Four hands good…

I’ve been to a few concerts which I haven’t noticed here. This is just a catch up and not necessarily a comprehensive list.

I went to the first three concerts for this year by the Australia Ensemble.

The first, featuring the Grieg violin sonata, a brace of Grainger numbers (with an elastically scored ensemble for some), an arrangement by Ian Munro of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and the Siegfried Idyll was pleasing. What a wonderful morning Cosima Wagner must have woken up to that day. It is probably just as well she heard it played a second time as there is a distinct possibility she slept through the beginning – which is, indeed, part of the premise and design of the work.

The second, with the theme “Theatre in Music: Surrealist Dreams and Sydney Harbour Anecdotes” was a bit of an anticlimax. In this concert, the element of dance (well, one dancer) was introduced. Probably I was sitting too close for the dance and the scenario for the Conyngham just felt lame. Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire was astonishing, and not simply by reason of my incomprehension of it. The dancer was not so restricted by the scenario, but it was hard to spare much attention for the him when so much was going on elsewhere, and especially Fiona Campbell’s delivery of the text.

The third concert was a return to form. The highlight was an additional item, a string quartet movement by Richard Meale (more a solo for violin with accompaniment by the others), added in his memory but also as a way of rounding off the earlier avant-gardism of his Incredible Floridas, which was the main first half item and closer.

The second half was a late Beethoven string quartet. These have a somewhat forbidding reputation and on account of that P, with whom I usually go to these concerts, gave her ticket up. D came in her stead. From time to time I shut my eyes. Was I dozing off or blissing out? Recourse to the hip flask at interval had not been to an extent which would normally lead to the former and over all I favour bliss over somnolence as the explanation. It was simply so delicious to think that this music was being played just in front of me. Sometimes I shut my eyes when listening to a recording and allow myself such a little fantasy but in this case, it was true!

This month I’ve been to the SSO’s Mahler “10” and 9. The “10” was preceded by a newly commissioned concertante work by Matthew Hindson for 2 pianos and orchestra. There was a bit of a projection problem for the pianos once the lids were both off, and the orchestration in the first movement seemed full of intricate detail which just wasn’t getting through. The second movement was better, though the ending (where both pianists joined at one piano in a kind of symbolic self-epithalamium) was corny. The “10” was worth hearing. The first movement made me think of that rather conversational style from the introduction to Capriccio or, indeed, the Siegfried Idyll.

The 9 was on the very anniversary of Mahler’s death, and Mr Ashkenazy made a short speech about that. At the end there is a kind of apotheosis of the swung dash – well, I mean the turn which is usually so notated. There is a certain signification of this figure to mean either grandeur or eloquence which I think of as coming from Schumann and which Mahler himself employs as a grandiloquent flourish. By the last four notes in the viola section at the end the turn had turned. It felt important to know where it had come from, and also important not quite to know where it was heading.

With the Mahler 9 we had an elastically scored relatively early Mozart piano concerto.

In between these, on Monday, I went to hear Pascal and Ami Roge play in the SSO piano series. I was wary of this even before I went: in my experience piano duets, whether on one or two pianos, are more of a participant activity than a spectator sport other than in domestic circumstances. That’s a view I reach reluctantly, because I have enjoyed playing piano duets and (less frequently, owing to the logistic requirement) two piano works. The problem is that there is a tendency for there just to be tooo many notes and they are all piano notes. The bits which broke through this to make engaging music which matched what we otherwise get in this series as a rule were mostly the bits where there were fewer notes. Hence the title of this post.

3 Responses to “Four hands good…”

  1. WittyKnitter Says:

    I thought of you yesterday. I’m presently staying in Mallorca and at the end of our street in the Old Town is a plaque, indicating that Chopin and George Sands spent a few months there in the winter of 1838-9, presumably before the locals kicked them out for being so unconventional and they had to take a place outside town. Quite strangely sad to think of him there, coughing his poor lungs up and composing the Raindrop Prelude. Apparently he was under the misapprehension that Mallorcan winters are warm and dry, but they’re neither.

  2. marcellous Says:

    You must be very thoughtful indeed to think of me, WK! Hope you are having a good time. It certainly sounds as though you are on an enviable trip.

    Did you hear about the the two rival museums in the place they went to outside town? The proprietors of both claimed for over a century to have been the true site, and the controversy has only just been judicially determined.

  3. WittyKnitter Says:

    Well, that’s not in any of the tourist brochures – what a hoot! We are hoping to visit Valldemossa at the weekend, and I shall blog what I find. I am very lucky to have this opportunity and I intend to make the most of it.

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