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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kullervopete wrote:
Here in Manchester the famous Halle Orchestra is in pretty good shape thanks to chief conductor Mark Elder, and maestro Elder is a Sibelian to boot. Over the last few years I have been at quite a few of Elders concerts and now and again the maestro has spoken to the audience for 5 minutes or so about the piece and composer to be played. I think that more conductors should do this. Besides informing the paying public about the music, a rapport is established which contributes to the evenings performance. To often conductors can come across as elitist and remote figures.-kp


Paavo Jarvi does something similar: he makes a video of himself describing the music and composer, and plays it before the concert. It would seem more cold were he not sitting in a chair and the footage changing between the proper view and a view of him and some of the camera equipment as well, from another camera. It doesn't seem so elitist at all, and it's somewhat heartening to see the maestro stumble somewhat over his English and ponder a bit over a right word.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2009 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night at Manchesters Bridgewater Hall we heard another Japanese view of Sibelius [No.2] this performance shook me to the bone! Indeed not since Vanska's memorable account at the 2005 Lahti Fest. have I heard this mighty Symphony revealed in its full glory. Yutaka Sado directed the BBC Philharmonic, an orchestra which came across as world class. All four movements felt right with regard to tempo, phrasing, balance and execution. The audience in Manchester pretty soon realised that we were in for something special. I think that it was Robert Layton who remarked that Sibelius's music seems to get greater at every hearing. At climaxes Sado with his arms outstreched looked like a great bird in flight [he studied under Leonard Bernstein] The concert had opened with Takemitsu's 'Twill by Twilight', an interesting piece combining an array of percussion and producing some interesting sonorities. Ian Bostridge [tenor] was in remakable voice for Britten's 'Nocturne' but I must confess that one or two people were in danger of nodding off. But the night belonged to Sibelius and one of the most powerful and heart-rending performances that I have ever heard.--kp

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On 2/13/2010 I saw the local San Diego Symphony do the 2nd Piano Concerto of Chopin coupled with the 2nd Symphony of Sibelius.

I am not really a Chopin fan and am not really familiar with either of his piano concerti. (I am more familiar with his solo piano work). I did not like this concerto. While the pianist (the Grammy award-winning Garrick Ohlsson) was nothing short of spectacular, the music was awfully boring with little intrigue or dramatic contrast. One does not feel a whole lot of forward motion in Chopin, with a lot of static orchestral textures with upwards and downward runs on the keyboard thrown in for good measure. Things got a little exciting in the third movement, and Ohlsson really shined here, but the first two movements were dreadfully bland. It will be a while, I suspect, before I ever hear this work again...I shall not seek it out.

Conductor Jahja Ling said Sibelius 2 is one of his favorite symphonies. Conducting without a score, I think he was at his best in the first movement which was elegant but at the same time laden with momentum. The second movement felt stilted somehow and could have been more turbulent. I was most dissapointed with this moevement. The scerzo came off well enough and Ling nearly nailed the fourth movement. He built good amounts of tension in the movement's climaxes but seemed a little cautious in the work's grand conclusion. His phrasing of the work's closing plagal cadence seem awkward somehow. I am not exactly sure what it was...perhaps it was just sloppy playing from the orchestra. At any rate, I felt cheated that the end of the work left me scrathing my head more than feeling lifted into the clouds.

The concert was reviewed here locally and the reviewer has an obvious distaste for Sibelius in general. You can read his comments here:
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every reviewer critic is entitled to their opinions, and quite often, when well written, these opinions can be entertaining and perhaps even informative.

However, in the article that Tapkaara quotes, the reviewer wrote:

Jim Chute wrote:
The ridiculous was Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, a work that used to have considerable currency in the first part of the 20th century but has been fading from the repertoire for years.

These types of comments are really what irk me about some reviewers. It has nothing to do with the fact that their opinions of music might be different than mine, but that they use these unfounded, sweeping generalizations to support their subjective viewpoints. By saying that a "piece has been fading from the repertoire", the reviewer supports his argument that this is bad music. But is it really fading from the repertoire? If so, what kind of research and analysis has been done to support this claim? Show me the numbers. Or don't say it.

