Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Concerts

I'm into my third one in 24 hours....

First the Berlin Phil under Simon Rattle, with Mrs Merkel (and Mr Merkel, a nice-looking chap) sitting somewhere in the audience - got in at the end when they were playing Gershwin, unless it was Bernstein....Nice stuff, went with a swing.

Then this morning the Vienna New Year's concert with the Vienna Phil under Barenboim; his first time to conduct that concert. He said that he had often watched it on TV and dreamt of conducting it. Don't we all? Apparently, when he gave his first concert in Vienna, aged 10, it had to take place in the afternoon, what with the child labour laws (which makes me wonder about the young harpist who sometimes does evening performances in Vilnius - what are our child labour laws like?). It was wonderful! He conducted from memory - quite a feat, given that these pieces are not usually in his repertoire, I would have thought. It had some lovely touches - including a very funny last movement of Haydn's farewell symphony. They do it in Lithuania every year, and the conductor conducts dead straight, right to the end - but Barenboim made a comedy routine out of it. In the Radetzky March he controlled the audience to within an in of their lives. In his brief speech he made reference (inevitably) to peace in the Middle East. Some children were dancing rather delightfully, but they made me think of yesterday's performance of the Christmas Oratorio with Harnoncourt and Peter Schreier, where the high voiced soloists were also children (boys), playing a fully professional role, but children who dance, however delightfully, are children who dance. (In the concert's interval Europe's other capital of culture, Linz, was introduced - no mention of Vilnius. Shame!)

Just now a concert of opera music from Italy (Venice?), under Georges Pretres, who last year conducted the Vienna Phil. Oh dear...if he is not lead by a soloist, his tempi are slow to stop. They did that lovely Bailey's duet (British TV watchers will know what I mean), in an orchestral arrangement - the swing was totally lost, phrases interrupted, and the violinists' arms were not long enough to hold the notes. Similarly that slaves' choir from Nabucco - every word was ennunciated very clearly and slowly, with plenty of space for breathing in between. Every. Word.