Posted tagged ‘Mahler’

The John Myatt Memorial Concert

February 16, 2012

Click here for a great review of a great occasion:


Many thanks to Colin for the link (and for the concert!)

The Rehearsal Orchestra — Mahler 9

January 18, 2010

Amazing weekend playing Mahler’s 9th Symphony (4th bassoon and contra!) with The Rehearsal Orchestra under Lev Parikian.

 Orchestra leader was Eddie Reid, whom I well remember from the orchestra at English National Opera; serried ranks of magnificent players – amateurs and students – from all over the country, forming Mahler’s huge line-up. Shame there was no list of participants, as I didn’t know many of them apart from a couple of the other bassoons, and there were some really outstanding players.

Mahler 9 is an extraordinary work. written at the end of his life – subtitled by Leonard Bernstein ‘four ways of saying farewell’… Among Lev’s many illuminating and inspiring comments was the observation that the opening phrases represent ‘Mahler’s irregular heartbeat’ (which was soon to kill him) – and that the entire musical substance of the hour-and-a-half-long work is contained in the first six bars.

Saturday’s rehearsals were at Henry Wood Hall, a handsome deconsecrated 18th-century church much used by professional orchestras for rehearsals – well-lit, well-appointed and with a nice café in the crypt. For Sunday we moved to The Warehouse in Theed Street, in the hinterland behind Waterloo Station; a less comfortable venue but actually not too bad. Over the two days, Lev steered us through the complexities of the four movements, culminating in a ‘public’ run-through (I think there were a few brave souls upstairs listening) which was far more than a fair bash, and by the end was absolutely spellbinding.

Many thanks to Lev for his inspirational conducting (and cool head in adversity!); to Contac for suppressing my horrible cough for the duration; to Diana for pointing me in the direction of the Orchestra (and for playing too, and for stalwart ferrying of bassoon and contra as well as her double bass! – and for making the weekend such an enjoyable shared experience); to Caroline Stockmann for her tireless encouragement and fundraising (we each paid a fee to be there, but she told us that we are additionally being subsidised at between £75 and £115 per head: any generous musical millionaires out there?); and to Anne-Marie Norman for getting it all together – a fearsome administrative task executed with a light touch and a wry smile… What a great institution, and a great experience. Thank you!

San Francisco Symphony at the Proms

September 2, 2007

Playtime is over… Rehearsals started (for us) at the Royal Opera House today. But I still managed to fit in two Proms – yesterday after an afternoon in the office, today a totally crazy day (Sunday!) which started with a lunch party in Barnet (thanks, Tony and all – very nice collection of family and old friends, sorry I couldn’t stay longer), then three hours of Iphigénie en Tauride, then a dash to the Albert Hall for a 7.00 start…

The San Francisco Symphony, under Michael Tilson Thomas (or Captain Beaky and his Band, as I shall henceforth unavoidably think of them), are one of the world’s top orchestras, and these concerts were a rare treat.  Yesterday’s began with Charles Ives’ Third Symphony, which rather passed me by (I know I ought to ‘get’ Charles Ives, as he was a great guy and I love his ideas, but it largely hasn’t happened yet).  Then the final scene of Salome, which was terrific (and reminded me why I love this opera;  can’t wait for our revival later this season) – though the orchestration seemed strangely subdued, maybe because MTT was trying (not always successfully) to avoid drowning Deborah Voigt – a problem when the orchestra is stacked up behind her instead of hidden away in a pit.  She did in fact sound a bit underpowered, and her German pronunciation seemed lispy and American (I was standing next to a German couple but didn’t pluck up courage to ask them what they thought). 

Then came Shostakovich 5, which was a knockout.  Such characterful orchestral sounds – this is not just subjective, as I was hearing overtones in double basses, trumpets and even violins that I’m not normally aware of in a live concert setting.  I particularly loved the reedy, uninhibited oboe (a very American, slightly old-fashioned sound), and the big jolly bassoon, and the fact that the brass (especially the horn solos) were always spot on, totally secure and in tune.  A tremendous performance.  Sometimes hard to see how Michael T T does it – his beat (waving those incredibly long arms about) often seeming to bear no relation to the music that comes out. It obviously works for them, though.  (Difficult to tell whether there actually was a certain lack of synchronization at times – that darned Albert Hall echo makes it impossible to be sure.)

The encore was Bernstein’s Candide Overture, at a rollicking pace.  When it came to the juicy second-subject tune, the German lady next to me burst into tears.  Bless. (more…)