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Theatre / The Hudsucker Proxy - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: June 25, 2015, 12:10:57 pm »
At this season’s launch I couldn’t understand why Gemma Bodinetz made so much of this adaptation of a film when she had Leanne Best’s Educating Rita and Barry Rutter’s King Lear in the line up.  Having overcome my aversion to adaptations in general to give this the benefit of the doubt, I have to say I’m none the wiser.  I’ve never seen the film so there was no chance of unfavourable comparisons as with, say, The Ladykillers and A Clockwork Orange; but the piece struck me as flimsy and undramatic.  Though it wasn’t actually bad it seemed a strange use of scarce stage resources.  The staging had a cinematic feel to it, with stylised representations of, inter alia, falling from a 44th floor window, time standing still and climbing through the back of a filing cabinet to reach the innards of a skyscraper.  I couldn’t help thinking these effects – and the suspension of disbelief they are meant to evoke – are handled better by the cinema; but I suppose people familiar with the film might be impressed by the resourcefulness of the stage company.  There were some fine performances – actors doing their best in roles that were little more than cartoonish stereotypes – especially from Clive Wood as the greedy, evil Sidney Mussberger, Tamzin Griffin as the pointlessly evil Miss Turner and David Webber as Moses, the compulsory saintly blue collar worker with unimagined capabilities.  I just thought the forced wackiness and underlying feelgood mood wasn’t enough to sustain two hours of drama; though perhaps it was, you know, for kids.

Four performances remaining:

Theatre / Re: The Hard Problem - Dorfman Theatre
« on: June 23, 2015, 09:08:25 pm »
I saw both productions and thought the cast of thousands treatment suited Light and the studio setting worked very well for The Hard Problem.

In Light the religious ideas are, to be polite, pre-modern ...

But they are religious ideas that were widely held, and passionately argued about, in the England of the 1640s, the period in which the play is set, a time of revolutionary upheaval and the extraordinary Putney Debates and so on     

I hesitated to go too far into LSiB on a thread dedicated to a different play, George, but since you address the matter, here goes.  I think the description of the ideas raised in the play as ‘pre-modern’ rather odd.  The religious discussions might not be theologically sophisticated but surely that was because they were trying to express ideas that were centuries ahead of their time.  This can be seen in the pamphlet from which the play borrows its name where concepts like human rights, the illegitimacy of kings etc are expressed in religious language that can barely contain them.  Some of the stuff in the play is extraordinary by any standards -  modern, pre-modern or ancient.  For example I’ve always wondered what the Ranters might really have been like and, while I think the way Joan Hoskins addresses St Paul might be a bit exaggerated, it’s a striking image.  Likewise the butcher who decides to sell meat only to people who need/deserve it might be wishful thinking but the times were so unusual that it’s not entirely fanciful to hope he might be based on reality.  And, as you say, the truly radical exchanges in the Putney Debates sequences were real enough. The great thing about the play, though, is its timeless relevance – something that came through when I saw an amateur production shortly after the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt.  A play about people who had overthrown a tyrant and saw their chances of taking their future in their own hands frustrated by the ambitions of religious and military forces was very topical at that time and remains so today.

Theatre / Re: The Hard Problem - Dorfman Theatre
« on: June 23, 2015, 03:57:02 pm »
I saw both productions and thought the cast of thousands treatment suited Light and the studio setting worked very well for The Hard Problem.

Did you not find the set changes in the Dorfman disruptive?  Even people I spoke to who really liked the play thought this was a problem. 

The plot about a lost baby was pretty clunky

The baby story is incredibly weak – the kind of thing that, if it happened in real life, would draw comments like ‘you couldn’t make it up’ (and, in my opinion, he shouldn’t have).  It’s interesting to compare it with the vignette ‘a woman leaves her baby’ in LSiB which is heartbreakingly realistic – perhaps a bit sentimental but the pathetic detail of her imagining she can produce milk to feed her baby simply by drinking more water is brilliantly effective.

Phew...Kirill Petrenko...Liverpool contingent seriously worried for a while!

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 19, 2015, 12:33:28 pm »
Quote from: HtoHe link=topic=4727.msg150456#msg1504

As for Thelma, I have little doubt she did a good job but I couldn't see what she was actually doing (contrast with Collins whose hands, when not on the keyboard, seemed to have been possessed by the spirit of John McCririck).  She undoubtedly has authority - as I've seen many times at 10/10 concerts, especially in the pieces for smaller ensembles when Clark Rundell is not in front of the players - but as a non-musician I'm not at all sure how she's directing. 

Facial expressions, body language, eyebrows! Much like a string quartet. Musicians tend to have good peripheral vision.

