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Category archive: Classical music

Saturday December 08 2018

Stow-Away is a recent arrival in Lower Marsh:

Stow-Away is a new sustainable and eco friendly apart hotel concept. Stow-Away Waterloo is our first London base made from 26 re-purposed shipping containers, stylishly designed to provide a snug comfortable Stow-Away sleeping experience.

Lots of people have tried to do architecture with old shipping containers, but personally I doubt if it makes much sense.  But, if your task is to sell hotel rooms, then shipping containers are perhaps a good gimmick, for attracting attention and for giving guests something to talk about.  “I slept in a shipping container.” Etc.  I’ve never done this.

It got my attention:

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I enjoy in particular the various reflections there.

All but the last of these photos were photoed in one burst, last September.  The final photo was photoed more recently, in the evening.

I think this hotel is quite good fun, especially those strange looking shades, red on the inside, that are a feature of the front.  But, I regret the trend of which this “apart hotel” is a part, which is the transformation of Lower Marsh from a fascinating and quite cheap thoroughfare, full of diverting shops and eateries, into a dreary and expensive thoroughfare, stripped of all those diverting shops and eateries.

This happens all the time.  A street contains lots of lively and amusing stuff.  Word of that liveliness spreads, and the rents then go through the roof.  The liveliness is priced off to another part of town.  Such is urban life.

What I am really saying is: RIP Gramex.  Follow that link and you find “an important message to our much-valued customers”.  That would be me.  But this “important message” is dated 4th August 2017.  I gave up hope at least a year ago.

Sunday November 18 2018

Yesterday, my friend Nico invited me to an orchestral concert that he was playing in.  He was playing the drums.  But this was not some ghastly rock and roll ordeal, it was an orchestral concert, in Blackheath. 

Blackheath has a place called Blackheath Halls, and last night, the Blackheath Halls Orchestra performed, in the particular Blackheath Hall called the Great Hall, works by Debussy (the Nocturnes) and Sibelius (the 7th Symphony).  I’d offer a link to the announcement of this eventy, but now that it’s happened, the announcement of it has disappeared, like it never happened.

This Great Hall actually is pretty great.  Just recently, it has had its seating redone, with a flat floor being replaced by a slab of raked seating.  I photoed these after the concert had finished, and they looked like this:

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What that meant was that we in the audience had a great view of the everything.

Here is a photo I took of how things looked as the orchestral players were making their way onto the stage at the beginning:

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Here is a photo I took of conductor Christopher Stark, just before he embarked on the Sibelius symphony.

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And here is a photo taken at the end, when the applause was loud and long, which includes my friend Nico and his drums.  Was Nico the best?  Maybe.  I really couldn’t say.  But he was, at any rate in the Sibelius, the highest up.

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So, what to say about the music, and the performances?  Well, the Blackheath Halls orchestra is an amateur orchestra, and if the sounds they made are anything to go by, the hardest task facing an amateur orchestra is when its violin section must play very high notes, very quietly.  That is when ensemble is tested to destruction.  I blame nobody for this.  On the contrary, this was exactly the sort of thing I was eager to learn about, not having witnessed an amateur orchestra in action for about half a century. 

Today, I played a CD I possess of these Debussy Nocturnes, with Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra, on Deutsche Grammophon.  And guess what: it is a more polished performance than the Blackheath Halls Orchestra managed last night.  But having heard, and watched, amateurs play these piece, I now know them a lot better.

In the second Nocturne, there is a big march, and Nico was in his element.  He did an excellent job, then and throughout, with his usual dignity and exactitude and his usual total absence of fuss.  I never caught the conductor looking at him, which, I believe, was because the conductor wasn’t worried about Nico.  He had other worries to attend to.

That these Blackheath violinists had nothing to reproach themselves for became clear during part two of the concert.  There was a particularly striking passage in the Sibelius, when, instead of having to play high and soft, they played very low and very loud.  They sounded terrific.

So did the rest of the Sibelius, to me, but only after I did something rather surprising.

Christopher Stark, as conductors tend to do nowadays on occasions like this one, said a few words about each piece of music before he conducted it.  And what he had to say about the Sibelius included how this symphony, instead of being chopped up into separate movements, quick and slow, with silent gaps in between, is instead all in one movement, but that during this one movement, the music “morphs” (his word) from one rhythm to another, fast to slower, slow to faster.  At certain points of the piece there are both a fast little rhythm and a bigger and slower rhythm, both happening at the same time, in time with each other.

