The Fortnight in Passing #1
Let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way. School was supposed to be a killer but I survived it by being mostly uninvolved. DFD SDL and Practical-Theory (oxymoron?) MCQs, Patho CA2, and the final boss Pharmaco CA3. After that very nice finale I went home to rewatch Toradora! It’s awesome and I don’t really care what you say unless it agrees with that sentiment.
Now the meat of it all! First up is a short update on SWF. Assessments were held today, and overall the 2nd and 3rd attempts were not ideal, perhaps it was psychological or otherwise but disappointment shrouded the competitive team. Nonetheless, great progress was made IMHO so jiayou to all in the coming competitions.
My shoulder(s) has(have) finally popped back to relatively normalcy (from the right one hurting to the left and finally now it’s more or less tolerating the crap I’m putting it through.
Squats 90kg 3×5 (Starting to be able to progress, need to sit back more)
DL 85kg 1×5 (Had to relearn technique)
Press 38kg 3×5 (Weak shoulders)
Bench 58kg 3×5 (going for 60 rawr)
Cleans 40kg Doing for technique, 40 is quite doable as of today
Ashkenazy + SSO, Rach 2 with Andaloro – 4th Nov
Gala concert, due to a twist of fate I acquired one single ticket from K Yong at a discount so thanks again to him. Short concert consisting of Rach 2nd Piano Concerto and Tchaik 4th Symphony.
Andaloro, despite the (otherwise lame) youtube comments which criticised his tendency to rush tempi, was dazzling without being overly showy. His string of competition golds were backed by pure substance, crystal clear notes, and the ability to rise above the orchestra even during tutti sections. My short description of his playing was “Italian, in the best way possible”, which was basically not the traditional “Russian” sound expected of Rachmaninov. It sounded as though Rachmaninov had met Mendelssohn and argued over a cup of tea.
Described as “some of the most lyrical pianism thought possible” by Chang Tou Liang, I personally felt Andaloro nonetheless hit terra firma in the 3rd movement where he unleashed whatever he had restrained (and indeed the 2nd movement was controlled, as luxuriously as allowable) in the first 2 movements for an exciting and rousing finale.
Never had I imagined that Rach 2 could actually sound so jazzy. The very refined rendition of Widmung (unfortunately when he introduced the piece I heard “teacher”, “transcribed” and “dedication”) was the icing on the cake, and anyone foolish enough to dismiss his playing should procure a new pair of ears –
The Tchaik 4 was thoroughly exciting, despite Ashkenazy’s strokes being sometimes overzealous and hard to read (personally). CTL’s point about the tempo extremes was helped by the fact that Ashkenazy did demand the extremes from very clear body language, and was close to dancing in certain dramatic sections (author’s note: =P). When the audience failed to cease their applause, he got the orchestra to bow, probably twice, just to make us stop.
Mixed Metaphors: Modern Music by YST – 9th Nov
Jon Lee played the solo viola for Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel, which reminded me of Arvo Part and Fratres. The dissonances were made palatable (even softened) by the ethereal texture and the viola blended into the ensemble much better than a violin or cello would have. After a while, the brain’s natural tendency to phase out and filter unchanging stimuli gave the aural universe a slightly hallucinatory feel that was finally broken by the short and once-repeated melody on the viola, immediately before the end. Perhaps a tribute to his childhood friend Mark Rothko, who did paintings in the chapel, CTL’s description that ”its contemplative thirty minutes passed for a seemingly far shorter duration of time” might have reflected the serenity and the gentleness of letting go, embodied in the sole written direction “very, very simply” for the viola melody.
Frankly, this author felt that the other 2 pieces did not really strike a chord (no pun intended) with him. Nonetheless, the Concerto Concioso by Thomas Ades seemed like the composer couldn’t wait to put in rests and thus made all the instruments’ entries all in a lump. When I was enquiring of Jon Lee I went somewhere along the lines of “it could be… longer” when I meant “not so squashed” but was misinterpreted as being someone who relished in the torture of little animals. Despite the weirdness of it all the images it evoked were that of the modern, urban world, with everything in a frenzy and the beauty of tone being drowned out by excessive busyness.
P.S. The instrumentalists could have responded better to the pre-performance tuning or skipped it in the first place. Having the A being repeated on the piano with no one seeming to care was quite a turn-off.
Varese’s Deserts was accompanied by Bill Viola’s (hurhur) film which contained interesting nature shots and an inexplicable slow motion of a man having his breakfast and then knocking the cutlery and vessels to the floor, finally plunging into a hitherto undistinguished pool of water. The music was film-worthy, combining both live and recorded parts, but generally fit in a horror-movie atmosphere. Apparently the burning house scene synched well with the music. I liked the lightning scenes though. /weirdness bias
P.P.S Dinner (Supper/Dessert for the rest) at Thai Express outperformed my expectations, thanks to the soft-shell crab rice recommendation from Jon Lee again. There were a bunch of girls celebrating a birthday, and it was an amusing experience when the waitress delivered 4 sets of cutlery and 3 serviettes when Jon Lee’s dessert came with a dessert spoon.
