Saturday, March 01, 2008

Live music - at last.... schleppend

Two concerts in one day in the Kemal Atatuerk Cultural complex in Taksim, Istanbul.

This morning, an offering of Beethoven by the Istanbul Municipal Orchestra, a pianist who shall rename nameless, and a conductor called Jurjen Hempel (Juergen Hempel). Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.

The moment the pianist stepped on the stage, my heart sank. It was the schleppender way she went over to the piano. Beethoven 4 is a hard one what with the pianist having to start all alone. But it gives her to set the tempo. Right. Schleppend. The orchestra started more or less together. The fiddles were playing sotto voce whether the pianist was playing or not. The winds were sometimes inaudible (there are some fine wind lines), and occasionally rough (the horns). Emoting there was none - most of the emoting took place on my eyebrows along the lines of 'what happened there'? It was a far from inspired performance.

However, the hall was full, and she seemed to have her claque; so we got two encores. The first was something romantic, I thought, until - wait a moment - isn't that Bach? Sounds like a bit of a Bach partita or something, like a gigue/bourree/gigue kind of arrangement (I'm not so good on the piano partitas). But every single chord was arpeggiated (do you call it that, when the notes are played like on a harp -teedleleedlelee, rather than on a piano - bang). Dreadful. Off she went, and then launched into a Hungarian Dance. I am sure Jessica's book of the same name will be light years above the quality of this little effort. Not sure whose Hungarian dance it was, a Brahms transcribed by Liszt, and in this case transcribed by someone else for people like me who cannot play all the notes? I could not believe this would be played in a public concert, like this. Notes fell out all over the place; if she played 85% of the notes she did well. She did give it energy, though.

The second half of this concert was a symphony. Without a programme I was confused; I thought it was going to be all Beethoven, but this was so classical - could it be Haydn? Turned out to be Beethoven 1; practice makes perfect, eh, Mr Beethoven. The orchestra and conductor finally got themselves together well in the final movement. In other movements it sometimes seemed as if the first fiddle leader was the only fiddler who was playing - you could hear him very clearly.

In the afternoon, the opera orchestra and chorus put on a concert performance of Carmina Burana, in the same venue. What a difference! It was a huge band (to be fair, Beethoven does not always need a huge band), huge choir (with one or two unfortunate soprano warblers), big percussion section (necessarily), led by a conductor, seemingly an ageing rocker, whose hair had slipped down to around his neck, through from that he had produced an impressive curly ponytail. This orchestra played so well - the concert master (mistress) lead her heart out, the brass section was the best I have heard for a long time, and the others did well, too. Orff does ask something of his soloists, though, no? Particularly in terms of range of voice - one of the guys, who had only one solo, was fairly seriously challenged by the highness of his part. But overall it was a vastly better performance than this morning's effort.

In passing I wondered what else Orff had written? I know his operas 'Die Kluge' and 'Der Mond', both of which are on my Ipod, and of course the 'Schulwerk', an educational system involving many xylophones etc - I was involved in that as a child. From Alex Ross' book 'The rest is noise' I seem to remember that he was not a total Nazi as I had always assumed seeing he stayed in Germany during the war. But symphonies, string quartets - did he write any?


Henry Holland said...

I seem to remember that he was not a total Nazi as I had always assumed seeing he stayed in Germany during the war

On a blog filled with them, what a colossally stupid statement. Karl Amadeus Hartmann stayed, he wasn't a Nazi. Walter Braunfels stayed, he wasn't a Nazi. In fact, *GASP*, there were a good number of people in Germany who weren't party members, but for complex couldn't/wouldn't leave.

You Scots should stick to running empires.