Stark’s conducting was as good as his words.  However, when I watched him conduct, I was only able to hear the fast little rhythm.  I missed those longer and slower rhythms.  This was probably because not only Stark’s arms and fingers but his entire body were all concentrated on communicating exactly how that fast little rhythm should be played.

So, I closed my eyes.

And, immediately, I heard both rhythms, just as he had described them.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the musical results he was getting.  It was just that the visual methods he was using were preventing me from hearing those results properly.

I kept my eyes closed for the rest of the performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  As did the rest of the audience, judging by the enthusiastic applause at the end.

What the hell, you may be asking, was the point of going to a concert, at which I could see, very well, all the musicians in action, if I then shut my eyes?  The point is: I was able to experience the extremity of this contrast.  Had I only been listening, as with a CD or a radio performance, that contrast would not have registered.  As it was, the moment when I shut my eyes was, for me, extraordinary.

Usually, I experience this effect at chamber music concerts, where the “body language” of the musicians constantly illuminates the nature of the music, and causes me, literally, to hear it better.

But, because (I surmise) the conductor last night was more bothered about getting his musicians to play the music as well as he could make them, than he was about explaining the music to us, the audience, with his visual gestures, I actually heard the music differently, and less well, when I watched him conducting.  Again, I am blaming nobody.  On the contrary, it was a most interesting thing to see and hear.

It helped a lot that Stark was able to explain something of the music, and in particularly this rhythmic aspect of it, with … words.  Things conductors don’t usually bother with, on the night, for the benefit of the audience.

Another aspect of the evening that was fun was how the audience and the musicians mingled.  I mean, how often, at an orchestral concert, does the man on the drums come and talk with you during the interval, and thank you for coming?  That would never happen with the London Symphony Orchestra.  During our conversation, I thanked Nico for telling me about this event and telling me also, beforehand, that the hall was architecturally interesting, in itself and because it had recently been remodelled.  That helped to persuade me to come, and I am very glad that I did.

Tuesday October 23 2018

I tried to put together a more complicated posting about, well, wait and see.  But it is taking too long, so here is something simpler.

A favourite blogger of mine is Mick Hartley, who oscillates between the insanities of the anti-semites and the Islamists (heavy overlap there) and photos.  Photos by himself, and by others.

The photos by others are often antique and black and white.  His photos are in colour, and they are typically very colourful indeed, especially when the sky is very blue

Colour is an obsession of Hartley’s, both when it is present, and when it is not.

Here is a photo I recently took, which is the sort of photo Mick Hartley would take, if he ever went West:

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That’s the Victoria and Albert Museum, unless I am mistaken (as I might well be), photoed by me from the big old road that goes from the Albert Hall (and more to the point from the Royal College of Music, where GodDaughter 2 had been performing) down to South Kensington Tube.  This I know, because of a photo I took of a street map, moments after taking my Hartleyesque photo above:

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That being the relevant detail.  I never regret map photos.

By the look of it, the V&A is a building I should explore.  Especially its upper reaches.  Maybe there are views.

Monday October 22 2018

Yes, here’s Bartok (again), from a slightly different angle, so that the tube station is right behind him:

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A regular bloke in the street.

But now look at this.  Same view, but with three newcomers, down at the bottom:

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The statue of Bartok is a lot nearer to me that you perhaps assume, and crucially, those tiles look like bricks but are actually bigger than regular bricks, which makes this scene look a lot smaller than it really is.

Which is why the additional ladies at the bottom of the second photo really are so very small.

Photos taken by me yesterday.

Thursday October 04 2018

Yesterday I attended a Master Class at the Royal College of Music, in which five singing students, GodDaughter 2 among them, were publicly instructed by distinguished tenor and vocal teacher Dennis O’Neil.  It was fascinating.  He spent most of the time focussing on the art that conceals art, which meant that I couldn’t really understand what he was saying.  The minutiae of sounds and syllables, and of where the sound comes from, in the head or in the body.  All like a foreign language to me, but it was fascinating to expand the range of my ignorance, so to speak.  I am now ignorant about a whole lot more than I was.

This all happened way down at the bottom of the RCM, in the Britten Theatre (which you go down to get into but the theatre itself stretches up to the top again), On the way back up the numerous stairs to the street level entrance, I saw, through a very grubby window, and photoed, this:

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Okay the window is indeed very grubby, but, you know, how about that?  All that roof clutter, buried in the middle of the College.  Although, I think that this particular clutter is part of Imperial College, which is next door.

