Life goes on

It’s striking what a well-known artist and a popular program can do to the attendances at the SSO’s “International Pianist” series of recitals.

Last night, for Garrick Ohlsson playing an all-Chopin program, the hall was packed to the rafters -well, the girders – comfortably full in all three levels. It’s a good feeling even if it ups the number of coughers and sweetie-paper rustlers.

The couple next to me said that they had come to see if Mr Ohlsson’s playing would have the same effect as an LP by him of Chopin polonaises which they swore had broken a glass at their home many years ago. That’s what a long track-record as an performing artist can do for you.

The SSO now wipes from its record programs past [well almost wipes: removes from access, see comment 2 below] and my machine is not co-operating in copying from the PDF of the printed program, and I can’t be bothered typing it out.

For my money, Mr Ohlsson took a while to warm up. The Ballade in A flat (third piece) seemed oddly slow at the beginning for Allegretto and then inexplicably sped up a notch just when the composer had done all the work by a composed-in quasi-accelerando by moving to semiquaver figuration. Ohlsson’s characterisation of each little section seemed to break up the continuity. Things really got going for me two items later when he reached a set of three mazurkas, partly because (I now think) the characterisation of shorter sections paid off better for these pieces. I felt as though we were in some little log cabin surrounded by Polish snow. – Hang on! Maybe I was still thinking of Minnie’s log cabin just down the road from the Polack saloon from Saturday night. After that, the Scherzo in C sharp minor was a sure-fire first half closer and crowd pleaser.

The second half (Barcarolle, another Mazurka and then the sonata in B minor) continued the good form. Lx, my former high-school drama teacher, thought the Barcarolle was the best performance he had ever heard. I didn’t have the same feeling, but Lx has in my experience a fine discriminatory sense for that sort of evaluation, so it’s an opinion worth recording. Three encores were a the Grand Waltz Brilliante (Op 18 No 1) with stylishly delayed second beat in some sections (and I loved the pedalling in the acciaccatura bits), then the C sharp minor waltz and finally etude. This started a bit gracelessly but with a dazzling display of chops (metaphorical: it’s surely wind players only who have these) at the end.

Another inconvenience was that Simon Tedeschi and Kevin Hunt’s head-to-head comparison of the Stuart and Steinway pianos at the Conservatorium (7pm; admission by gold coin donation until the Verbrugghen hall was full, they said) had to be missed. I’m not sure if I would have gone anyway, but that seems like spectacularly bad scheduling.

People talk occasionally about teh Gays at the opera, and there is a big crowd of a certain type of gay man at the Australian Brandenberg Orchestra, but in my observation the piano series is one event which brings out every (well obviously not literally every) delicate youth who once (and possibly still) plays the piano. There is something rather charming about seeing all those baby gays, as well as the older. Maybe that’s my place in the world, too (though as a baby no more). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a case of any numerical preponderance: as with all minorities, the presence of even a small number creates an observable effect. I think it’s rather sweet.

I continue to find 7 pm performances very inconvenient. I hate going straight from work and it really requires a train trip in and home. Fortunately, on this occasion Rx, who lives just up the road, was determined to take a taxi home, and I went along for the ride. About half an hour after I came in the door, I said to D “The concert was really very good.” D laughed. I nearly always say that. And he nearly always laughs.

6 Responses to “Life goes on”

  1. Victor Says:

    What a pity my parents did not see fit…or rather could not afford…to arrange piano lessons for me. I now see I missed a great opportunity for extending my…ahem…contacts.

  2. Yvonne Says:

    The SSO doesn’t exactly wipe past programs from its record, it’s just that at present they disappear from the website navigation after the event. I fully sympathise! The trick is to bookmark the url before midnight.
    http://www.sydneysymphony.com/seasons/2010/productions/2472-2010-Garrick-Ohlsson-in-Rec/details/

  3. Yvonne Says:

    Have to agree, by the way, concerning the spectacularly bad scheduling. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I could have gone to both.

  4. wanderer Says:

    Y – “at present” is mildly encouraging, but they are naughty, these Cinderellas. They are fantastic resources, and paper is so (insert adjective of choice). So for now, I’ve bookmarked the Adams/Beethoven/Chopin – just for you, so to speak.

    • marcellous Says:

      W: the PDF form of the program can still be viewed from the program archive. The short announcement of the program put up in prospect and linked to the calendar is what disappears, a consequence (most likely) of the site being defined by salespeople rather than afficionadi [is this a true or false plural?].

  5. wanderer Says:

    Thanks M, got it (bit slow). [I’d say afficionados but ‘i’ is nicely upbeat.]

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