Obvious: the same length as a piece of string. Maybe you were at one of our three concerts with Christine Brewer. Or you heard Edinburgh's relay, or heard her and Donald's In Tune performance, or saw the Coda on iPlayer. Or read the rave reviews. So, what's my point? Donald commented that Christine establishes an instant rapport with orchestral players, because there's an element in her singing that's instrumental. Actually, I didn't immediately consciously think that - I was just floored by her singing. She started rehearsal facing in towards us, and in our new antiphonal seating plan this meant I was a few feet away in the line of fire. ("Wow.......and I'm being paid to sit here and experience this.") But what I did consciously think was, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if this woman could be booked to give us all a master class in music - whatever instrument we play". You might think that sitting directly in front of a Wagnerian soprano doing her thing is a Health and Safety issue. It usually is, and we have to insert our statutory ear plugs, and (politely) re-align ourselves to the singers. But not with Christine. Her voice has an amazing quality: it seems to fill the available space, flowing all around you irrespective of which direction she is aiming. And there's no trace of a harsh edge to the sound. This sound can't be measured in decibels - H&S officers don't have tick boxes for levels of ecstasy (yet). What's this got to do with pieces of string? .........
Archives for March 2010
Gasps of delight. That's what we got when Robert Levin played Beethoven's second piano concerto with us a couple of years ago, with Nicholas McGuigan conducting. Chatting to Andrew Manze for the pre-concert thingummy in Inverness the other day, I mentioned this. The point was how Levin's improvisations and additions to the holy text produced a vocal response from the audience (maybe you were there) - a sense of fun had already infected us during rehearsals, setting up a breezy atmosphere for the whole concert. Like Nicholas, Andrew comes from the historic performance school of interpretation, and we expect them to have all sorts of precise ideas about exactly how things should be done. Just the opposite. Like Nicholas before him, Andrew had spent a week trying to free us up - in bowing, fingering, and all aspects of self expression - he wants to capture that sense of fun and adventure. Andrew asked for "slippery fingering" in the Brahms - that means connecting the notes, using glissandi when you feel like it, and not all together at the same time. The point, which might seem obvious, is that the effect of many players freely exploring their own expressivity is going to be more exciting than the sum of the same players trying to follow, however accurately, a prescriptive path. The clincher was in the question: "What would Mozart or Beethoven have wanted.....here, today?" A no-brainer.
Last Thursday at City Halls the orchestra performed an outstanding concert with Soprano Christine Brewer and Chief Conductor Donald Runnicles on the top of their game. There was a special treat in store for the audience members who remained for the post-concert coda as Christine Brewer sang a wonderful selection of songs with Donald accompanying on piano. We filmed the coda and I added one of the tracks earlier in the week - a traditional Scottish folk song called Ye Banks and Braes. Along with this song you can now view another song from the coda below - a beautiful performance of Strauss's Breit' über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar.
Christine Brewer and Donald Runnicles - Ye banks and Braes
Donald Runnicles returned to Scotland last week to lead some fantastic concerts in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh accompanied by the amazing Christine Brewer. As Donald was in town there was quite a bit of press action and the articles are listed below.