Bruckner time. Time for a rave....if I haven't used up my ration of superlatives writing about his ninth. His eighth. His best - some say. His biggest - certainly. And that's the trouble: Along with his seventh, it's so big that it rarely gets wheeled out. We last played it in '73 - so Chris, Heather, and me, the only ones left over from then, have hardly had a chance to get to know it. How long does it take to get to know a piece like this? What's the difference between hearing it a hundred times on your tranny, and hearing it once live in a wide acoustic? When he wrote it no-one could have dreamed of radios or CDs (except Edison, who was just inventing his phonograph) - so how many times was he expecting anyone to be able to hear it? How many times do you need to hear it before wonderment carries you away? Twenty....a hundred? It's an hour and twenty three minutes long - longer if the conductor gets carried away by wonderment. Given the effort Bruckner demands of his audience, how many will stay the course without hankering for something more immediate? If you had wandered into our concert on spec, not knowing anything about Bruckner, how would this vast composition strike you?
Archives for January 2010
Phew! What a week! Donald Runnicles made a triumphant return to the orchestra for the first time since October as we charged straight into Bruckner's monumental 8th Symphony for some barn-storming concerts in Glasgow's City Halls and Leeds Town Hall. It's fair to say the concerts went down rather well with the audience but what did the critics think? The results are in and are summarised below...
I'm going to look back before Christmas - join me if you can bear it. Lots of full houses. The fun season started with the St Andrew's Day History of Scotland show in the Usher Hall. McIntosh Ross were the first group up, and during their set I found myself alongside an instrument I'd never seen before, a pedal steel guitar, a big brother of the Hawaiian guitar. The pedals can bend the pitch of a string while the left hand is sliding the steel around on the string itself - the ultimate nightmare for someone like me - groping around for the right note is difficult enough without having to worry about the string changing pitch under my hand. Definitely a soulful sound. Their song, Walls, had all the ache of a Leonard Cohen classic, stirring up a strange mix of feelings in me, autumnal nostalgia spiced with a sort of frustrated potency. Powerful feelings. Or is that my age showing? With amplification a singer or instrumentalist can utter a whisperingly intimate sound and still be confident of being heard in the furthest reaches of a vast hall. I envy that. It gives an overwhelming advantage when it comes to immediacy and impact, and an obliterating advantage in louder music. Should we challenge them to achieve the same results without amplification, in the way actors and musicians like us have had to do since pre-history?