Backstage architecture, you might say.

The Royal College of Music is as amazing an accumulation of architectural chaos as I have ever experienced.  It must take about half of your first year to learn where everything is, and years later you are probably still getting surprises.  I never knew this was here!  Etc.

That corridor made of windows, bottom left, with the light in it, is something I have several times walked along, to a canteen or a bar or some such thing, I think.  By which I mean that I think I have walked along it, but that this could be quite wrong.  Like I say: architectural chaos.  I took a look at the place in Google Maps 3D, but I still have only the dimmest Idea of where I was on the map.

The night before, I was at the Barbican Centre, also for some music, and that’s almost as architecturally chaotic as the inside of the RCM.  But there, they don’t have the excuse that the architectural chaos accumulated over about a century of continuous improvisation.  At the Barbican, the chaos was all designed and built in one go.

Tuesday September 25 2018

I was reading this piece by Will Self about the baleful effect upon literature of the internet, screen reading instead of proper reading from paper bound into books, etc.  But then I got interrupted by the thought of writing this, which is about how a big difference between reading from a screen, as I just was, and reading from a printed book, is that if you are reading a book, it is more cumbersome, and sometimes not possible, to switch to attending to something else, like consulting the county cricket scores (Surrey are just now being bollocked by Essex), seeing what the latest is on Instapundit, or tuning into the latest pronouncements of Friends on Facebook or enemies on Twitter, or whatever is your equivalent list of interruptions.

This effect works when I am reading a book in the lavatory, even though, in my lavatory, there are several hundred other books present.  The mere fact of reading a book seems to focus my mind.  Perhaps this is only a habit of mine, just as not concentrating is only a habit when I am looking at a screen, but these onlys are still a big deal.

The effect is greatly enhanced when I go walkabout, and take a book with me.  Then - when being publicly transported or when pausing for coffee or rest or whatever - I cannot switch.  I can only concentrate on the one book, or not.

It’s the same in the theatre or the opera house, which friends occasionally entice me into.  Recently I witnessed Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.  The production was the usual abomination, but the orchestra and chorus were sublime, as were occasional bits of the solo singing.  And I now know Lohengrin a lot better.  Why?  Because, when I was stuck inside the ROH, there was nothing else to do except pay attention.  I could shut my eyes, which I often did.  But, I couldn’t wave a mouse or a stick at it and change it to The Mikado or Carry on Cleo, even though there were longish stretches when, if I could have, I would have.  It was Lohengrin or nothing.

I surmise that quite a few people these days deliberately subject themselves to this sort of forced concentration, knowing that it may be a bit of a struggle, but that it will a struggle they will be glad to have struggled with.  I don’t think it’s just me.

This explains, among other things, why I still resist portable screens.  Getting out and about is a chance to concentrate.

Sunday September 23 2018

I am watching, on my television, Eric Lu’s Leeds Piano Competition performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4, a performance I earlier listened to on the radio.  My impression from the radio was that this was a rather “private” performance, and somewhat more so than I think ideal.  But the exact same performance, on TV, now seems, perhaps because the public nature of the event itself is inescapable, much less private than I had supposed from the radio.  Every bit as good as I recall, but different.  More assertive, more rhetorical, more like a Shakespeare soliloquy spoken out loud, and quite loudly, to a theatre audience than the same soliloquy done as a stream-of-consciousness interior thought process, perhaps also on the radio.  Odd how the medium can have such an impact on the message.

I see from the Eric Lu website that this Beethoven concerto performance, together with two Chopin solo pieces that he played in earlier rounds, is now being made available on CD.

Now I am watching a Chinese guy play the Schumann concerto.  And the contrast in how it comes across is exactly the same as with Lu’s Beethoven performance.

Monday September 17 2018

imageRecently I bought a CD set of Show Boat, and yesterday I listened to it.  Show Boat is not really my kind of thing.  When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer either Schubert or the Rolling Stones.  I bought this Show Boat to learn more about a lady called Janis Kelly.  As you can see to the right there, she is one of the star singers in this recording.

Janis Kelly is something of a legend in the classical singing world.  She is a fine singer in operas and music dramas of all kinds, and she sang the part of “Magnolia” in this performance of Show Boat.  She is also a much admired singing teacher, of the sort that singers she has taught spend the rest of their careers boasting that they were taught by, in their CVs and programme notes.  And, Janis Kelly just happens to be GodDaughter2’s singing teacher at the Royal College of Music.  (GD2’s graduation recital being further evidence, to my ears, and eyes, of Ms. Kelly’s teaching prowess.)