I suspected as much, Mary.  As I said, I couldn’t see her face as I was over to the left of the stalls.  I still imagine a lot of the work is done in rehearsal, though.

This is a general problem with concert programming at Liverpool, but as we all know, concerts scheduling works by composers outside the mainstream, or less familiar works by mainstream composers just don't attract audiences.

I think that’s right, chivhu.  They can’t force audiences to be adventurous – or even open-minded – and, until the revolution, they have to sell tickets.  The Bridgewater is a bit more adventurous but then they host three orchestras, one of them propped up by BBC funding; and, perhaps more tellingly, they often get embarrassingly small attendances.  I remember being excited about a performance of Liszt’s Dante Symphony a few years ago only to find that the hall looked almost empty.  OK, it’s a big hall but attendance was small by any measure – I estimated no more than 500; probably nearer 300.  The performance was wonderful and the same conductor and orchestra (BBC Phil/Noseda) played the symphony to a packed Albert Hall at the Proms shortly afterwards.  I always find it quite odd that 10/10* can get audiences that most contemporary ensembles only dream of  in a city that is, as you say, essentially conservative as far as the main orchestra is concerned.  I once took my young nephew to a NYOGB concert and we were next to an elderly lady who said she’d been going to orchestral concerts for 50 years – and, almost in the next breath – said this would be the first time she’d heard Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra!  The draw on that day clearly wasn’t the orchestra or the programme but Vasily Petrenko, who was rapidly making a name for himself.  I sometimes wonder if they’d be filling the hall for Shostakovich symphonies were it not for the charisma of the conductor.   

We have had lots of 'The Lark Ascending' and the 'Tallis Fantasia', but apart from one performance of the VW 9th Symphony, none of his less familiar works.

Is it quite as bad as that?  In the ten years I've been back here I can certainly remember a Sea Symphony and a 5th (and perhaps a 4th as well).  And we've recently had Elgar 2nd Symphony and Tchaikovsky 2nd PC - neither of which I'd heard in ages.  I agree that the programming is too conservative but we do get some rarities - and no small number of premieres - now and then.

*I heard they’re back soon.  Do any of you insiders have details?

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 19, 2015, 09:35:22 am »
I went last night. There were murmurs of disappointment about Lewsi's absence from people sitting near me, but at least they hadn't stayed away. I enjoyed the concert, even the Schumann which isn't really my taste.

I thought the performance of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik was exemplary - very impressed with Thelma Handy's direction, and the standard of strings playing. I've always had a fondness for this piece since playing it in the school orchestra about a hundred years ago.

The Mozart concerto was less successful, I thought. Collins (who I was prepared to give the benefit of the doubt) just didn't seem to have the touch needed for this kind of music, though his direction of the orchestra was perfectly all right.

The Schumann was a different matter, an excellent performance. Collins was clearly much more at home in this sort of repertoire. The audience was very enthusiastic, certainly not giving any impression that he was an unwelcome guest. A lot of people stood up to applaud - not a gesture I approve of!

Good to see you reporting again, Mary.  I'm afraid I didn't mention the Mozart concerto as I didn't really have anything to say about it.  My experience certainly tallied with yours - in that I found the Schumann more impressive than the Mozart - but probably my reasons were rather different.  Perhaps this is not surprising because a little googling reveals that he has recorded the complete piano works of RS for Claves, so he obviously has a liking for them:

As for Thelma, I have little doubt she did a good job but I couldn't see what she was actually doing (contrast with Collins whose hands, when not on the keyboard, seemed to have been possessed by the spirit of John McCririck).  She undoubtedly has authority - as I've seen many times at 10/10 concerts, especially in the pieces for smaller ensembles when Clark Rundell is not in front of the players - but as a non-musician I'm not at all sure how she's directing. 

A lot of people stood up to applaud - not a gesture I approve of!
Why is that? (As HtoHe will confirm, it's fairly standard practice in the Netherlands.)

I can indeed confirm that, Selva, but I'm English enough to find it a little excessive.  The convention of keeping standing ovations for exceptional performances strikes me as a worthwhile one.  That said, and although there was no s.o. on Wednesday, I thought Collins's Schumann - especially in the exceptional circumstances of his having been called up at the eleventh hour - was pretty close to justifying one.  I even found myself wondering if there would be applause after the first movement (there wasn't) and thinking it might be one of the rare occasions when such applause actually was spontaneous.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 18, 2015, 06:50:31 pm »
I know what you mean Selva but then some performers choose to specialise in unusual repertoire and make a career out of that - and I'd make time to see, say, Joanna MacGregor making a case for an obscure composer precisely because I know her style of advocacy and love it.  If she had to cancel and was replaced by someone I'd never heard of I'd probably be mightily disappointed.  Also, I do think it's valuable to listen to performers who have absorbed classics no matter how often they are played.

