Alban Gerhardt, SSO, John Nelson

On May 2 I went to hear the SSO at the SOH. The program was:

BIZET Symphony in C
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No.1
DEBUSSY Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

John Nelson conductor
Alban Gerhardt cello

In the row behind me there are two rather eccentric gents who have arrived as subscribers this year. It is difficult to describe exactly how they are eccentric save by reference to entirely implicit norms of the concert-going public. The elder of them (hard to guess the age: sixties?) has a toothbrushish moustache and attends wearing shorts and long white socks; the younger just seems like a bit of a younger country cousin. They both smoke. They cough a bit, though not for want of trying not to: this we know because they talk quite a lot and rather loudly, and quite a bit of their talk is about not coughing. At the end of the slow movement of the Bizet, one of them (the elder, I think) said “the fugue wasn’t very long” – a point also made in the printed program. In the silence at the end of the Prelude a l’apre midi, while all was still and before anyone had shifted in their seats, let alone applauded, the same one said, “Very nice.” He said it with feeling.

My masterful South African neighbour and his wife both took steps to attempt to bring this pair to heel, but I fear it will be uphill work.

From time to time, the SSO turns out an all-female (undisclosed transexuals excluded) first violin section. This was one such occasion. Composer and violinist George Lentz was camping in the stalls for the first half with his two children, and my neighbour and I teasingly asked him whether this was because the fast neat and work in the Bizet called for a feminine touch (the musical equivalent of “factory girls” who are preferred for diligence and dexterity in China). Mr Lentz deflected this suggestion though he did concede that the preparedness of young women to practise at a critical age might have something to do with the feminization of violin sections generally. My neighbour but one on the other side claimed that you could hear a difference when the section was all women. Obviously, that would depend also on what was played, but I expect that the contribution of the leader would have more influence than the presence of one or more man in the section.

Aside from gender questions, light nimble music principally reminds me how murky the SOH Concert Hall acoustic is. I assume it is the high ceiling where originally a fly tower and proscenium arch were called for.

It’s now too long ago for me to say anything “critical” about the performances. It was nice to see Alban Gerhardt joining the ripieno cellos in the second half. Much better than skulking around in a dressing city in a foreign city or going back to one’s hotel.

7 Responses to “Alban Gerhardt, SSO, John Nelson”

  1. While I’ve been away – Ten concerts « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] The Saturday a week and a half after that, I went to hear the SSO at the SOH. Reminiscences here. […]

  2. Schumann slighted « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] was amused to see later that Harriet Cunningham found herself next to the odd couple I first met last year and has labelled them ‘Steptoe and […]

  3. Debbie Says:

    I’m still amazed how people refer to the orchestra as the SSO. They dropped the Orchestra years ago but maybe saying you went to hear the SS just doesn’t sound so appealing.

    • marcellous Says:

      Debbie, you are quite right. I had not noticed the rebranding before.

      Now strictly speaking there should be no need for me to disambiguate the orchestra and the other and actual SSO in my habitat, namely the Sydney Star Observer.

  4. Debbie Says:

    Hi Marcellous . Even after I looking up the meaning of disambiguate (not a word I’ve come across often ) I don’t understand the point you’re making. Could you paraphrase please.

  5. marcellous Says:

    It means to distinguish something from something else. It’s a term used in Wikipedia when the one term may refer to a number of things. Commonly people. So, for example, if you look up “John Smith” in Wikipedia (when it isn’t blacked out) there is first an entry about the meaning of the name as a name for an ordinary person, and then a whole catalogue of John Smiths. At the bottom of the page it then says:

    “This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same personal name. If an internal link led you here, you may wish to change the link to point directly to the intended article.”

    So to paraphrase as you request

    Now, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t need to say “SSO – the orchestra” to distinguish that from “SSO, the gay free newspaper.”

    Indeed, my old private joke about “the other SSO” (which in gay circles will mean the orchestra and in musical circles the orchestra and in musical and gay circles would be understood as a joke) has been robbed of its sting because of the (in my opinion, barbaric) “corporatisation” of the orchestra’s name a la “Sydney Water” or (even worse) “Fair Work Australia.”

    I’m still going to call the orchestra the SSO because old habits die hard and “the SS” (as you point out) doesn’t have the same appeal. Mere “SS” (which is probably the proper abbreviation of the name, given that it lacks an article) just sounds odd. And yes, I know that is not consistent, because I I have swallowed “OA” as the replacement for “The Australian Opera.” However I would generally say I went to “the opera” or “OA’s production of X.”

    I still remember laughing when the deputy headmaster at my high school gave me an exeat to attend a “colloquium” at “the university.” He was such a snob. He didn’t mean UNSW, and even less likely, Macquarie.

    omg, I must be at such a loose end to go on so.

  6. Debbie Says:

    Thanks for clarifying all that. Many years ago when the orchestras left the ABC to become corporations the QSO decided it was time to call itself TQO (The Queensland Orchestra) it wasn’t long before people referred to “the TQO” :) I’m a musician and I get confused !

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