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Spirit of Contradiction

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Russia Exposed in The National Concert Hall

category national | arts and media | news report author Friday October 26, 2012 12:26author by Seán Crudden - imperoauthor email sean at impero dot iol dot ieauthor address Jenkinstown, Dundalk, Co. Louthauthor phone 0879739945 Report this post to the editors

Superlative Performance of a Super Program

Well it is a daunting task for a simple punter like me to attempt to write about Wednesday night's performance in The National Concert Hall by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; directed by Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhauskappellmeister; with Lynn Harrell, cello. The concert opened with Shostakovich, Cello Concerto No. 2 in G, Opus 126. Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Opus 27, was given after the interval. For me it was a once-in-a-lifetime event, the best orchestral concert I ever attended.

Lynn Harrell set the tone. Even when the orchestra was at its most dramatic and loudest the music retained its buoyancy and a light touch.

Reading the program and listening to the concerto a few thoughts struck me about Shostakovich. One is conscious of something coming, as it were, from outside. Mute forces drawn up in the darkness outside pressing on the individual. Or in retreat. It is a sort of paranoia. Something one cannot pin down but which everyone understands. I do not think Shostakovich was taunting authority in his music but there is definitely something provocative there which is not totally humourless. That is probably the reason why, at times, Shostakovich was seen as a musical untouchable in his native home. But it really is the trick of a supreme storyteller. Shostakovich, I think, and many other Russian artists of the Stalinist period were cultivated, sensitive, and extremely intelligent. Oistrakh is another that springs to mind. Appearances can be deceptive.

However there is no equivocation about Chailly's appearance. He is a fine figure of a man in his prime, athletic and obviously built to be a conductor.

In the symphony things in my estimation did not come from the outside in; they came from the inside out. One was simply conscious of the orchestra and music. Because of the unusual disposition of the orchestra and even though I had a good view from one of the best seats in the house on The Yellow Balcony I could not always decipher quickly where the music was coming from. However the over-riding impression I had was that the music was coming from the dead centre of the orchestra. "Did I hear it? Or was it imagination or what?" is what Red Jack Fedigan's housekeeper used to say to my mother about sounds she used to hear in the night. From a purely scientific point of view my impression was possibly caused by some kind of miracle of timing.

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