Janis Kelly sounded great on this recording, but what surprised me was how much I enjoyed the recording as a whole.  I am used to hearing shows like Show Boat performed in a style that is aimed at audiences who basically prefer pop music to classical or orchestral music, and which typically uses pop brashness and pop exuberance to cover for the small number of musicians being deployed.  This version of Show Boat, however, was “orchestrated”, by Robert Russell Bennett.  The sleeve notes claim that this orchestration is based on the “original 1946 score”, and (I’m guessing) might well be closer to what its composer, Jerome Kern, would have wanted than was any performance that Kern himself ever heard.  This is a performance which makes clear the direct line from opera to operetta, to the music of Kern.  Under the baton of John Owen Edwards, the orchestra makes a far lovelier sound than the din I was expecting.

Mercifully, what has not been opera-ed, so to speak, is the singing style.  Where an operatically-inclined manner is appropriate, that is what happens, as when Janis Kelly sings, for example.  But when it comes to a character like Ellie, sung by Caroline O’Connor, we get the full Broadway closely-microphoned belting style, a style that someone like Franz Lehar, or for that matter Franz Schubert, could never have imagined.

Further proof of the excellence of the singing in this performance is that, in the best Broadway style, and even when the singing is rather operatic, you can hear every word they sing.  Had this show been sung in the full-on operatic style throughout, to emphasise that this is directly descended from Verdi and Wagner and Puccini, that would never have happened.  (I’m still grumbling to myself about a performance of Madam Butterfly at the English National Opera (where everything is sung in English), where most of the solo singers might as well have been singing in Japanese for all the sense I could make of what they were singing.)

My feeling about opera is that I tend not to like how it is sung (too wobbly and verbally incomprehensible (see above)), but I love the sound that it makes, in between the singing.  When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer the Abba style to the noise made by the average opera singer.  (Above average opera singers are a different matter entirely.  (Today I listened to Act 1 of this, also on CD, and it sounded stupendous.)) But as for what accompanies that singing, give me the sound of an opera orchestra every time, over the brash, jazz-band-based instrumental belting, banging and twanging that you mostly get when listening to “music theatre”, provided only that the music is the kind that works orchestrally, which in Show Boat it is.

This Show Boat, then, is for me the ideal compromise, between Broadway and the opera house, being the best of both and the worst of neither.  Not bad for a fiver, which is all Amazon charged me for it.

Saturday September 15 2018

I was summoned to Chateau Samizdata (which is in South Kensington these days) for lunch today, which meant that when I walked past that Bartok statue at lunchtime today, the light was behind me, rather than in front of me and behind Bartok.

So I was able to have another go at photoing him:

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But with rather mixed results.  The change in lighting made a lot less difference than I had been hoping.

I spent the late afternoon and the evening (a) doing stuff at home, and (b) keeping track of the climaxes of two competitions, this one, which was won by pianist Eric Lu, and this one, which was won by the Worcestershire cricket team.  Which means Worcestershire have had a mixed season, having also been relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  It was like them winning the FA cup but also getting relegated from the Premier League.  However, getting relegated from Division One of the Country Championship makes far less financial difference than dropping out of the Premier League.  So Worcester are probably now pretty happy.  Counties doing well in one format but badly in another is quite frequent.  They all say that, of course, they want to win everything.  But in reality, they prioritise this and neglect that.

Tonight, Radio 3 played the last two Leeds Piano Competition concerto performances, the three others having been played last night.  I will be checking out the performance of Beethoven 1 from last night, because, while they were waiting for them to pick the various prize winners, they played part of a chamber music performance by the guy who had played Beethoven 1, which sounded excellent.  Also, this guy came second in the overall competition, so he’s pretty good.

Tonight’s Beethoven 4, from winner Lu, was excellent, albeit somewhat more subdued than I think Beethoven had in mind when he composed this piece.  Lu’s was a very “private” performance of what was actually, I think, written as a rather public piece (about private feelings).  But that’s very much a matter of (my) opinion.  Given what Lu was doing, he did it very well.  Besides which, who would want all concerto performances to sound the same?  Beethoven might have been surprised by Lu’s delicate and subtle performance, but that doesn’t mean he’d have minded.  On the contrary, he would probably be amazed and delighted that people were still playing the thing at all.

