Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Running knows

February 21, 2018

That’s a pun from PDQ Bach’s Iphigenia in Brooklyn.  There were plenty more like that, in spirit at least, in this evening’s performance by Opera Australia of Shostakovich’s The Nose.

Lots of colour and movement, but what does it all mean?

I liked the prefiguration of the comedic cops of Lady Macbeth of Mtensk and the pastiche of a church scene.  It was hard to judge some of the rest from my right front point eyrie, especially in light of the electronic acoustic enhancement which bathed much ever so gently in a reverberant glow. The orchestration is probably too grotesque  to provide an opportunity to  judge the enhancement but as a pianist I found the piano sound disconcerting..

If this wasn’t by Shostakovich and recently done by Barry K, I’m not sure we would be seeing it.  It is early Dmitri. For once Mr Molino did not conduct from memory.

Still it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I will be going again at a left point before sitting downstairs in the middle.  The spectacle is  exuberant and diverting.  There is an enormous cast. The much-touted tap-dancing noses scene is far from being the highlight of the show.


February 16, 2018

My piano, the piano tuner told me today, has PTSD.

That’s because it’s longer than it should have been since his last visit.  The tune took him an hour and a half.  The piano is not the youngest  – it is now almost 40 years old.  The elderly wires will not take kindly to being stretched so violently, he says, and the bloom will go off the tune in a couple of months.  The bloom would stay fresher if a less vigorous tune had been required – ie, if I had not left it so long.

Mandy Rice-Davies comes to mind.

As a piano gets out of tune you (well I, but I’ll stick with the second person for this sentence) get used to it even as you become a bit frustrated by the loss of beauty.  It’s not really the in-tune-ness or not that I can really hear, but even from childhood I remember the wonderful sweetness of recovered euphony after a visit by the tuner.

Funnily enough, the artistic effect I notice right now is that Alberti-ish accompaniment figures in Schubert have all of a sudden become less jangly and more governable.



Magnificent Mozart

February 16, 2018

That’s the title the SSO gave to the third of three concerts conducted by David Robertson and with piano soloist Emmanuel Ax featuring music by Mozart to which I went last Saturday.

The program was:

  • Marriage of Figaro overture;
  • Concerto No 19 in F, K 459;
  • Concerto No No 27 in B [flat] K 595;
  • Symphony No 41 “Jupiter.”

First up, we had an appearance by Emma Dunch, the new CEO of the orchestra.  She’s been in the US for almost 20 years and has picked up a bit of an accent – more in the rhythm than the vowels per se.  The substance of her address was roughly as foreshadowed in an interview with the SMH last month: Sydney should be proud of its orchestra just as it is of its athletes.  They are all world-class. Distinguished guests are here (doubtless enlisted as part of this campaign) who were all then listed together to avoid any heckling or invidious comparisons of applause harvests.  It was good to know that we were graced with the presence of Don Harwen, Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts.

I give ED a hall-pass for this appearance as a one-off because it is the beginning of the season and she is new, but I hope there won’t be too much of it.

ED, of course, crucially stepped in on the SSO’s declared attitude to marriage equality last year.  I’m not so sure that she was so wise to step up to the crease so swiftly to announce that the SSO would never again have anything to do with the now sin-binned Charles Dutoit.  As far as I am aware, Dutoit was not at that stage billed to appear with the SSO and he didn’t have any “title” (guest conductor or whatever) with the orchestra.  If he’s not going to be asked back, then just don’t ask him; if unpublicised arrangements are to be called off, call them off in private.  No need to shout it from the rooftop. Just say that there are no plans to re-engage him.

I guess things are different in New York.

But back to the concert.

The highlight for me was K595.  It’s Mozart’s last concerto and a bit of an outlier.  The first movement was a revelation – it has a questiong  philosophical kind of mood which Ax really had an insight into.  The audience was spellbound.

Ax played Chopin’s Nocturne in f sharp major – an odd choice tonally after a concerto in B flat.

At the beginning of the second half  we had more talking up the band as Andrew Haveron came to the microphone to announce a one-by-one (actually two-by-two – one from each side of the stage) entry of the orchestra members to give us a chance to applaud them individually.  The novelty of this wore off  and any sense of individual recognition also dimished after about the first five pairs.

