Thursday, March 10, 2011

Listen to This

Some last minute scrambling produced a couple of excellent tickets to this show, one of a pair of shows (the other being “The Rest is Noise”) put together by the ACO and Alex Ross, the New Yorker magazine music critic and author of two books bearing the shows’ names as titles. The talk by Ross prior to the show set the scene quite nicely.  His theme, based on one of the essays in his books, sought to link the descending harmonies in various chaconnes and laments from Elizabethan and baroque music, via Beethoven to Ray Charles and The Beatles. The concert itself covered a wide range from Dowland (b. 1563) to Anna Clyne (b. 1980).  I thought (as indeed did Herself, despite admitting to being a bit baffled by the pre-concert talk) that the whole thing was quite brilliant, the high points being Tognetti’s solo effort on Bach’s Chaconne, Barber’s Adagio and Adams’ Shaker Loops.  I don’t know if we had particularly good seats, but the clarity of the performance was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Anyway, I enjoyed this performance so much that it came as no surprise that my least favourite critic (Eamonn Kelly) writing in my least favourite rag (the Oz) gave it a bagging, throwing terms such as “flaccid”, “unruly” and “clumsy” around.  He clearly wasn’t at the same concert as me…and of course he wasn’t, he was at the Melbourne concerts a couple of days prior, but I can’t accept that two days and a change of venue can make that much difference.  Mind you, I do know that musos love playing at the Adelaide Town Hall purely for its acoustics – not sure what the Melbourne Town Hall is like. There was one thing, however, on which I could agree with Kelly.  His comment that “The viola section was astoundingly good, adding rare depth to the middle harmonies of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings…” was right on the money.  I don’t think I really appreciated what the viola could do until I heard that piece.

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