Despite my blog quietism, I have been going to a few concerts.  As much for my own future reference as anything else, these are those which I have not mentioned here so far.

SSO – 15 March

Joyce Yang played Tchaik 1; of the two obscurities, Dvořák’s Othello overture made a stronger impression than Tchaikovsky’s Fatum; Respighi’s Roman Festivals was the big finish. It’s too distant in the past for me to give any more informative or detailed comment.

SSO – 18 March

Joyce Yang in recital. I’m afraid despite her advocacy, I still cannot really warm to Bartok. It’s not just the idiom, I think it must be his personality. He is the composer of that kinky (and by contemporary standards also rather racist in the inscrutable oriental sense) Miraculous Mandarin, though I suppose he can’t be held entirely responsible for the ballet’s scenario.

SSO 5 April

Reinhard Goebel led the SSO through a rare excursion into earlier music. We got two out of three of the Water Music suites in what was claimed to be a more authentic sequence, though the lack of the first suite detracted a bit from that. The orchestra obviously warmed to Goebel but for me the venue is a bit big for some of this stuff. The revelation was the final Chaconne by Berton which is a bit of a calling card of Goebel’s.

Australia Ensemble 18 April

My friend P was following her son at a youth orchestra concert in Penrith, so I took my younger sister, visiting from rural WA.  My nephew (aged 12) also came.  He was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a trombone, since that is the instrument he is learning.  Faced with a Dvořák string quintet in the second half we let him play with his DS in the foyer.  The front-of-house staff offered him a free sandwich (more accurately, they are dinner-roll-sized little filled rolls) when they were clearing up.  I was shocked to learn he declined the offer.

SSO 2 May

This was a “Meet the Music” concert but it was also a program which notably drew out (if I may say so myself) the cognoscenti. The whole Dulwich Hill gang and their associates were there in force as well as other notables. The attraction was Thomas Ades conducting his own work Polaris (without the visuals commissioned from his better half to go with it on its first performance), matched rather well with the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto (Peter Wispelwey), Sibelius 6 and, less obviously, Beethoven’s Namensfeier Overture. The Lutoslawski and the Ades fared the best, though the effect of the Ades rather depended on not sitting too closely (as a friend of mine did) to one of the antiphonal gallery brass choirs.

SSO – 9 May Beethoven

Beethoven can still pack the house. This was also the first appearance (at least witnessed by me) since his appointment of Andrew Haveron, the new [co-] concertmaster.   It augured well. (Actually it seems from that link that Haveron is only here just now for a teaser and won’t be back for good until the beginning of next year.  It’s a bit like those government promises that phase in over a far-into-the-future period.)  Exceptionally, there were four men at the front of the first violins.

The concert opened with Weingartner’s arrangement of the Beethoven Grosse Fugue for string orchestra. This was testing for all and ultimately worth it, though I have to say there is something about a string orchestra which never really excites me. I know I’m showing my ignorance here but what exactly there was to arrange is a bit of a mystery beyond when to double the celli with the double bass and whether solo or tutti.

On the train home a friend offered the view that the Beethoven “Triple Concerto” is a “dud work.” I would say it is a bit at the “Wellington’s Victory/ Folk Song Arrangements” end of Beethoven’s oeuvre, but the thing about Beethoven is that in general (as you can see from the piano sonatas) he is almost incapable of writing a dud work. Is this the exception?

I think it is, at least when management yields to the the temptation (because 3 soloists are required) to field a local team. Mediocre or mediocre-ish works are just the pieces which require top-notch soloists. How top-notch they are or not is relative to the occasion: it is possible that Kirsty Hilton, Catherine Hewgill and Clemens Leske would make a good impression with a lesser orchestra, but we are used to better with the SSO. In the first movement, thunderous interjections from the piano kept making me (inwardly) ask “What’s up with grumpy?” Probably drama was intended but discomposure was the result.  When I did a bit of a you-tube browse afterwards I could find performances which had more dramatic tension (the absence of this is partly, I think, a result of Ashkenazy’s rather genial approach) in the first movement and quite a lot more what I would think of as aristocratic “Archduke”-ish polish.  They restored my faith in the work but showed up what this performance was lacking.

Fortunately, the Pastoral Symphony in the second half made up for this. Being Ashkenazy, it was a mellifluous and pretty straight down the middle approach (nothing unusually fast) but none the worse for that. I remain a sucker for muted strings and the second movement therefore remains my favourite.

It seems my subscription commitments to the SSO and the AE have effectively crowded out any more ad hoc concert-going.  I should try to do something about that because they are not the only shows in town.

To prove that, I also went, with my sister and nephew to see the touring production of “One Man Two Guvnors.”  It was expertly done though my having seen the original production as part of the National Theatre Live franchise somewhat took the wind out of its sails.  They enjoyed it without this impediment.

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