New SSO chief

On Saturday to the SSO for their first concert with David Robertson as chief conductor.

The program was:

Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements
Adams: “Absolute Jest” (Australian String Quartet as soloists) and
Beethoven: Symphony No 7.

Robertson himself gave the pre-concert talk, some of which I attended, against my usual practice and only because trackwork actually got me there earlier than usual. He only scratched the surface of the Adams, which was the piece I most wanted to hear about – mainly resorting to a lengthy example. He had a bit of a wrestle getting his electronic device to play on cue but as he put it he “vamped till ready” quite adroitly. There was rather a good joke which likened composers and the influence/originality dyad to teenagers grudgingly acknowledging their parents’ shared DNA.

Writing of the Stravinsky in the SMH, Peter McCallum said “If this is the promise of things to come, we must hold them to it.” That’s a nice thought but maybe not entirely realistic, if only because we don’t normally have practically every conceivable principal player playing as we did on this occasion.

As for the Stravinsky, I liked the performance more than the piece, and of the piece I liked the middle movement the most. The Adams was interesting even if by the end he was just zipping along in a fast machine again. There was a lot going on the detail of which was hard to catch in the Concert Hall’s cavernous acoustic. The Beethoven was the best, with a full complement of string principals (Haveron with Olding in the first violins, and for this concert a new principal and associate principal cello) and slimmed down orchestral forces compactly brought together at the centre of the stage: trim, taut and terrific, to coin a phrase.

Before the concert, my subscription neighbour said that she wasn’t sure if she would be able to tell the difference between different conductors. At the end we agreed that they would never have played like that for Ashkenazy. That’s not to put VA down, but rhythm always seemed, if not his weak spot, then his soft one.

Of course, VA had other strong points. What will be interesting to see or more properly hear is the sound Robertson gets from the orchestra at times which maybe call for the warm and mellifluous sound which was a hallmark of the orchestra’s best playing under Ashkenazy.

Next week, Elektra. That’s probably not really a piece which will answer that question.

2 Responses to “New SSO chief”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Speaking of acoustics, did you get to the Concertgebouw?

    I think the best thing they could do now in the Concert Hall, now that the sides to the boxes have been made more reflective, is increase the size of the overhead reflectors. The sound for the Anne-Sophie Mutter Mozart (I assume you were still away) was really good from the mid-stalls by the way.

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