Tonight’s other concerto, the Schumann, was similar in artistic intention to Lu’s Beethoven 4, but to my ear it involved a few too many wrong notes.  The Radio 3 commentators didn’t mention these wrong notes, but I don’t think I imagined them.  I think they chose to ignore them.

Bartok wrote three Piano Concertos, each very fine in their contrasting ways.  None of these were played in the final of the Leeds Piano Competition.

LATER: I’ve just been listening to another county game, just started on Sept 18th, and I realise that the piece I linked to about Worcester getting relegated was dated 2015.  Theoretically, they could still avoid relegation this year.  But they’re not going to.  They’ve just been bowled out for 94 by Essex, and they are about thirty points shy of safety, with Yorks and Lancs both having to cock it up big time for them to escape.  As it is, Worcs and Lancs both look doomed to the trop.  But, in theory, Worcs are still in with a chance of avoiding this.

I am very sorry to have misled you, in the unlikely event that I did, and that you care.

Wednesday August 15 2018

I think that’s what this building is called.  Maybe Kensington Gore is the curved road which this buildings stands on.  Google Maps suggests that Kengington Gore refers to both the building and the “thoroughfare”.

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One of the most disagreeable features of Modern Movement architecture in and around the 1960s was its aggressive unwillingness to accommodate itself to the already established street pattern.  Instead, higgledy piggledy streets at funny angles was bulldozed and replaced by rectangularity.  Happily, those days are gone, and we are back to buildings being strangely shaped because the site is strangely shaped.  Like the above pre-Modern-Movement edifice, which is now a favourite London sight of mine.  I now visit the Royal College of Music quite a lot, to hear GodDaughter 2 sing or to be at some other event that she has arranged for me to attend.  Every time I go there, I walk along Prince Consort Road, and there this Thing is.

I have only done a little googling, and so far I don’t have an exact date for when this Thing was built.  Late Nineteenth Century is the best I can do for now.

Sunday August 05 2018

Yes, every time I visit my friends in Fulham Road, I get out at South Kensington tube, a bit early, and I photo, and then sit on the plinth of, the Bartok statue.  Follow that link to find out why it’s there.

Context, caption, and the prettiest photo I photoed of this, this time around:

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Music is made up of melody, harmony and rhythm.  What I like most about Bartok’s music is the harmonies, of the more “beautiful” and less strident sort.  Too many instruments, too loud, or a piano on its own ditto, and he loses me.  In other words, I basically don’t like Bartok’s music that much, but I sometimes very much like the sound that it makes.  I especially like the very beginning of the Concerto For Orchestra, the Piano Concertos (especially number three), and the string quartets.  Oh, and I really like Bluebeard’s Castle, provided the singing is bearable.  I especially like the in-English CD I have of it that came attached to the BBC Music Magazine about two decades ago, in which Sally Burgess sings superbly.. Memo to self: listen to that again.  I presume that Bluebeard himself is the usual industrial drill noise that almost all such singers perpetrate for a living, but it will be worth it for Ms Burgess.

This is the recording I mean.  Click on that, and you will discover that you can listen to it too.

Sunday July 29 2018

Two things got my attention just now on Twitter, both, I think, very funny.  I didn’t actually LOL.  But I did smile.

First up, this quote:

It is always bittersweet when your relatives bid you fond farewell as you leave for Edinburgh, and only you know how much you are about to defame them for comedic gain.

And next up, this cartoon:

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The latter of these two jollities goes way back, and I suspect that the script and the visuals were done by different people.  But the first one is bang up to date, and I am hence able to direct you to who originated it, which I like to do.

This, on the other hand, baffles me:

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I recognise financial commentator and funny man Dominic Frisby, on the left there.  But why do Frisby’s shoes have lightbulbs in them?  Who is that other bloke, and why are the two of them waving their fingers like that?  Why are they sitting in the eyes of a giant skull?  Also, what on earth does this have to do with Brexit?  What is it that Remainers have said about such a scene as this, to the effect that it couldn’t happen, or would happen less?  Are the above two gents, like the provider of the quote above, in Edinburgh, for the Festival?  And have the Remainers said that the Edinburgh Festival this year would be a flop?  Yes, that must be it.

LATER: Just noticed where it says spikedmath.com in the cartoon.  So I guess that’s where that started.

EVEN LATER: This:

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Also:this.

Saturday July 07 2018

In an earlier posting this week I said I was about to have a – by my indolent standards - busy few days.  It certainly didn’t help that I picked about the hottest week London has experienced in a long time for all this gadding about.

