Thursday, August 29, 2013

John Adams conducting John Adams

August has been another busy month in a busy year. By the end of August I have almost done the same hours behind a bass as the whole of 2012. By the end of the year I will have done 300 hours more than the previous year. Busy indeed.

But I am not complaining - the music scene in Australia is under financial pressure, but its so much better off that other countries. Am an determined to enjoy it while it lasts and while my body stands up to the strain.

The end of my MSO contract saw a mamoth festival of Russian music with Deigo Matheuz, a real star for the future. We did three programs in a week, featuring Stravinsky (Firebird, Petroushka and the Rite) and Tchiakovsky (Violin concerto with Baiba Skride and her amazing Strad, Roccoco Variations with Li Wei Qin (wow) and the first Piano Concerto with Nikolia Demidenko). Sixteen calls in 9 days almost killed me.

After a week off, and lots of physio, it was back to Hobart for a program of Mozart and Britten with the Tasmanian Symphony. And Barba was there too, this time playin the Britten concerto.

And this week we have had the amazing pleasure of John Adams conducting his own music. Adams is rightly respected as one of the best composers of a generation - it was an amazing privilege to work with him. And for one so talented and famous, he is remarkably humble and gracious on the podium. His music is very difficult, both in terms of notes and tricky rhythms. He told a story of a muso in the US once telling him he would go to hell, and be put in a room to play all the parts he has written over the years!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A month with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra - from the Germans to the Russians


In mid July Alexander Shelley and Colin Currie popped over from the UK to do a program of Rouse and Wagner. Wagner is all the rage this year, as its 200 years since his birth. Verdi too was born in 1813, but is getting nothing like the same airplay. Der Gerettete Alberich by Rouse is a groovy piece, involving every toy in a percussionists toybox and quite a few motivs from the Ring, especially ones involving Alberich, of course. I have been listening to the Ring on Spotify (which is changing my life, its awesome) so am getting to know my Alberichs from my Mimes!! Anyway, its a good piece, if tricky. And the second half had an orchestral "reduction" of Trsitan and Isolde - it was still over an hour! My first gig with Opera Australia was Tristan, back in 2001 - and it was 5:45!! Powerful music.

Next we had the remarkable Simone Young conducting the Last Days of Socrates by Brett Dean, and Mahler 5. Wow. All Bretts music is difficult - this was no exception. We have to use timp sticks in a number of places, and the percussionsts use a bass bow on the cymbals - role reversal time! Brett came and joined the viola section for Mahler 5 - what an wonderful piece that is. Its been a year of doing pieces for the first time for me, and remarkably I had never done Mahler 5 before.

Last week was my first quiet week in the contract - with the exception of Til Eulenspiegel, I was rostered off the rest of the program of Strauss arias and Mozart. Til was fun. I like Fritsch - he was very good to me some years ago when I was principal bass with OV for the first time, in a program with a huge bass solo. Til was fun, and so too was going home at 8.14 after a very short nights work!

Another anniversary about to be commemorated is the Rite of Spring being 100 years old.

Photo - MSO Melbourne Festival marketing