conductory support, so that depending on the conductor (and maybe whether they are scared enough of him, I am sorry to say) the violins can get through without scratchiness, if not quite to the extent that the edited recordings of the world’s best orchestras of the vinyl era, which have been Lx’s mainstay in his formative years, manage to do.

3 Responses to “SSO, Trpceski, Strauss, Saint Saens, Sibelius”

  1. Thom Says:

    2008 tour dates here; found 2006 on the Sony Classical site, but unfortunately nothing for 2007 or 2009, at least not on a quick search. Revealing perhaps.

  2. marcellous Says:

    Revealing what, Thom? Go on, be a bit more forthcoming!

  3. Thom Says:

    Thom wonders if marcellous ever attends the SSO’s pre-concert talks in the northern foyer. If attending the concert on 9 August, consider this a cordial invitation. [Apologies for using your comments feature in this gratuitous way – as always, feel free to delete.]

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