Tapkaara, I'm sorry that this program disappointed you, I know you talked about it a lot in Lahti and were looking forward to it quite a bit.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This guy Chute is clearly an anti-Sibelian of the first order.-- 'This is a piece where the meagre thematic material is repeated over, and over again until by the final movement you are ready to scream mercy'. as he never heard of organic growth? These kind of comments where very common in the 1950's and 60's, but happily have become much rarer. I would think that Sibelius's second is performed nowadays even more frequently than ever it was in the past, so Chute can kiss my - Wink -kp

Ps I'm hoping to hear Sir Mark Elder conduct Sibelius 7 with the Halle next month, also in the programme Chopin's second piano concerto, I will give it a try.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tapkaara wrote:
the reviewer has an obvious distaste for Sibelius in general. You can read his comments here:
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Ouch! I hear the loud grinding of an axe in your local reviewer's piece.
Quite what he hopes to achieve by trotting out generations-old insults is a mystery to me. This symphony is these days core repertoire and it's plain daft for him to pretend otherwise. I don't really give two hoots if he doesn't like Sibelius. As is well known to forum members I myself have a similar distaste for Brahms, and in the relatively informal context of the internet I don't mind saying so. But [even] I would never rubbish a Brahms symphony in a concert review in a newspaper because I know that other people really do enjoy them. It is insulting to the other audience members to denigrate in a newspaper a work that they have chosen and paid good money to hear. Anyhow, with standard repertoire it's surely much more relevant to hear how the performers coped with such familiar works (as in Tapkaara's posting). The American convert-goers that I've met have by and large been a pretty savvy bunch and I don't believe they all turned up to listen to the Sibelius by accident.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, this was one of the best-attended concerts at our beautiful Copley Hall that I had ever seen. I figure they came out to hear Ohlsson play, who has garnered quite a reputation as a Chopin spécialiste, but one would have to think that the Sibelius 2nd had to be a draw as well.

It's funny that this critic was so scathing towards Sibelius. But, actually, in a way it's kind of appropriate. Before Sibelius 2, our symphony's historian, the wonderfully affable Nuvi Mehta, came out to give a 5-minute lecture on the music before it started. The very first thing out of his mouth was Sibbe's "critic/statue" quote which first drew loud laughter from the audience, then a surprisingly vigorous round of applause. I wonder if this critic remembered THAT part of the performance and how much the audience seemed to agree with the quote. Perhaps it's just bitterness that he's not getting a statue anytime soon, meanwhile, Sibelius continues to be performed!!!

And speaking of Sibelius "fading" from concert programs, where is Virgil Thompson, whose quote he agrees with? I guess you can't fade from the repertoire if you were really never there to begin with.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tapkaara, I would have been seriously tempted to have written a rebuke to the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding Mr. Chute's ridiculous attack on a masterpiece. I myself have in fact written to a number of Newspapers following silly comments from their music critics.-- Smile kp

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night the venue was Manchesters Bridgewater Hall for the Halle under principle conductor Sir Mark Elder. The concert opened with a tone poem by Arnold Bax 'Spring Fire'. This piece was unfamilier to me and I would suspect to the well attended audience. It was good that Mark Elder spoke about the work in some detail before raising his baton.

Bax's 'Spring Fire' is an early piece [1913] and the composer regarded it as a kind of Symphony. We were hearing it for the first time in Manchester, indeed it was never played in Bax's lifetime. A large orchestra is used and in the first part 'In the forest before dawn', horns, harp, flute and strings produced an haunting atmosphere. To be honest my wife and I found the piece a trifle noisy, but Bax gave us some highly evocative sounds in 'Daybreak and Sunrise' and 'Full Day'. I especially liked the trumpet flourishes. In the fourth part 'Woodland love' Bax has a lovely melody. The piece did seem over-long.

After the interval, Polina Leschenko was the soloist in Chopin's Piano Concerto No.2 and I have to say that both Gwynneth and myself enjoyed this performance over the Bax. We had a smaller orchestra of course and things were much more relaxed and soothing. Leschenko is a superb pianist and that second movement was deeply poetic. Chopin has a theme that was surely heaven sent.