Earlier in the week I did some socialising with GodDaughter 2, and on Friday, it was her official graduation ceremony.  In my eyes (and to my ears) she had graduated already, with her graduation recital, but on Friday the Royal College of Music made it official.

I took a ton of photos, of which this was just one:

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That’s the Official Photoer, photoing all the soon-to-be-graduates, and presumably quite a lot of us friends and family behind as well, just before the stage filled up with RCM grandees, and the speechifying and graduating got under way.

And here is just one of the (us) unofficial photoers, together with a couple more that you can make out above and beyond this lady:

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I’ve taken many, many more photos in the last few days, over five hundred at that graduation ceremony alone and many more besides, but those two will have to do for now.

I’m knackered.

Sunday July 01 2018

I remember when there was no way to learn about interesting and admirable conductors, other than just listen to their performances and gawp at their photos on record sleeves.  Now there is Twitter.

E-PS’s thoughts about leaving New York, as reported by the New York Times, can be read here.

And here is a photo taken by E-PS as (or perhaps just with which) he said Bye to New York, on June 15th.  From a ship?  An airport?  A motorway service station?  His Hew York home?  A friend’s home?  A friend’s boat?  Here’s a horizontal slice of that photo:

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Click on Bye above, and get to the original photo, as tweeted.  It’s nothing special.  Not super-high-definition.  Not professional.  Taken with his smartphone would be my guess.  But so often, amateur photos like this can be amazingly evocative.  They give you a sense of what the place is really like, when what the pros show is is what they want it to have been like.

The tallest tower is presumably the replacement for the Twin Towers.  Which I miss, even though I’ve never been anywhere near them.  Only seen them in movies.

Friday June 29 2018

Yes. Last night I went to the RFH, to see and hear Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct Schoenberg’s mighty Gurrelieder, something Salonen has done at the RFH, with the same orchestra, before.  GodDaughter 2 was somewhere off in the distance, singing in the chorus, and had got me a seat near the front.  So although I still heard lots of seats creaking and programmes flapping and coughers coughing, I also heard Schoenberg.  And only Schoenberg, when Gurrelieder got loud, as it often does.

What a piece!  If all you know about Schoenberg is twelve tone discordancy, all passion spent, but on the other hand if you like how the likes of Wagner and Mahler and Debussy sound when they get really worked up, then if you’ve not done so already, you really should check out Gurrelieder.  Likewise Verklarte Nacht, if you like Brahms chamber music.  Schoenberg greatly admired Brahms, I believe.  When GD2 told me about this Gurrelieder concert, I mentioned Verklarte Nacht to her and she tried it, and loved it.

So, what does Gurrelieder sound like?  Try: Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde meets Zombie Warrior Apocalypse meets Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream turned nightmare, meets some mad Russian novel with mad drunkard clowns and with Ring Cycle theology inserted, meets (and ends with) Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  Hence GD2 and her friends, singing in the chorus at the end.

I don’t go to many live concerts, but I am extremely glad that I went to this one, long and interval-less though it was.  And there is now something particularly odd about my concert-going history.  The dullest performance of a great piece of music I have ever witnessed (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at a Prom) and the most exciting performance of a great piece (this), were both of them conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

I think this says something both about Beethoven and about Gurrelieder.  If you just play the notes, exactly right, when playing a Beethoven symphony, but are not excited by the idea of playing this piece yet again and wanting people to like it yet again, the result is totally boring.  Playing the notes exactly right (which in my opinion is a much under-rated musical virtue) is Esa-Pekka Salonen’s particular speciality, so his Beethoven 9, a piece the performance of which, yet again, seemed not to interest him, was the definition of tedium.  But if you play the notes, exactly right, of Gurrelieder, and if you are interested in performing it, once again, and want everyone present to be astounded, then it is astounding.  It has a lot of notes, and they are really difficult to master and play, all exactly right, all together, all as loud or as quiet as they should be.  Salonen made all this happen, or so it sounded to me, and was also very excited about performing this amazing piece, once again.  Accordingly, the result was amazing.  As I thought it probably would be, because the less well known piece that Salonen also conducted at that Prom was almost as exciting as the Beethoven 9 that followed was crushingly dull.  And you are not going to supervise a performance of Gurrelieder unless you totally believe, as Esa-Pekka Salonen clearly did, that this is a piece that should be performed, once again.  Too much bother.  Far too much bother.

A great concert and a great occasion.  I was lucky to be there.  GD2 was even luckier to be actually performing in it.  I trust she realises this. Early emails following the concert suggest that she does.