Phoenix concert (and also John Lill and The Soldier’s Tale)

Very quick one.  I wouldn’t normally write up a concert I was playing in (see previous post) – bad form, and difficult to tell what it’s like from inside – but various people have asked me to, so I will!

Phoenix Orchestra‘s leader Catherine Lindley was indisposed, and we were grateful to James Widden for stepping in at the last minute.

St Andrew’s, Holborn, perched on the end of Holborn Viaduct, is a very nice building to play in – yet another squareish 18th-century church like St Johns, Smith Square and St James, Piccadilly.  Very resonant, but flattering rather than muddying, as far as we could tell.  A small church, cosy enough to feel nicely full with an audience of mostly friends and relations.

No carpet to soak up the bassoon sound!  Hard black-and-white tiles instead (actually lino, though looking like marble).  The helpfully stepped floor made for good sight lines for us, and presumably ‘hearing lines’ for the audience as well.  The horns and brass sounded loud but not overpoweringly blarey.

The ‘rush-hour concert’ idea is a very good one.  Not too much sheer volume of stuff to slog through at rehearsals;  start at  6.30, in the pub by 8 (Ye Olde Mitre in Ely Place:  that’s another story…).

The Berlioz overture (Beatrice and Benedict, or ‘Bill and Ben’ as it’s known in the trade) went like a little rocket, Lev’s ‘safe’ opening tempo imperceptibly zizzing up until it was really exciting.  We were pretty precise, I’m glad to say, and it sounded to me as if there was some very nice woodwind playing going on, as well as crisp brass.

Then the Borodin ‘Steppes of Central Asia’, which was short and lovely – very atmospheric.  Smashing playing from Sue (flute) and Emma (cor anglais).

And finally (no interval), Dvořák’s 7th Symphony.   Speaking for myself, the ravages of the afternoon rehearsal eventually began to take their toll on lips and brain, but not until the last movement.  It’s a tremendous and underrated work (see my earlier comments) and we felt proud to be having a really good crack at it.

‘Crack’ being absolutely the wrong word for Duncan’s glorious horn solo in the slow moment – which he particularly asked me to mention here in contrast to his previous showing (again, see my earlier comments).

So – a great (short) evening, to which these comments don’t begin to do justice.

The same goes for two other recent musical experiences, which I didn’t write up on here as I didn’t feel I could find adequate words to praise them:

(1) John Lill (piano) at Cadogan Hall – Haydn (crazy E flat sonata), Beethoven (Op. 111), the tremendous C minor Chopin Nocturne and even more tremendous F sharp minor Polonaise, and the blindingly virtuosic Prokofiev Sonata No. 7.  All dispatched with an almost apologetic shy smile, immense concentration, and clean delivery with minimal pedalling.  The overriding impression was of a supreme master employing his fearsomely impressive talents purely in the service of the music, without interposing his own personality.

(2) Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale at Wilton’s Music Hall.  So much to say about the building (the last surviving traditional music hall in London, virtually derelict, but a great performing space), the performers (featuring Anthony Marwood, better known as a violinist, here as a dancer, actor and speaker who happens to play his own violin in the character of the Soldier;  Iain Woodhouse as a diminutive, energetic and very saturnine Devil;  agnesvandrepote.jpgAgnes Vandrepote as a lovely and sparky Dancer with an adorable French accent and some wonderfully practical and beautiful dresses to dance in;  and a band – from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, unconducted – containing such great talents as Alison Balsom on trumpet, Graham Sheen on bassoon, and Tristan Fry on percussion), and the production, credited to Lawrence Evans (‘Director, Designer and Staging’), full of simple but felicitous touches;  the Great War theme (back projections of still photographs and footage of exploding shells) was moving without being intrusive.  A weird piece, simple and powerful yet cryptic and very Russian (though the English translation by Michael Flanders and Kitty Black came up crisper and smarter than I remember it).

A great evening despite the terrible weather!

PS — here are links to a couple of very illuminating writeups on other people’s blogs:

http://bluedog1257.wordpress.com/2007/11/18/the-soldiers-tale/

http://inbetwixt.wordpress.com/2007/11/30/i-have-everything-i-will-always-have-everything/

Thank you, Mr Bluedog in Scotland and Mr or Ms Inbetwixt in London!

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2 Comments on “Phoenix concert (and also John Lill and The Soldier’s Tale)”

  1. inbetwixt Says:

    Hello. Thanks for the link! Enjoyed your write-up. Yes, meant to mention the Somme footage too. Loved the use of the backdrop screen for film/shadow dancing. In fact, my one reservation was I would have liked to see it made more of throughout? Sparkling production. It’s apparent ‘simplicity’ was what made it so effective. Great stuff.

  2. mona lisa Says:

    thanks, Jonathan. Sounds like it was wonderful


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