Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beethoven's Choral First Orchestral Concert in 12 Years!

I made it! I went to a full Symphony concert. The first in 12 years. It is hard to believe 12 years ago I should consider this an achievement but I do. When I was really, really ill it was an effort to go into a dairy and buy a bottle of milk and get through the days as days at that time seemed to last a year and  to attenda Symphony Concert seemed like an impossibility.

So 12 years later I am up to it, bit of an effort as it is dangerous for me to be in such a large crowd with my non existent immune system. Too many bugs but Beethoven's Choral is special. One more before I go! The afternoon was like rejoining the human race.

It is a privilege to be able to hear a full first class symphony orchestra and the NZ Symphony Orchestra is just that, first class but in the years I had forgotten just how loud a real life symphony orchestra is. I am very careful with my hearing as I need it and always keep my forte levels at a reasonable strength and when the side drum started up in the first piece my ears got a shock. Bang, bang, bang. The the orchestra joined in and I got a shock.

Also the balance of the instruments seemed strange as I am now used to mixing my own brew and I can bring out and favor individual sections as I chose. The choir sounded and indeed was a long way away as I bought my ticket at the last moment. I am now terribly unreliable and can cancel at last minute. The soloists were hard to hear at this distance as they were seated with the choir and had now amplification. I would bring them forward and perhaps for this symphony as the orchestra is vast they should be in front for this section.

I couldn't make out one word. Not one. For the Beethoven it doesn't matter as I do not speak German and I know it starts with Freude  but for the English I just couldn't hear a word. In my experience this is always the way with choral works. The conductor's spend hours of precise pronunciation but I ask you is it worth it. Far better to get entries right.

Of the first piece Kaitiaki by Garath Farr a former percussionist who unlike me who did  take care of my ears, has damaged aural receptors. I have no comments as it was a first hearing. I need to hear things at least twice. Would my late husband Miles have liked it? I ask myself. He, like Benjamin Britten, had perfect musical taste. No Brahms or Puccini Sadly I do not think Miles would.

What a task! To have to front Beethoven's 9th is one of those commissions one takes but dreads. The audience is just longing to get to the last Choral section and is really only there for that. I thought under the circumstances it was acceptable. I cannot think of any other piece with which to start. Perhaps Stravinsky's Firebird which is equally uplifting but then the choir has nothing to do and for me the curtain has to go up! That's my problem at concerts I am always waiting to the curtain to go up!

I love Beethoven's Symphonies. No other composer write Symphonies as Beethoven does. He is a master of grabbing an audience in the first few bars and rousing them to ovation level by the end. I find it perplexing that such a horrible man, and believe me if you think Wagner was bad Beethoven was worse, could write such wonderful uplifting music for however you are feeling when it starts you are ready to take on the world when it ends.

This is my one criticism and one because I am a  director of opera. For me the choir and soloists were too well drilled. They had to sit on uncomfortable backless orchestra benches for a good three quarters of an hour without moving. This must have been uncomfortable. They looked inhuman.No one was allowed to show how they were enjoying the uplifting music. The quick shift of bottoms in the breaks confirmed their discomfort. Choirs should look relaxed.

So when they eventually stood to join in an ecstasy and suddenly come to life they didn't. For a few moments they sang like drilled automatans.  Fortunately as the piece progressed they got into the swing but it wasn't there at first when it should have been. I once saw Jephetta performed in this style at Glyndebourne. The chorus did not move in  three hours and I thought then well at least in an oratorio the choir turns over the pages.

I think the management think that choirs on the move are distracting but from the audience point of view  static drilled choirs are just as much of a distraction as they are inhuman. They need me there!

I loved my afternoon. It was worth the effort. Now I have the wait to see if I have picked up an infection but at my time of life who cares.

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