I know from past experience that Sir Mark Elder is a fine Sibelian. Last nights performance of Sibelius seventh did not disappoint. Right from that soft triple rap on the timpani and those rich dark strings rising from the depth, we knew that it would be extra special. Elder showed great control over the ebb and flow of this wondrous Symphony, everything unfolding naturally and logically to that first statement of the trombone theme. In some respects this piece is a demonstration in the art of transition. Sometimes the music seems to run back on itself and then later appears to be moving at two different speeds. The star of the evening was the Halle's principle trombone. At his final appearance the earth seemed to open and then reinforced by the brass choir the music seemed to explode leaving the strings stranded in no mans land. What a powerful moment this was. Now the music began to wind down with an echo of that trombone theme from the horn and with inexorable power that final B-C brought this extraordinary Symphony to a close.
The concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 next tuesday. Great night.-kp

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kullervopete wrote:
The concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 next tuesday. Great night.-kp

It's on my calendar. Wink Thanks, Pete.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moldyoldie wrote:
kullervopete wrote:
The concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 next tuesday. Great night.-kp

It's on my calendar. Wink Thanks, Pete.

I was able to tune in just in time to catch the end of the Chopin and the entire Sibelius -- my time conversion was correct! Wink Elder and the Hallé did indeed handle the transitions with aplomb and a fine sense of inevitable phrasing, if a bit "careful" in spots. Tempi were generally uniform with subtle variance around a most agreeable mean. The trombone and brass chorale were fabulous, wonderfully balanced against the orchestra.

It struck me how Elder's coda was seemingly deliberately understated in comparison to the live Barbirolli recording I heard with the Helsinki Orchestra of his time (I've yet to hear his Hallé recording). However, Elder didn't truncate the final chord as is often heard; he allowed it to extend a bit and fade naturally...very nice! Most enjoyable listening this fine spring afternoon in Motown. Very Happy

Question Pete, would you happen to know if any current musicians of the Hallé played under Barbirolli when he recorded his cycle? Just curious.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I expect Kp will know for sure but I would doubt it - last time I saw the Hallé they looked rather youthful, and someone who was, say, 20-ish when Barbirolli was recording his cycle would be around retirement age now. And three cheers for Mark Elder's great work with this orchestra.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andrew B wrote:
I expect Kp will know for sure but I would doubt it - last time I saw the Hallé they looked rather youthful, and someone who was, say, 20-ish when Barbirolli was recording his cycle would be around retirement age now. And three cheers for Mark Elder's great work with this orchestra.

The current Hallé is certainly not the scrappy sounding bunch I've heard on their recordings from those bygone days. On yesterday's broadcast, as well as on their Holst Planets recording under Elder, they sounded smooth as silk.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moldy, so pleased that you managed to catch the Sibelius. Thanks for your positive comments. I'm afraid that Andrew is probably right. JB died in 1970 and forty years on, the orchestra did indeed look fairly youthful. Only conductors seem to go on and on these days Wink -kp

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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night it was Manchesters Bridgewater Hall again for a programme made in heaven. In Part one visiting guest maestro Okko kamu directed the Halle in two Dvorak favourites beginning with 'Carnival' Overture. Dvorak wrote this joyous music in 1892 just before his first visit to America. Kamu directed a performance of considerable panache. Especially impressive were the horn section, on the night comparable with anything in Europe.
Alisa Weilerstein then joined the orchestra for Dvoraks Cello Concerto. She boasts a rich sound and combined tenderness with bravura. Small wonder that a certain German composer remarked 'unfortunately not by Johannes Brahms'. The interval break followed with anticipation of what was to come

