End of term

On Saturday to the Opera House to hear the SSO. I had a bag and umbrella, courtesy of the almost daily storms we are experiencing just now in Sydney at about the time one goes to a concert. At the cloak room I bumped into an old friend, who sometimes plays with the orchestra, but was tonight there with her husband and children on the free list.

“Are you here for the Sibelius or the Elgar?” she asked me. That is to say: Frank Peter Zimmerman playing the Sibelius violin concerto or the Enigma Variations? (Donald Runnicles was to conduct.)

I paused. I had to confess I was just there anyway, because I am a subscriber. I said that if I had to elect between the two as a reason to be there, it would be Zimmerman and the Sibelius.

Once in and looking at the orchestra setup (and my program) I realised we had both overlooked something. First up was Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem. Maybe I should have nominated that? Mark Wigglesworth directed a memorable performance of it a few years ago with the SSO, and considering it is said to be a rarety I am surprised to say that this is at least the fourth outing of the work I have seen live: maybe because although requiring a large orchestra it is conveniently short.

The Sibelius did not disappoint. It seemed a bit more astringent than I remembered it, and some of the twiddles a bit swallowed up in the orchestral texture. A cracking tempo was set at the beginning of the last movement and I rather thought that Zimmerman came a bit of a cropper at one point, but that wasn’t anything to detract.

As an encore, Zimmerman gave a dazzling performance of the Bach Partita No 3 in E major. I particularly liked when he got to the big broken chord bit he just let it rip, almost slipping the bonds of the tempo, without being in the least untidy.

At interval, I caught up with an old friend who was resting between performances of Iphigenie. I got the low-down on the rigours of their makeup regime, apparently something endured in a slightly shop-steward-ish way. Why not? Just because you are doing something for art doesn’t mean you can’t whinge about it a bit.

Then back for the Elgar. I think I made a mistake by trying to keep track of the variations. I should have just gone with the flow.

It’s a temptation to take a warhorse like this for granted. The upside of that is that my expectations were well and truly surpassed. It is such agreeable music and radiates bonhomie.

This was the SSO’s last advertised concert for the year. It felt like the best of end-of-term concerts. Fittingly, it is scheduled to be broadcast on ABC Classic FM on New Year’s eve. I guess they always expected it would be a good’un.

Which it was.

One Response to “End of term”

  1. wanderer Says:

    I would have said I was there for Runnicles.

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