My Dulwich Hill friend, LW, complained that the string complement was too big, and at times in K459 I felt the piano was swamped.  This  also affected the overture (though here for me the main oddity was the oddity of hearing just the overture – I mused to myself – why not have a baritone do the opening number after the overture?) and most of all the “Jupiter” – the last movement lost its spell for me and I think this was  because larger numbers of violins made ensemble more difficult – it all seemed rather rough as if they were just ploughing through it.

The second violins were sitting at the front on the right for this concert, so for once Catherine Hewgill did not get the presented flowers at the end (which happens a bit too often in my opinion).

I enjoyed the concert (with some qualifications about the “Jupiter”). I would have got more out of it if I had gone to all three concerts in what was, in effect, a mini-festival, but I am a bit countersuggistible to such obvious programming.  The house was filled pretty much to capacity.



Forty years ago today

February 13, 2018

untitled (10)I emerged today from the QVB at noon, intending to cross the newly-pedestrianized George Street and walk along the eastern side to take the charming dog-leg laneway which skirts the side of the State Theatre and emerges at Market Street.

But my way was blocked.  How dare they!  A brass band (well a brass ensemble) of policemen was playing.  Straightaway I guessed what it was: wreaths were being laid at the spot of the Hilton Bombing, forty years ago today.

There is a brass plaque on a kind of plinth.  Originally the plaque  was placed (fittingly) on a garbage bin, then the bin was taken away and the plaque languished before being reinstalled in 2008.

I stayed and watched and was prepared to be moved.  I left when a Deputy Commissioner of Police got round to saying some prayers, but this was basically the end of the ceremony anyway.

Last week I went to a memorial service for the father of an old friend.  It was a big one (big church and full).  There was a lengthy homily which was mostly generalisations about Christianity and death.  Two other friends confided to me that they thought it was a bit opportunistic of the preacher.

There was something of the same mission creep in the list of official wreath presenters, which encompassed practically every state paramilitary or uniformed organisation and then some.  How many more? I wondered, as they got to the Rural Fire Brigade and later the Granville Train Disaster Survivors Association.  Two garbage truck men were killed and I think their union could have been put a bit higher up the list.  I wonder if we would have had such a memorial and ceremony if it weren’t for the policeman who was also killed.  (There were also 11 people injured.)

At the front of the wreaths, viewed from my side anyway (on the street side of the plinth so really behind it), was a large card stating that Ananda Marga members wrongly convicted/imprisoned (I can’t remember the exact wording now) were also victims of the Hilton Bombing.  This doesn’t rate in the pictures published on the mainstream media (it must have been put there after the photo taken above, nicked from The Guardian, which shows family members of one of the garbage workers, relatively early in the ceremony). I wonder if that card will still be there when I go back past the spot this evening.



Why can’t we have nice things?

February 5, 2018

That of which I wrote last October has come to pass: since 1 February in Australia you cannot buy medicines containing codeine without a prescription .

I wonder if there will be any detectible changes in the nation’s vital statistics as millions of addicts undergo withdrawal once their supplies are exhausted.  Well, maybe as many as a million, but surely a few hundred thousand. Stand by for lots of criminal-granny jokes.

Meanwhile it has been a good laugh to see how the pharmaceutical companies have embraced the setback as an opportunity to market flashy new combined ibuprofen and paracetamol formulations. All you need do is pop into a supermarket and buy a packet of each at a fraction of the cost.

Until the curtain came down, it was almost as if the mere prospect of its descent was enough to drive me to the chemists in search of therapeutic relief.

Not, for preference, to one of those officious chemists who asked for my driver’s licence and inevitably committed multiple breaches of the Privacy Act in their “real-time’ monitoring of my purchasing history.  Perhaps I showed my photo ID (driver’s licence, university library card, whatever) three or four times all up.

All the same, sometimes I found it prudent to make myself look more respectable by making in some other drug purchase.  Surely some Immodium or generic loperamide would be irreproachable?

