Last week I was giving pre-concert talks here in Sydney, and I began by saying that the concert in question was one I’d been looking forward to all year – partly because it gave me a chance to hear in the concert hall two pieces I hadn’t heard live before (Tchaikovsky’s Voyevoda, Op.78 and Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto), partly because I’m an admirer of Osmo Vänskä’s work and of his Beethoven in particular. It also happened to be the final subscription program of the year and yes, when you’re feeling tired “final” has a very attractive ring to it.
This is one of the traps of working in music. Attending lots of concerts is a fabulous thing, enviable even, but it’s very easy to feel jaded after a while. So it’s helpful to imagine myself a “civilian” and think about the local orchestra concerts I would have attended if I were choosing to attend just nine – much in the same way that some people devise fantasy football teams.
And so, my fantasy subscription for 2011:
Ashkenazy/de Lancie et al (Grieg’s Peer Gynt with narration)
The world needs more orchestral concerts that are conceived and presented as “shows”, as entertainments, without compromising artistic quality or programming integrity in any way. This was one of them.
De Waart/Sydney Philharmonia Choirs (Beethoven, Barber, Adams)
Beethoven Seven. Best Beethoven symphony of the lot. ’Nuff said.
And Edo conducting Adams.
Carter (Kerry, Grainger, Bartók)
The premiere of a new work by a composer I admire – of course I was looking forward to it. Topped off, on the night, by especially brilliant introductions by Andrew Ford. Grainger; the Australian guy in his shed. I won’t be forgetting this image in a hurry.
Lang Lang in Recital (Beethoven, Albéniz, Prokofiev)
Every bit as astonishing as I’d expected. It was heartening to see he’d abandoned the satin polka dot suit and the unbearable OTT-ness I remembered from Blossom 2005.
Morlot/Pahud (Bach, Jarrell, Holst)
This was always going to be about the Jarrell flute concerto. Sue me.
Evgeny Kissin in Recital (Liszt)
Fascinating, intriguing, jaw-droppingly impressive. There is nothing he can’t do. When I’m an old lady I will bore my sisters’ grandchildren with stories about hearing Kissin. Four times now.
Strobel (Metropolis, restored with Huppertz score)
I had never seen Metropolis before. People I know who had seen it, told me that, with this new restoration, the whole movie made sense to them for the first time. The score lacked originality but what was so interesting about it was its sophistication and effectiveness as a film score given that this was a nascent genre in 1927.
Nott/Zimmermann (Brahms, Dean, Schubert)
It was the Dean I wanted to hear most of all, but my interest was further stimulated by the things Jonathan Nott had told me concerning his approach to the programming of the concert as a whole.
Vänskä/Weilerstein (Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Beethoven)
See earlier comments.
Inevitably there’s a concert you leave out of your fantasy subscription which turns out to be one of the highlights. This year that was the program with Nigel Westlake’s Missa Solis. I was aware from the beginning of the very personal significance of the piece and the terrible story behind it. But somehow that doesn’t prepare you for the experience of hearing the music, in the concert hall, with the composer conducting, and knowing that every musician on the stage is heart and soul behind this moving performance.