Perhaps a more worrying sign is that it's easier to find a story about Lewis's injury than a review of Collins's concert!

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 18, 2015, 02:38:04 pm »
Well, it’s a simple matter of fact that almost nobody will have booked to see Finghin Collins – though the warmth of the reception before he played a note suggests that it’s not exactly true that nobody really wanted to see him.  Despite the famous Liverpool loyalty to ‘their own’, the thousand or so who attended last night’s concert weren’t going to let disappointment at Paul Lewis’s enforced absence stop them showing their appreciation for a fine performance. 

While I, too, find it unfortunate that some people won’t give unknowns a chance I agree with Mary that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to see a particular performer.   After all, what’s the point of trying to develop a career if it doesn’t encourage people to want to see you in particular?  I just love the Schumann concerto so much that I was happy to listen to more or less any professional giving it a go but there’s no doubt that the Lewis name was a big draw for a lot of people – his picture was on the cover of the programme (which deals with three concerts) and he is Artist in Residence for 2014/15.   And, of course, the website still has a blurb about Lewis (along with all the other errors) on the page for tonight’s repeat and he was still shown as soloist when I looked at the Echo online this morning.

I wondered if we’d get coachloads from Manchester wandering around looking bemused and muttering ‘they told us it was Paul Lewis plays Sondheim’; but no such luck!

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 18, 2015, 12:02:57 am »
Yes, big disappointment, which is rather hard on Mr Collins (whose name is unfamiliar to me) - it must be horrible to come onstage knowing nobody really wants to see you.

No need to worry, Mary.  Finghin Collins seemed to take it all in his stride and received generous applause at the start and fervent (‘generous’ no longer seems appropriate as it was richly deserved) applause at the end.  There were quite a few empty seats downstairs but no really embarrassing gaps.  My advice to anyone thinking of handing in their ticket for tomorrow’s repeat on account of Paul Lewis’s unfortunate absence would be to think again.  Lewis might have given a better reading of the Schumann concerto but I can’t really imagine how.  Collins provided everything I expect from a good performance of one of my favourite concertos.  His interpretation was thoughtful, assured and authoritative – as could be inferred by the fact that several members of the orchestra were nodding in what must surely have been admiration during the first movement cadenza.  As for directing from the keyboard I’m rather less convinced.   For one thing the Schumann is a very odd piece for a pianist to conduct.  Whilst there are a few passages, especially in the third movement, where orchestra and pianist play pass the parcel most of the striking orchestral touches – from the keening woodwind in the first movement through to the drum roll near the end – happen while the soloist’s hands are on the keyboard.  I’d guess that most of the work is done in rehearsal except in this case there can’t have been much rehearsal time so I presume it was just the RLPO making a good job of a piece most professional musicians must know intimately.  Collins certainly gestured busily when he wasn’t tickling the ivories but to my inexpert eyes that looked more like reaction than direction.  To sum up, though, the end result was impressive and I certainly wouldn’t have been disappointed if I’d heard the same from Paul Lewis. 

As for Thelma Handy directing the Mozart serenade and Mendelssohn string symphony I imagine the work really was done in rehearsal as, apart from nodding to set things in motion I really couldn’t see what kind of direction she was giving.  Admittedly I couldn’t see her face from my seat so I suppose some facial gestures might have gone a long way but I didn’t see her hands address anything other than her fiddle.  However it was done, though, it was effective.  Neither piece does a lot for me but Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik as the RLPO website has it sounded crisp and jaunty and String Symphony No.2 in D by the very young Felix Mendelssohn also had its charms. 