Elegaiac Elgar: Urbanski + SSO, Elgar Violin Concerto with Tasmin Little – 11th Nov
My favourite Violin Concerto! Next to Sibelius’. The Threnody “to the victims of Hiroshima” was slightly less frightening live, due to the less intense and softer opening that the recorded version I heard amped indiscriminately but to great effect. The resultant sound provoked a more introspective response rather than that of abject horror, equal parts of “why”, “oh no” and “what next” with smatterings of curious techniques like instrument hitting and tailpiece-bowing (which is largely inaudible, frankly, but visually interesting).
Tasmin Little’s rendition. How should I start… after being mentally prepared for the possibility of technical slips, my apprehension was immediately dispelled by her entrance, replete with the most indulgent tone and control thereof. She takes the idea of the “note”, shapes it like a fine handicraft, and presents each and every one like gifts to the audience, each transition in between like a ribbon – but each unique. I was almost sorry to hear the fiendish double stop runs disappearing somewhere in the middle, and amidst the minimal and forgivable technical slips (which elucidated the un-disposable nature of the virtuosic runs unlike in certain other concertos) I was keenly aware of myself hoping that the runs were note perfect while acknowledging that I couldn’t possibly be lucky enough to have my cake and eat it.
P.S. There was an accelerando towards the end of the 1st movement (I believed), the exact section of which I can’t quite remember, which was one of the most exciting and emotionally charged moments I’ve had in a concert.
Having vented that complaint, Little’s prowess on the lower strings and on the “line” came into full glory in the 2nd movement, during which the high notes elicited physiologically spontaneous shivers, and the high positions on the G string made me reflect on my lack of practice due to the sheer beauty (and further possibilities) associated with it. This time I realised just how long the movements were and how ignorant I was of the structure since I kept getting lost in the interludes that are probably the crux of the work, which is sometimes interpreted as a gift of love from Elgar or a vessel which he poured his soul into (the latter he actually declared). Seeing as to how daydreams are made of stuff that also makes up the soul, the wanderings BEYOND the structure were probably the messages which were in the medium.
The 3rd movement (yep I devoted several more paragraphs to this, not least because its ~50 minutes long and immensely liked by me) came out more brilliant than I imagined. It was during this movement that I realised just how difficult the writing made the solo part – the key, register, flow of passages, shifting etc. I’ve seen the score and was taken aback at the sheer number of accidentals, on the double stops, runs etc. It reads like a terror to the soloist but sounds like, well, a romantic plot, the tumultuous part being this movement. The extended cadenzas and interludes reminiscing themes from the 1st 2 movements were treated with utmost care from Little, who was supposedly using her Strad instead of the Guadagnini, while the programme booklet stated otherwise. She ended with great drive worthy of the applause, and after the concerto was drained but pleased, and rightfully so.
Personally I thought the violin solo got drowned out and initially blamed it on her choice of instrument, an argument which didn’t really hold water if she really was using the Strad. Her tone was full but a little subdued, perhaps due to technique, or the place we were sitting at, or due to the orch smothering her at tutti sections. Perhaps I was conditioned to Andaloro’s pianistic dominance over the SSO and failed to realise that Elgar’s Vln Conc was really not so kind to the solo in so many ways that projection was one of the quicksand quagmires that unfortunately bogged down this performance in places.
Moving on the Mendelssohn’s 4th and final Symphony, the “Italian”, the tempo and shaping was brilliant and brilliantly Mendelssohnian was the sound evinced by the orch. This performance reminded me just how simple Mendelssohn sounds and how difficult it is to play, from contrapuntal and dialogue-based running note passages to rich unadulterated lyricism, my short description on Facebook seems to encapsulate the un-capture-able nature of Mendelssohn’s writing –
“sounds like a fairy and plays like a demon”
From the majestic first movement with the impossibly simple-sounding but hellish to play repeated notes from the winds, to sections that evoke the Overture and crazy Scherzo of Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Basso Continuo-like line that ran through the whole 2nd movement, theWedding March like fanfares of the 3rd, and the last movement that sounds like an impossible chase through the woods of central Europe, the entire work was “canned whoopass”, to quote a forgotten but amusing description of the Flashbang grenade in a long-forgottend guide to Counterstrike. Compact, small, and deadly, it was nonetheless as brilliant as a chilli padi, and Urbanski’s beat-with-right and shape-with-left left little to be desired apart from an encore.