Bleeding chunks

On Thursday night to the SSO’s Meet the Music concert.

The program was:

LEDGER Arcs and Planes
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.5 (Emperor)
WAGNER The Ring of the Nibelung: An Orchestral Suite

Alexander Briger conductor
François-Frédéric Guy piano

I went straight from work, as it started at 6.30. This never works really well for me. James Ledger’s piece passed in a bit of a blur – I couldn’t really do it justice. Things improved a bit for the Emperor Concerto, but I still couldn’t get a really clear impression of it. It was enjoyable enough in a pleasant kind of way, but not earth shattering, though things came into clearer focus for me in the second movement (that’s my slow movement fetish). The funny thing about the last movement to the Emperor is that it’s not necessarily all that fast – I expect that it can’t be because it would then become unplayable. The trick is to invest it with the necessary energy. That sometimes happened. But then again, it could still have been I who was failing to make the investment.

In the second half, the proverbial “bleeding chunks,” newly arranged by Briger. I can’t quite work out why Henk de Vlieger’s ‘Orchestral Adventure’ was rejected. I’m not saying that the same piece needs always to be played, but it did have much to recommend it. I suppose at close to 70 minutes HdV’s version was thought too long. As it was almost 5 to 9 before I was walking down the external staircase and on my way back to work this was probably true, though I thought the interval was longer than usual. I’m off the ciggies at present.

To save time, then, all of Das Rheingold and the first two acts of Die Walküre were omitted and we started with the ride of the Valkyries. This seemed a more than tad vulgar. In addition, though I’m not a critic, in the famous “Dum-de-dum dah dah” figure, the “de” of my transliteration was skipped over too lightly so that one only heard the “dums.” This led to a kind of Kartoffeln deficiency. (See note below.) It was only at the extract which marked the beginning of Gotterdamerung that I was able to be drawn into some sort of reminiscence of the drama. Resolution: I want to see a ring cycle again. I’ve only seen one complete cycle, in Beijing in 2005. The experience was memorable and remains memorable as a whole but its details are definitely receding.

Note below

Another reason why I am not a critic. I wrote this post up to “Kartoffeln” on Thursday night after the concert. Then I put it in the bottom drawer. What’s the point of writing about a concert when one’s response to it, as mine was, is so indistinct? Was the problem with the performance or with me?

It’s an old joke that we read the reviews afterwards to see if we had a good time. Of course, the converse can also apply, as in this case with Peter McCallum’s swingeing review. He exempts only the Ledger, and for that I still think that I was the problem: coming straight from work (and just to add difficulty, between 5.30 and 6 pm I drank half a glass of wine – but only half, for God’s sake! – whilst listening to sales-people from Lexis-Nexis spruik their on-line services) I wasn’t really in the best state to take it in. Normally I would have expected things to clear at least by the time the Beethoven got under way. So it’s comforting to learn that I wasn’t alone in my lukewarm response to what ought to be a great work.

One Response to “Bleeding chunks”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Concert-goer empathy from me – last week, after an eleven hour day and admittedly a full glass, I didn’t make it past the first half of the ‘French’ broadcast night. Bad manners I think, but nonetheless..

    Apropos Peter McCallums comments, the “Emperor” is their European show pony, albeit with the ringmaster.

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