The programme is a rather unwieldy one requiring. as it does, two major platform changes as the piano is wheeled on, off and on again.  To my relief, though, the order is not as shown in the (frankly, appalling) online listing.  I was seriously thinking of leaving early if they followed the brilliant Schumann concerto with the insubstantial Mendelssohn ‘symphony’ to finish the evening.  In fact, the Schumann is the last piece played – as shown in the paper programme but contrary to the order shown on the website.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 17, 2015, 02:21:09 pm »
I see Paul Lewis has pulled out of his week's concerts and Finghin Collins takes his place.  Without wishing to be rude to Mr Collins this is going to be a huge disappointment to many people who booked for the concerts.  I must confess to a slight disappointment myself as Lewis's name on the programme is pretty much a guarantee of a fine performance - but it's still the Schumann concerto and, to be honest, I'd have been likely to book for that whoever was playing.  More irritating is yet another display of incompetence from the admin people who have, at the top of the page, the information that Liverpool Philharmonic regrets to announce that pianist Paul Lewis has had to withdraw from this concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra due to a hand injury....  while at the bottom of the page the blurb Any star pianist can play up a storm in a great concerto; part of what makes Paul Lewis so special is his love of collaboration – of pooling his musicianship with friends and colleagues in search of a deeper musical truth. This exquisite programme finds him stepping forward as first amongst equals to direct and perform Mozart’s very personal concerto: exactly as Amadeus would have done himself..... is left unedited.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 15, 2015, 02:23:48 pm »
I was sitting next to the boyfriend of a choir member and heard the same thing, Mary.  I was unable to find verification (why I thought I might find such information online I don't really know) so didn't mention it in my report.  But as you heard the same thing it would appear to be true.  I couldn't say whether VP looked shattered or if I just expected him to look drained because of what I'd heard.  What is indisputable, though, is that the performance - indeed the fact that it took place at all with him on the podium - was a tribute to his dedication and professionalism.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: June 13, 2015, 11:38:41 pm »
I was very moved by tonight’s performance of The Dream of Gerontius and, to judge by the applause I was far from alone in that.  Vasily Petrenko’s affinity for Elgar was again in evidence and the RLP choir was in great voice.  I thought tenor Toby Spence faltered a couple of times in Part 1 but there were no similar fluffs after the interval.  Baritone Roderick Williams was pretty much faultless and very impressive – though, of course, the baritone has much less to do.  Mezzo Madeleine Shaw- standing in for the indisposed Karen Cargill – was also very fine.  Finally, the orchestra itself was as good as I've heard it this season - ie very good.  The power of Elgar’s score needs no advocacy from me, though I should mention that I spoke to two people at the interval who had never heard it live before and they were bowled over by it.  I understand that the RLPO originally planned to perform the piece without a break (it is rather uneven, with Part 2 being nearly twice as long as Part 1) but they changed the plan (perhaps because of the forecast hot weather?) and inserted an interval.  Strangely the applause for Part 1 began long before the conductor’s hands were by his sides but at the end the full respectful silence was observed before the lengthy applause began. Perhaps the only real negative of the evening was that, yet again, the estimated finishing time was way out.  On the website it says Please note the timings for this concert have changed.  The performance will now feature an interval and is due to finish at approximately 9.20 pm  In fact it was 2135 before the applause even began.  This is really not good enough and almost certainly costing them audience members.  It's not as if the discrepancy is down to unforeseeable circumstances.  There were no encores and the Part 1 applause was 2 minutes, if that. 

News and Current Affairs / Re: Fagin & Dracula
« on: June 13, 2015, 11:38:40 am »
Apologies for injecting a negative element into what should be a celebratory thread.

Most jazbos I know think Ornette can do no wrong so it's good to have his humanity and fallibility confirmed!  Interesting that the trumpet should feature in your story.  Didn't Miles Davis's famous spat with Coleman include a degree of anger on Miles's part for Ornette's straying from his proper instrument and disrespectfully picking up the sacred horn?  I'm pretty sure Ornette played both sax and trumpet when I saw him (Prime Time gig at the RFH in the mid-1990s) and I enjoyed it well enough.  But then I know nothing about technique - or, indeed, theory; relying like any decent Englishman, on my enjoyment of the noise the musicians make.  I still haven't listened to the Live in Milano disc I bought a few weeks ago (no trumpet listed for that!) and I'm planning to give that a spin tomorrow.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Fagin & Dracula
« on: June 11, 2015, 07:53:51 pm »
How sad.  Ornette is the only one of the four I actually saw live – and what a fine experience it was.

I was thinking that tomorrow’s Last Word on R4 was going to struggle to fit everyone in when up popped this evening’s Front Row with tributes to three of the four:


News and Current Affairs / Re: Fagin & Dracula
« on: June 11, 2015, 03:07:49 pm »
Yes, of course I realise he did far more than Dracula but the Count will dog his footsteps, yay, even into the afterlife.

Lord Summerisle is the one that will stay in my memory.  And, I'm told, he could have been a half decent opera singer if he'd chosen that as a career.  I know Ron Moody less well but it seems he seldom got cast as Mr Nice Guy either, having been Uriah Heep as well as Fagin.

For those who believe these things come in threes, let's remember James Last.  Being, frankly, dismissive of almost all the stuff I'd heard from him I was surprised to find his name on a disc of excerpts from Die Dreigroschenoper that I picked up about 15 years ago and which is not at all as awful as one might expect.


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