Apparently not.  In the calm before the possible storm of codeine withdrawal, the Sydney Morning Herald has helpfully recycled an item from Detroit Free Press reporting that opioid addicts are having recourse to loperamide for some kind of high – or at least to stave off withdrawal symptoms.  Hundreds of tablets are required.  At Australian prices, you might as well stick to heroin.

Still, I suppose I should be grateful that this story did not break when I was masking my soon-to-be-criminal request for a packet of Panafen Plus with side-order for a packet of Diar-eze.  Otherwise my cunning plan could easily have backfired.

Pissed orff

January 23, 2018

I’ve been listening to ABC “Classic” FM since it started broadcasting in 1976.

Until 2012, programs and music listings were published on a monthly basis.  After that you could still look up the music listings on the internet though by last year these were only being posted a day or so in advance.

About last November, I noticed that the listings were getting patchier. I filled out the contact form to ask about it.

They say “We will reply as soon as possible, but please note that we’re not able to respond in detail to all messages.”

There was no reply. I filled out the form again. I didn’t receive a reply to that either.

Then I saw on the “FAQ” page something to the effect of “We are currently experiencing difficulties with our music listings.”

Now the music listings are no more. So much for the technical difficulties of last year – obviously they were on the way out even then but the ABC didn’t want to give anyone any opportunity to complain by announcing the decision in advance. Now the FAQs page says:

Where can I find the music listings?

Our Music section of the website includes information regarding Recently Played pieces and is searchable by program, date and time. The recently played section replaces our old music listings page and is more accurate, being automatically updated when a piece is played in the studio. If you are listening on ABC Listen or Digital Radio, you will find that information about what is currently playing will now appear on your device. If you want to source a particular piece of music to enjoy again, the music details provided can be used at your local music retailer or for an online search.

How do I find out what music is going to be played in the future?

Have a look at our Concert Schedule which has details of our upcoming concert broadcasts. You can also head to our Program Schedule and check out what programs are coming up through the day. Because we have moved our focus to providing accurate information about what is played at the time that it is played, we no longer offer our draft broadcast plan. If you are after specific information regarding what pieces will be played through the day, please stay listening as our presenters often talk about what is coming up!

So what do we get now?

The Youtube/Spotify links are for the musical work, not the performance or performers which/who are broadcast.  And as the second FAQ acknowledges, you’ll only find out about something in advance if it comes within the very limited categories of being a concert or something you actually hear about on the station itself. Even then,  the concert links can be pretty uninformative. For example, for 24 January (as at 22/1):

  • 1pm Melbourne Recital Centre Sutherland Trio: The Heart Speaks

  • 8pm Australian Youth Orchestra AYO Music Camp 2018: Concert 3

The Program Schedule is just a list of ABC “Classic” FM’s scheduled programs.

The links for these provide no guidance about what will be played in the future. Indeed, when I clicked on it on Monday, the “Sunday Opera” page still did not say which opera had been broadcast the day before.  It’s one opera a week. How hard would it be to give an indication of what is planned for, say, the next 5 or 6 weeks? Surely they have some idea of what they are going to be broadcasting? Apparently not.  Actually, I think it’s just that it is nobody’s job to publish this information.  It’s as much as the regular presenter. Deborah Cheetham,  can do to recount about a quarter of the plot.

Basically, I get the issue. The ABC is being squeezed and within the ABC “Classic” FM is being squeezed even tighter. They’ve let most of their long-term staff go and the increased casualization of the workforce is taking its toll. Measures of internet “hits” probably tell them that (helped no doubt by the labyrinthine website) the music listings are not much used. So they’ve decided to give them up. They’ve worked out an automated fix for at least answering those questions of “what was that I heard at 5pm last night?” which will save them the trouble of even not answering such inquiries as (from my own experience) is their usual practice.

Why not tell it as it is?

Instead we get Panglossian spin, starting with the penultimate sentence:

Because we have moved our focus to providing accurate information about what is played at the time that it is played, we no longer offer our draft broadcast plan.

moved our focus to providing accurate information” –it may be accurate but it is very partial. The disrespect to the musicians is huge.

