Edinburgh News: music
Po Na Nas last week gathered a few known names on the Edinburgh music scene for a Battle of the Bands, where the winner of the event will play at a new Indie night, ‘Edit’, when it moves to the Liquid Room on Sundays.
As a child I don’t suppose I was alone in pondering heaven and hell and wondering how it was decided which I should end up in at my death. John Henry Newman’s long poem, The Dream of Gerontius, is a dream just about that.
Thank goodness nobody has fiddled with the wonderful acoustics of the Usher Hall during its recent upgrading. It remains one of the great concert halls and fittingly so for a city so highly regarded around the world for its festivals, of which classical music forms an enormously important part. There are still 2,200 seats and if standing is also allowed as many as 2,900 can be in the auditorium.
Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow brought warmth, enthusiasm and clarity to a recital designed to give further recognition of the work of Hans Gál. Turnabout they introduced each piece with fascinating details that even the specialist audience may not have known. Nor, but not quite turnabout, were they working the same end of the Yamaha’s keyboard for each piece.
After the setbacks and the multi-million pound cost over-runs, the new wing at the Usher Hall is ready to be unveiled to the world. From tomorrow people will be able to explore the much-awaited new addition to the grade A-listed building, which completes the £25 million, second phase of refurbishment of the Lothian Road concert hall.
English folk musician Kate Rusby, who won a Mercury prize nomination with her 1999 album Sleepless, headlines the eighth Ceilidh Culture, Edinburgh's festival of traditional music and culture, which runs 26 March to 18 April. Rusby, reckoned to be one of the most talented contemporary folkies around, plays at the recently re-opened Usher Hall (18 April).
Berlioz has a reputation for grandiose pieces, involving a multitude of musicians, but L’Enfance du Christ is different. Written in 1853/54 for a chamber orchestra and small chorus it is an expose of exquisite musical minimalism.
The U.K. premiere of Michael Daugherty’s Deus ex Machina was cannily placed between two firm favourites, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5. Previously unheard music is not a crowd-puller. But Daugherty is a well respected American composer, describing himself as originally a lounge bar pianist, who was born in 1954.
We welcomed to the podium Sir Andrew Davis who, for the past nine years, has been the Music Director and Principal Conductor of Lyric Opera of Chicago, but much of his career has been with symphony orchestras around the world. Indeed, it began as an assistant conductor in Glasgow.
Familiarity breeds contentment! When nearly everybody in your audience not only remembers the ending, but nearly every scene, then the director and cast have to be at their best to meet expectations. This production of The Sound of Music rises to that challenge, and exceeds it.
This was an evening of French music and the full house included our bejewelled Lord Provost and his entourage.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert at the Queen's Hall was led by renowned Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras. The orchestra and he work particularly well together - last May they were awarded the Critics' Award at the 2009 Classical Brit Awards for their recording of Mozart's Symphonies 38 - 42 and last night's concert began with another Mozart Symphony, No 35 in D major, the Haffner Symphony.
This year in Vienna their Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated the New Year under the baton of a distinguished elderly French conductor. Whilst we in Edinburgh had the good fortune to have a young Austrian conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. David Danzmayr is in his third year as the RSNO’s assistant conductor.
Madness. Madness, they call it, madness.They’re right. Princes Street at New Year is beyond madness, it is insanity.
In this pre-Christmas week the RSNO tours Scotland’s concert halls, but only the Usher Hall shows its festive mood with two large Christmas trees at either side of the stage. So said Christopher Bell, our exuberant conductor whose sequined shoes glistened in front of the red tops of the ladies of the orchestra and white jackets of the men.
A Deerhoof song generally tends not to follow a straightforward, linear curve. They crash to halts almost as soon as beginning, before picking themselves up and careering off in other, suddenly more exciting directions. Then they bolt off somewhere new and elsewhere entirely. Twin guitars springboard around each other in full atonal axe mode, while the drummer seems to be on the verge of constantly exploding at his kit.
The prospect of a rousing overture, the return of a brilliant young French violinist and a favourite symphony had most of the seats in the Usher Hall filled. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra was back under the command of its Music Director, Stéphane Denève, who had been conducting in North America for a few weeks. His exuberant talent of welcome and brief introduction to the music ahead was again clearly appreciated.
"It is a stunning show." EdinburghGuide.com's reviewer is rocked by We Will Rock You.
Vibrato was forbidden and the orchestra repositioned because, for this concert, Sir Roger Norrington was very much in charge. Speaking beforehand a double bassist who has been in the orchestra since 1974 said it had been one of the most interesting weeks of concert preparation in all his 35 years.
The elegant 17th century Canongate Kirk, situated in the Royal Mile, is a perfect location for a baroque concert and on Wednesday the Ludas Baroque Chamber Orchestra, founded and conducted by Richard Neville-Towle (the church organist), performed Bach's Christmas Oratorio.