Roni's Journal

Friday, 20 April 2007

Ariadne of Naxos

Ariadne of Naxos, yesterday, was an amazing experience! The production was very well done, and very interesting. It was semi-modern, but clever, and so, as much as music allowed, it was not to have been bored by.

Among the performers were Stephanie Houtzeel (!) as the Composer, Hen Reiss, the Israeli coloratura, with a fantastic performance as Zerbinetta, Stuart Skelton as Bacchus, and two Austrians - Paul Armin Edelmann as Harlequin, and Georg Tichy as the Music-Master, both well-known in the 'Ariadne' performance world. The music is simpler than I expected, all the better. However, there are passages in the opera, especially towards the end, that are outstretched far more than the energetic pace of the opera could allow for, thus creating these Wagner-filled rubber-like scenes, which, to my taste, Strauss could have done without. But this is said from a critical point of view, and also depends largely upon the production itself.

On Friday we have a 'final rehearsal' before the small concert on Saturday. The audience will probably be around 7 or 8 people, and the programme is as planned, including Schubert's Impromptus.

I am already planning pieces for the next concert, which I hope will be attended by more "prestigious" people, including my violin teacher, a friend of my mother's from the Opera house..

The choices are still to be decided, but I'm learning Chopin's A-minor Étude "Vent d'hiver" and Rachmaninoff's G minor Prelude on piano, Buxtehude's F-sharp minor Prelude (the one with two fugues) on organ (although the pedal notes would be played by the left hand, and so the right hand is sometimes preoccupied with duodecimae), Bach's Violin Concerto in A-minor and a Sonata by Corelli on violin (Olya will accompany on piano). Also, I hope Mary can learn Beethoven's famous Bagatelle in A-minor, known as "Für Elise" (which really was Für Therese!)..

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Monday, 16 April 2007

Concert-going

I went to see Falstaff a few weeks ago – the Kirov Maryinsky theatre was performing. At last I got in touch with someone who might be able to get me more tickets to final rehearsals of this type.

It was a modern production, but I liked the idea, which was to show the feelings of characters who are singing onstage by putting 2-3 pseudo-characters around them who are doing a sort of pantomime that describes what the soloist is feeling. At an extreme point, when Ford was singing about his jealousy and anger, and his doubts about his wife's fidelity, behind him, a group of 8 or so ballerinas came on stage and started dancing, when all of a sudden a "murderer" came in and started "killing" them with a knife. By the time the aria finished, behind Ford, the floor was full of "bodies"! The red lighting made the effect more so. But this was the extreme of it, and I quite liked the general idea – it was something innovative, without having to resort to "traditional innovation", if you know what I mean. The orchestra was great as were most of the soloists. Of course, it being a final rehearsal, there were a few things to correct, like the orchestra overplaying the soloists at times.

A week later I went to another concert. This time, a group of five kids conductors (10-12 year olds) from Uzbekistan conducted our city's symphony orchestra. They played a Rossini overture, a movement from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Massenet, Beethoven's 4th symphony, and some other pieces.

The public's impression was that it was amazing. But the performance really was effective in just that – making an impression. My personal impression was that the orchestra, being very good itself, was playing well regardless of the "conductor". At times one could hear the orchestra doing things that the conductor wasn't even aware of. It was funny.

But the most important tests for the conductors were the slow movements. It is very difficult to conduct a slow movement well, and the kids' abilities to keep the entrances in time weren't good enough. The conductor's main job, in my opinion, is to keep the orchestra balanced – in volume, and together – in time. Unfortunately, none of this was achieved up to standard.

And so, even though it is great that these kids get to study music, to experience live concerts, and to actually have fun conducting, I think their time would have been better spent studying orchestration, listening more, etc.

On Tuesday I might be going to see Ariadne of Naxos by Richard Strauss.

We are planning to do a home concert on Saturday. I want to call it an Arts Evening. The plan is to have several musical pieces performed during an hour, with a break in the middle for 10 minutes. During the break, the guests would be invited to see a gallery of paintings. As my wife is an artist, it would be an opportunity for her to display her works, and for us, as a family, to play in front of an audience. We will start small, with the audience consisting of close friends and relatives, but I hope it can grow to be something regular and big: I've already invited a friend who also paints to bring her drawings along to our gallery, and next concert perhaps one of my music students will perform something as well.

The program for Saturday is not finally decided yet, but to start with we have: my daughter Mary will play a Minuet by Mozart, Olya and I will perform Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, with me playing on the violin, then I will sing an aria by A. Scarlatti. Also, I might play Schubert's beautiful Ges-dur Impromptus.

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