We know that Okko Kamu is a Sibelian of considerable stature. His recordings, especially of the third symphony and the Karelia Suite are among the top recommendations. I have to say that on the night we got mixed results. The performance was similar to Kamus Helsinki Radio S.O recording [DG Resonance 429 526-2] The opening clarinet was wonderfully atmospheric and the strings entered with great urgency, but I felt a certain lack of drive occasionally but the build up to the coda was thrilling. I have recently been revisiting Bernsteins Sibelius one from Vienna and with that performance in mind Kamu's account of the second movement lacked some fire, don't get me wrong the orchestral playing was first class. Perhaps I was expecting too much! The third movement was exiting enough with a great contribution from the timpanist, this movements kind of like Bruckner played fast forward. The Halle's principle flute shone in the trio and the brass were superb in the race to the finnish. The impassioned opening of the Finale was superlative, as it faded away, Kamu imparted a sense of the awsome drama to come. The Halle were superb in the central part, Sibelius conjuring up some wild galop through hostile forests with terifying creatures of the night in hot pursuit. As calm is restored, Sibelius moves hesitantly towards that glorious melody. First the clarinet, then the horns and finally the oboe move towards that climax, Kamu and his forces were magnificent has the sun finally came out and delivered us one of Sibelius's greatest tunes. But in the end who but the Finnish master would bring things crashing down to earth again as the music sank with two soft pizzicato chords. A fine performance then, but not a great one.--kp

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

8th December, 2010. What better way to spend an evening than with an all-Sibelius concert at the Bridgewater Hall. Sibelius's 145th anniversary. The Halle was under its principle guest conductor Cristian Mandeal. Here in the UK we are having a bitterly cold winter at the moment. Sibelius is often identified with the frozen North but that did not deter a splendid turnout to hear some glorious music. The concert opened with the Pelleas et Melisande Suite. What a fine and imaginative score this is. After the powerful 'At the castle gate' the portrait of 'Melisande' was hauntingly beautiful with a lovely cor anglais that would also shine later. It was good to hear 'At the Seashore' which was absent from My favourite Beecham recording. We have some 22 bars of extraordinary imagination. In fact all the pieces were characterised well and as the 'death of Melisande' faded away we had an apreciable silence of around 15 seconds before applause. In 'The Swan of Tuonela' the Halle cor anglais principle was superb with rich strings. The first half closed with 'Finlandia' with the Halle brass in fine form, though I wish the great 'Hymn' could have been slightly more expansive.
After refreshments the mighty second symphony. The Halle has this work in their blood having given the British premier in 1905 under Dr. Hans Richter. Maestro Mandeal paced the opening Allegretto well, with no hint of sluggishness. The second movement, a kind of battle between good and evil was gripping with The Halle brass again on good form. I don't recall the oboe tune in the Vivacissimo having been played better. The transition to the Finale was thrilling. I was delighted that the final pages were taken at a measured pace--no rabble-rousing in the Toscanini mould! As the trombones crowned the 'dramatic proclamation' and we heard that pizzicato from the bases the music sank to a hush [most effective] before the final victory. Great night and I walked out into the ice cold street with the music buzzing in my head.--kp

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night at Manchesters Bridgewater Hall was pretty special. Sir Mark Elder opened the Halle concert with Sibelius's 'En Saga' and it was a performance to cherish. What hit me especially was the remarkable sheer originality of the piece. Kajanus must have been staggered when he received this score. I pointed out to Gwynneth that Sibelius's favourite timpani was absent from the tone poem but to listen out for the big drum, we were not disappointed. This was a performance that got behind the notes and ranks amongst the best Sibelius I have heard anywhere. After that tremendous climax in which the heavens seemed to open that final clarinet solo with a soft patter on the cymbal was haunting. Interesting that the clarinet plays in its middle register [the one that text books on orchestration advise should be avoided!] The well versed audience resisted breaking out in applause for a good fifteen seconds.

Korean pianist Sunwook Kim gave a fireworks account of Prokofiev's second piano concerto--a work new to me. It is a piece of tremendous bravura though I must say that at times it sounded uneasily like'noise for noises sake'.

