The hiccups returned this evening at a naturally inconvenient point at the Sheldonian Theatre during the concerto competition final. Sorry! Although normally people laugh when I hiccup, particularly given the volume, and I reckon that if people are at a concert they wish to be entertained and if they’re laughing at me then I’m entertaining them so actually my hiccuping presence is a bonus, I really didn’t want to put off the soloists!
I could claim that I didn’t enter the competition because I am older than 18, the age limit for entrants, but although this would be a valid reason, it is not true. I didn’t enter, quite simply, because I would have been nowhere near good enough! Also my nerves surrounding performance are awful, so as well as being enthralled by the music that the three finalists played, I was in massive admiration of their confidence to stand up and play. I’m very happy speaking in front of any number of people but not playing! Anyhow, all of these matters combined I was really looking forward to being impressed by my esteemed peers!
Perhaps the best aspect of the concert was the repertoire: Liebermann’s Flute Concerto, Strauss’ Horn Concerto and Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Both the flute and violin concertos had rather extravagant orchestration, with contrabassoons, a vibraphone and gong featured, among many other exciting instruments. I must say, given the chance to play any concerto with an orchestra I’d certainly give them a chance to employ as many musicians as possible and empty out the full instrument cupboard onto the stage. Not only are these beautiful and actually very exciting pieces which were beautifully performed, but they are very rarely programmed. In fact, all of the bearded and bespectacled speakers tonight said that not only had they never heard any of these pieces before in concert, they had not seen them on a concert program and actually hadn’t heard them before this evening. In the spirit of positivity, I shan’t rant about the tedium and infuriating barriers of the musical canon but celebrate the fact that tonight I did hear some truly amazing music. Of course, there were some faults, and mainly these were that the orchestra seemed to be relatively unenthusiastic, making little effort to really reap the full potential in each phrase and squeeze all the juice out that it had going, and most annoyingly just drowned out a fantastically complex passage in the flute solo, but I still would describe it as amazing.
I don’t intend to go into super-cheesy mode but it really excited me that given the opportunity, some of the best performers of ‘my generation’ chose to play less familiar works, things which were slightly off the radar. I know that there are all sorts of concert hall norms and traditions providing brick walls in many directions (see William Weber, I’m too tired to get into it now…maybe another day!) but I really hope that future concerts are filled with this sort of programming.
And now I’ve finished rambling, listen to some Korngold, Liebermann and Richard Strauss (ie the not the waltzes one…)