(2015 – ASO)
After champagne and real Turkish delight, and the annual re-run of Picnic at Hanging Rock, it was time to head through Adelaide’s February furnace to the Festival Theatre, where Arvo Volmer conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s version of a concert, curiously and incongruously entitled “Passionate Tchaikovsky”. We had the Russian composer’s Violin Concerto, with Ilya Gringolts sublime on lead violin, wearing a frock coat straight from Fiddler on the Roof. Written in 1878 to console its creator for the unfortunate and instantly-regretted decision to marry the loopy and self-centred Antonina Milyukova, the piece was not played till 1881 because of structural problems. “Passionate” as a hate piece rather than a romance, it seemed to TVC rather like ‘show-off’ film music, several flourishes justifying Hanslick’s critique that “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.” After this, Gringolts uncorked a Paganini turn – his violin was afire.
The 5th symphony was well done but as a composition, ’tis pity it’s a mess: neither here nor there, not knowing when it’s coming or going, like Tchaikovsky himself. Brilliants bits though.
The most satisfying part of the evening was a lovely rendering of the overture to Tannhäuser which somehow crept onto the programme, stuck on at the front as if in realisation that someone had to come up with actual romantic sounds, albeit, being Wagner, robustly orgiastic and orgasmic in nature. TVC was centre, back row stalls – this accommodates wheelchairs nicely but also meant we were unusually elevated, allowing the best view and greatest spot in which to embrace the uneven acoustics of a hall that needs a makeover as soon as the State can raise some money.*[*Note the recent article in The Adelaide Review where a dedicated concert hall is reported to be back on the schedule. ‘With tender green the barren staff is clothed again…’] [Another note: ASO has appointed Victorian Nicholas Carter as its principal conductor. Though only 29, he has an impressive CV, including assisting Simone Young in Hamburg in preparation for the Wagner bicentenary. And his taste is intact: he plans to open his innings with a turn by the Old Master (Die Walküre) and by an even older master, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. As a piece by Matthew Westwood in The Australian notes: never call him Maestro. So he is no Bob Cobb.]
Cezanne was moved by “the noble strains of Richard Wagner.” In 1866 he completed the painting that his friend Fortune Marion declared “belongs to the future as does Wagner’s music.”