Monday, November 24, 2008

We are, after all, unfortunately human...

I just heard the sad news that Richard Hickox, current Music Director of Opera Australia, passed away suddenly following a heart attack.

Although I never had the privelege of meeting him, his reputation as a fine musician will stand for a long time in my mind, and in the minds of many of this country's operagoers. Hopefully the current controversy can be put aside for now as the opera community turns their thoughts to his family in this sad time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Du temps et de l'instant

Hesperion XXI live is an experience I will never forget. I've been a fan for some time, but I wasn't expecting quite the level of sublimity that was bestowed upon we, the lucky audience in the City Recital Hall last night. If I could stay a little longer, I would be there for the second concert on Saturday night - different program. That being impossible, however, I shall simply bask in the lasting afterglow of a supreme musical experience.

If angels have voices, I imagine they sound rather like Arianna and Ferran Savall. Such glorious purity of tone, musical intensity, and absolute rightness of expression. Sometimes, and it is rare, I experience a musical event that does not disturb my sensibilities in any way, because it is so completely right and perfect in itself. This concert was one such event. Jordi Savall's viol playing is so refined and beautiful, his sound tugging at the very centre of the soul. I was disappointed to find out that Montserrat Figueras was ill and unable to travel to Australia... however this disappointment didn't last long as the delights contained in the program, even without her, were immense.

Special mention must be made of Pedro Estevan's percussion. An unwavering sense of rhythm, inventiveness, and personality. What really struck me about this ensemble was the unity of purpose, whilst still maintaining the individual strengths of the members.

I have had the haunting melody of Arianna Savall's La Salve coursing through my veins since leaving the concert hall last night. The warm, crystalline purity of her voice, combined with the dulcet tones of her harp are wonders to behold. There is something very human about the music Hesperion XXI chooses to perform - both ancient and modern. The ancient is surprisingly modern, whilst the modern carries within it the essence of ancient humanity.

I wouldn't believe I'm the only person in the audience who fell a little in love with Ferran Savall, either... he's a little bit too gorgeous to be such a masterful theorbist and have that voice as well. Not to mention his composition, a vocalise entitled Jaroslaw, was spellbindingly beautiful.

Driss El Maloumi proved a masterful Oud player, and Dmitri Psonis enthralled whenever he took up his instruments. However, the evening's laurels really belong to the patriarch, the spellbinding Jordi Savall. Undoubtedly, the highlight of this concert were his Variations sur O Sonjal. Absolute mastery of his instrument, and a way of speaking directly to the heart and soul of the listener. The final pizzicato phrases were a marvel in their sonority, a few moments of pure magic. This is what music is all about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I can't shake it either.

I love my classical music enormously. Yet sometimes a break is needed, even from one's dearest love...
I love good pop music. And no, that is not an oxymoron. My latest interest is Kate Miller-Heidke (who used to be an opera singer, which = WIN). Anyone who sings a hilarious song about not being able to dance (Can't Shake It) which includes the lyric "I don't really qualify for breakdancing, I just break it..." has got my vote. Admitting through song that you can't dance? That's just awesome. There's also an adorably quirky song about just wanting to ride on this guy's motorscooter (NOT a euphemism, I'm sure), and how it's not that cool because he's just so metrosexual... it cracks me up. I love it. Complete with zooming and beeping noises. There's also the fabulous song that says "If you're God's gift to women, then God got it wrong!" Love it. Love love love it. Mainly because it's so TRUE. I see men like that every time I go out, and it's just sad. About time someone called them on it.
Quirky and fabulous isn't all she does. There are beautiful, heartfelt songs as well. My personal fave of these is about a boy she went to school with, who was thought of as a bit of a weirdo... but she befriended him and then when he got beat up and hassled for having no friends, she didn't stand up for him, now knows better, and is sorry. It's lovely. Again, it's just so true and real and... well, it's life.
I think what I like most about Kate Miller-Heidke is that she just seems like a real person, flaws and all. I loved her first album, but I think the second is perhaps even better.
So, it's my soundtrack of choice at the moment. It's replaced Soile Isokoski's Strauss Orchestral Songs, which in turn replaced Martha Argerich's Debut Recital disc.
I love music. That's all.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

On reflection, and hearing the radio broadcast

I do love when my initial impressions are confirmed on second hearing. I listened, of course, to the Mathy Awards broadcast on the radio yesterday. It was fabulous for many reasons - one of the best being that I could hear Shane Lowrencev's singing FAR better, and I loved it. What an utterly fabulous voice and such intelligence in his singing!

Anyway. The radio microphone has a way of amplifying defects that may not be heard in the theatre. This was interesting. Sitiveni Talei came through this process relatively unscathed. A few short-breathed phrases aside (and everyone suffered from this - nerves are a nasty thing and entirely forgiveable!), his sound was rich and warm the whole way through, and the lovely musical phrasing was just as much in evidence. I liked his Papageno aria even better on second hearing.

Sometimes, when I hear music performed really well, I just smile and I can't stop smiling. This happened to me yesterday.

I shall be discreet about what I thought of the second singer, and simply say that she sounded an awful lot better from further away. The other two were polished and lovely. Sky Ingram seemed to be flatter in pitch than I remember hearing - perhaps the radio microphone wasn't picking up some of the higher overtones in the voice. Not sure. All the same, I enjoyed the Mathy Awards immensely on second listening. Still 100% behind their choice of winner, too! What a talented guy with a fabulous voice and huge potential for the future!