“we no longer offer our draft broadcast plan” – this particularly riles me, with the suggestion that the music listings were only a “draft plan” and therefore are no loss at all. We can judge that for ourselves.  You can have a draft plan of a building, but music listings are a plan.

And as for:

If you are after specific information regarding what pieces will be played through the day, please stay listening as our presenters often talk about what is coming up!

In other words, there are no more music listings but announcers might sometimes say something about an item which is coming up.

Please spare us the “!” at the end. I, for one, am not jollied along by it.

6 cousins

December 23, 2017

6 cousins

6 cousins, taken in about 1932/33.

My father is amongst them.

I was to stay with another, R,  in Perth this week.  Just before my arrival R was admitted to hospital and then transferred to a rehab ward

I had been having some trouble getting in touch with another – M. Phone calls and a couple of calls by M’s place were a dead end.

As R was speaking to me on the phone R suddenly called out “M!”  M is in the same ward, just diagonally opposite.

Both R and M are unmistakeable in this photo.

How great to see them both. 


My thoughts, exactly

December 7, 2017

not youOr almost,

on watching Malcolm Turnbull at the end of a gruelling (for us) day of pointscoring and futile amendments – some of which Turnbull voted for and none of which he voted against – celebrating with his rictus grin the outcome of the final substantive vote for marriage equality as if it were a triumph for him.

Taken from a comment in The Guardian:

Any one of those amendments debated / filibustered over the last few days would have sent the Marriage Equality bill back to the Senate. It would almost certainly have delayed the passing of the Bill until at least February, giving opponents time to regather and continue the fight. This is what the Nationals and most “Liberals” wanted. That is what Malcolm supported.

Now Malcolm wants to join the party. Well (vomit emoticon) to you.

Memo to the “Liberals” (with a few honourable exceptions): You lost. There’s no place on the winning bandwagon for you. So don’t try to to crash the party. Don’t try to claim credit. No one except your media boosters are listening.

One such media booster is Mark Kenny in the SMH, who starts out:

Like it or not, history will show it was Malcolm Turnbull – a Liberal Prime Minister – who presided over a renovation of the nation’s outdated marriage law.

One might have expected such a modernisation to emanate from the left.

Look, Mark, it did emanate from the left. Sure, it was slow, but once the ALP got to a free vote in 2012, the obstacle was those in control of the coalition denying their own members one.

Kenny continues:

His [Turnbull’s] backflip to champion Tony Abbott’s much-loathed plebiscite and subsequent embrace of Peter Dutton’s benighted postal survey, had quickened his poll slide among middle Australians. But these same Australians would later participate in Dutton’s survey in droves.

That really made me mad.  If Turnbull really thinks that participation in the postal survey signifies approval for it as opposed to a pragmatic acceptance through gritted teeth of no real alternative, he’s going to be surprised at the size of the stick that quite a lot of voters will be waiting for him with at the next election.




December 5, 2017

Is it just me, or has this word recently sprung up everywhere like mushrooms after rain?

Enhance your experience

November 28, 2017

I am going to an SSO concert which includes Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle on Friday and Saturday.  I love the music (a performance in Perth in 2000  by the WASO conducted by Janos Fürst was memorable even if by now largely abstractly so) though I cannot for the life of me get my head around the story.  How can we be trusted to take it in without some white-ribbonish editorialising?

Obviously I have missed that it is all a metaphor.  David Robertson says:

The final moment epitomises the passion and the tragedy of a union that can never transcend the fatal flaws contained within it at the outset.

Which seems like a massive understatement.  Sure, in this version of the story Bb hasn’t actually killed all of his former wives, but they all end up locked behind the seventh door together.  If this is love…

I’m also looking forward to the Brahms Alto Rhapsody – the third of his works of this kind to which we have been treated this year – only Nanie has been missed.

A mite tardily, the SSO also sent an email announcing that Andrew Foster-Williams (who didn’t come for Belshazzar) is also not coming to sing the Bach solo cantata Ich habe genug.  This will be a big step-up for David Greco in his place.

Meanwhile, I received another email from the SSO about how I could enhance my concertgoing experience.  It included nothing new.  On the contrary, the header included this picture, which made me quite nostalgic.

Concert information