Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chamber Orchestra of Europe - Usher Hall - 13 August 2007

A disappointing turnout (the Usher Hall about 60% full) for what was in fact a really good concert of Beethoven, Stravinsky, Adès and Sibelius conducted by Thomas Adès. We began with an rarity: Beethoven's Namensfeier overture Op.115. The programme note reckoned that for people to criticise it as not being as good as, say, Egmont is like criticising The Winter's Tale for not being King Lear. Probably fair enough: it's an interesting piece, I'm glad I heard it, and I would be happy enough to hear it again. However, there's nothing especially memorable about it.

Stravinsky's Pulcinella suite, on the other hand, has lots of hummable tunes, all of them written by Pergolesi whose music Stravinsky arranged (perhaps reinvented would be better) for the piece. As Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra are doing this one next summer I was paying close attention, so I can report that the COE players acquitted themselves brilliantly (there are a lot of solos, including one for double bass). Adès gave them all plenty of space and they clearly enjoyed themselves.

After the inteval we had Thomas Adès's violin concerto Concentric Paths, played by Anthony Marwood. As far as I know I'd never heard any of Adès's music before (though anyone who could come up with a title like These Premises Are Alarmed seemed worth a listen). It was interesting stuff, and I shall probably try to listen to it again if it's broadcast. It was quirky without being unapproachably weird, and did have some nice sounds in there. The last movement in particular fairly rocked along, and I can imagine that in due course it will take its place in the modern concertio repertoire. (To date all its performances have been played by Marwood and conducted by Adès.) I also hadn't heard of Anthony Marwood before, and while this wasn't a piece that gave too much of a clue as to what he'd be like playing other repertoire, he certainly didn't seem bothered by its technical demands. Neither did the orchestra, who rose to every challenge, with some very fine brass playing in particular.

Finally we came to Sibelius's Third Symphony, a great piece (though probably the one of the seven Sibelius symphonies I know least well). This is Sibelius beginning the journey down the rabbit-hole away from the overt romanticism of his early works and towards the compressed style of the later ones. Strange and very beautiful, and the COE gave it all they had, with some wonderful playing all round.

Perhaps not an obviously crowd-pleasing programme - hence the poor audience numbers - but the crowd that was there were evidently well pleased by it.


At 15 August, 2007 16:58, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

You've got 'culture' and we have feathers, sequins and skin. I'd be willing to trade some. The orchestras and good plays don't drift through Vegas. But I can see Elvis any day of the week.

At 16 August, 2007 01:43, Blogger Rob said...

Nothing wrong with that, Joe. We're not really any different from New York or San Francisco in the level of "culture": we just pack a heck of a lot of it into three weeks each summer.And not everything in the Edinburgh Festivals is "culture". The Bouncy Castle Macbeth? Come on...fun, yes, culture, hardly.

And I am looking forward quite immoderately to seeing Alice Cooper in a few months' time (and unlike Elvis, it's still the real one). And my wife saw Elton John again a few weeks ago (I skipped that one, but we both saw him a couple of years back).

I wonder if Vegas has an amateur orchestral subculture (hobbyists like me)? Edinburgh is unusually rich in that area, even compared with London, but I wouldn't be surprised to find something in LV.


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