Oslo Philharmonic

Oslo Philharmonic

Students from the music school often wear a T-shirt that reads on the front:“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
On the back is the answer:“Practice, practice, practice…”

I would give my right hand to be allowed to play publicly anywhere, let alone to a paying audience. If I stand at one end of the spectrum and the students in the middle then, Andre Previn stands tall at the other end of it. I had the opportunity to listen to Previn conduct the Oslo Philharmonic with a special performance by Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Debussy - Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun (1892-94)

This is a great piece, rather ‘tone-poem’ based on Stephane Mallarme’s poem - l’après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun). The faun is a mythological creature who is half man and half goat; he is daydreaming about nymphs who may be real or mere figments of his imagination. He recalls past dreams, which emerge from the shadows only to recede into the darkness again. In the music the orchestral flute is given a solo part throughout and the melody can be instantly recognized if not clearly remembered. Like some impressionist paintings this impressionist piece of music is hazy and soft like a cloud.

Previn - Violin Concerto (2001-02)

This concerto also called ‘Anne-Sophie’ was written by Previn for the Boston Symphony Orchestra especially for Anne-Sophie Mutter, his muse and now his wife, to show her virtuosity on the instrument. It is also a story of his life –
“ …(and) harks back to early childhood memories, while speaking also of long-standing associations, both personal and professional, with friends and colleagues he holds dear – in short, a testament to relationships past, present, and future.”
(from the Program notes)

It was not as abstruse or modern (read: inaccessible) as I thought it would be. Thanks to Schoenberg and acolytes modern music (like modern art) sounds more noise than music and is incredibly hard to follow. Whatever the intrinsic merits of the piece, Ms. Mutter was ethereal and I, sitting in the cheap seats in the balcony can be believed, since up there you can’t be dazzled by her outfit, only her playing. (Many veterans agree that you hear better in the balcony thanks to resonance.) Her control is amazing and it was fascinating to hear the tremolos and her lovely feel for the instrument. A more traditional piece could have been more enjoyable but less likely to show her off.

R. Strauss - Ein Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

I absolutely loved this and since it was sort of program music i.e. music that has a theme that is written down it had a structure that all can follow (hence:appreciate). In this case, it was a ‘night – sunrise – ascent – descent – sunset – night piece’:

“…(in which) the score gives explicit indications of forests, meadows, glaciers, mountain peaks, and so on – but if we take everything only at face value and forget about the symbolic significance of these natural sights, we are likely to miss the whole point of the piece.”

Strauss used the instruments, the volume and their combination very beautifully - the harp announcing the waterfall, the use of the cowbell and triangle at the pastoral piece, and the rumble of the timpani for the thunder. There was a peculiar device that was used to make the whipping sound of the wind. Simply fantastic! Highly recommended listening.

For the first time I saw a performance without an encore: guess the grand old man was not up to it. The audience clapped and clapped, more appearances and more bows, but no music. Sad!

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