Monday, June 16, 2008

They Can See That He's Just a Fool

So I was in London over the weekend to visit my friend Alice. But since my blogging (and there's been plenty of me-blogging since May, hasn't there?) has been generally limited to reporting concert-goings, I think I'll remained limited to that scope (except I will mention that I think I did a pretty good sweep of things typically-British: visited a city farm, did some blacksmithing, hit a couple of pubs, drank some ale, ate some chips (and actually, I must admit, since this is the most tragic thing to happen to my vegetarianism in the entire nearly five years of its duration, that I ate some number (not a small number) of chips that had been cooked in beef fat, having not known until after the fact that they had been cooked in beef fat - I don't reckon that it signals a total collapse of my vegetarianism (I continued to drink my lattes and cappucinos soy during the remainder of the weekend), but having some large number of Brits laughing at me (along with the near-hysterical laughter of my ever-supportive friend) (and all the Brits were horn players (that's right, I went to a private London horn players party (one of the legends of London horn playing was retiring))) really amplified the disgrace of it), rode a double-decker bus, rode the Tube).

But I did see Bernard Haitink (I'm not the type to collect the names of all the famous conductors I've seen, but I will admit to be happy to have seen Haitink conduct in person as well (and I'm pretty sure I have seen license plates from all 50 US States)) conduct the London Symphony Orchestra playing some R. Strauss songs - song by Dame Felicity Lott, who was really really good - and Dick's Heldenleben as well (Mozart's 25th was also on the program, but we were late to the concert). So that's pretty cool, since the LSO is world-class (generally mentioned in the discussions that happen now in then amongst me and other concert-goers in Berlin of what the Top 3-5 World Orchestras are), and I'd never seen Haitink conduct before. He's really little. Did you know that? I know people shrink in their old age, but he is a seriously tiny dude.

R. Strauss's writing for the female voice is of course amazing - the songs were just a grab bag, but well ordered and amazingly executed. His "Hero's life," though, will never be one of my favorite pieces of music (no matter how often I find myself singing the theme that I think is first introduced by the flutes at some point, but which I hear as trumpets when I sing it but I refuse to look up what it represents, since I just think it sounds cool and dislike what the music "means" in Strauss's own rubric for it). H-leben is an excellent way to hear and orchestra play really well, even if the music is a let-down. And the LSO pretty well nailed it.

Very fun to hear a London orchestra live too, since to this point I'd only ever heard them on recordings. Especially after hearing only German orchestras since the beginning of May, it's good to be reminded that there are other sound profiles out there. If they had been playing a piece of music that I like more, I'm sure I'd be gushing way more, but as it is I guess that's all I've got to say about that.

(And, to report, although I did not see any of Brancusi's Birds in Space, I did see one of his Fishes (which is also an amazing sculpture).)


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