The concert closed with a Halle speciality Elgars 'Enigma variations on an original theme'. A performance that on the night moved me deeply. Nobody as ever discovered what the original theme is, but Elgar paints a picture of various of his friends with great skill and mastery. The sheer power of 'Nimrod' was overwhelming with the Halle strings on top form. Four curtain calls was richly deserved. Sir Mark Elder has brought the Halle Band to one of the best in the UK.--kp

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night at Manchesters Bridgewater Hall the Halle under Andrew Gouray [a name to watch] gave a splendid programme which for me had something of a thread running through it. The concert opened with Richard Strauss's tone poem 'Don Juan'. No wonder that Sib was knocked out when he heard the piece as a student in Vienna. I think the experience must have helped to spur JS on with his own take on that genre. Next the Sibelius violin concerto with soloist, the young German Sophia Jaffe. It was Richard Strauss who conducted the premiere of the revised version in 1905. It was a powerful performance that combined virtuosity with poetry. In the passionate second movement I could almost see Miss Jaffe on a boat in some Finnish lake with her violin positively singing. The finale was certainly taken very fast --as JS wanted! It was a performance far more idiomatic than fellow German Anne-Sophie Mutters recording of the work. After the interval Mendelssohns 'Scottish' symphony. For me the thread continued. Sibelius considered Mendelssohn to be the greatst orchestrator along with Mozart. I feel a kinship between Mendelssohn and Sibelius in their approach to the symphony and the orchestra and both masters realised that in great music 'less' can be 'more'.--kp

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had been looking forward to last nights concert at Manchesters Bridgewater Hall for some time. The BBC Philharmonics new principle guest conductor John Storgards doing Sibelius 3 and 7.
I managed to attend the pre-concert Preview with Storgard and the orchestra's Manager Richard Wigley. I was hoping to ask maestro Storgard's about the three fragments that he has recently recorded with the Helsinki PO that might have been meant for the aborted 8th. In the event questions were not invited but Storgard did touch on the subject. Storgard found the fragments impressive but he took Andrew B's line that a reconstruction of the 8th is unlikely in the extreeme. The maestro mentioned his early love of Sibelius around eight years old and especially the second symphony and the violin concerto. Storgard in fact took up the violin and conducting came later. He studied with the renowned Jorma Panula who has produced so many fine Finnish conductors.
Mr. Wigley announced that Storgard and the BBC Phil will be recording a Sibelius symphony cycle for Chandos, I think next year.

The concert opened with the Sibelius third which was a splendid account. The opening Allegro moderato was well paced and the development suitably mysterious which embued the Coda with tremendous power. The central Allegretto was quicker than Vanska or C. Davies, but not too quick. The maestro certainly had the measure of its special atmosphere. The two 'parts' of the finale gelled together concincingly and that powerful 'choral' type theme emerged naturally from the 'chaos'. Most enjoyable.

Martin Roscoe gave a fine account of the Beethoven Piano concerto No. 3. I'm not that big on Beethoven but I soon recognised many of the themes. The finale is delightful.

We now came to Sibelius's Seventh and great expectancy. I had to smile as several people got up to leave, thinking that the concert had in fact ended. They realised their mistake and returned. This live concert performance brought rapturous applause but I was less than ecstatic. The orchestra had been in good form--what went wrong? I think the music was 'over played' instead of nobility we got bombast. But following the final appearance of the great trombone theme when the music drives forward to almost an explosion, orchestra and conductor were brilliant. I've often thought that at this, the most powerful of moments, lesser composers would have employed the cymbals but Sibelius gets his remarkable effect without such a ploy. An exiting seventh then, but in my humble opinion not a great one.--kp

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last nights concert at the Bridgewater Hall was a first for me. A visit from The City of Birmingham SO. The programme was Beethoven 'Prometheus' Overture and Piano Concerto No.4 with soloist Anna Vinnitskaya and to close the second half Sibelius's titanic second symphony. I was however disapointed to see a notice announcing that the orchestras chief conductor, the Latvian Andris Nelson was indisposed. Appreciation was expressed for the orchestras associate conductor Michael Seal [I made a note of the name] who was standing in at very short notice. I felt slightly apprehensive, could the stand in conductor deliver?
In the event the Beethoven was splendid. Before the concert I had chatted to a fellow Sibelius enthusiast sat on my right. We both wondered how the symphony would go. The Birmingham orchestra was clearly out to impress and Seal delivered an electrifying account. The opening movement given with fire and great momentum. Timings for the second movement have been under discussion recently so I timed it, came in around 15'. In the powerful finale I almost thought that I was back in Lahti. Four curtain calls and the Gent on my right had to agree--not bad for a stand in. Smile kp

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