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Urban Shocker's Neighbourhood Watch

TonyV

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Toronto Symphony Orchestra October 20th, 2011 (guest conductor Stephane Denéve).

This concert was not part of my TSO subscription series. An email promotion offered half price tickets, and I bit. The hall was packed with a high-quality audience. Quite glad that I went. This was a very interesting program if only because of a different approach to music-making. Different, but not necessarily better.

Stravinsky; Dumbarton Oaks (concerto for chamber orchestra)

A tiny orchestra of magnificent first-desk players was used to present this little three movement gem. A gorgeous performance.

Mozart Piano Concerto 16, D Major, with Lars Vogt playing the Steinway

I think Lars Vogt was overall quite good in this, even if his start was rough. In general, something was a tiny bit off, and my suspicion is that the conductor and the pianist have a differing view of the score. The piece itself is a charmer in a sneaky sort of way, with lots of complex runs for the piano. There are a couple of spots where all music making is paused; a deft touch by the composer, very well executed here by Vogt. The piece features the typical Mozart rhythm and pacing, then at the end it slips into a waltz - a couple of minutes in glorious 3/4 time. The audience did not give this performance a strong ovation. The reason, I believe, is that there was something oddly cool, but not cold, about this performance.

Rachmaninoff's sprawling and romantic Symphony No. 2

The conductor demanded an exciting and rapid take on this warhorse and he effectively obtained it. A huge orchestra with fabulous cohesiveness, with one exception.

In the first movement the effects were not exactly bang-on, because antiphonal violin seating was used. This conductor has done this to better effect in a Shostakovich work a few years back; this time around I could sense that the orchestra sections had some trouble sensing one-another - it is not easy to switch seating patterns and get it right in two days of rehearsing. From my perspective, six rows away, it was only the first movement that suffered; the parts and pieces were too exposed, perhaps in a clinical way. They players picked it up and perfected it from second movement onward. The third movement, a very famous part, put the strings on display, big-time. This is where the TSO excels -- their string department is one of the world's very best. At the end, the big nods went to the woodwinds (really well deserved), then all horns, and then Denéve asked each section to take a bow, one by one. The ovation for this piece was huge, as usual.

It was obvious to me that the orchestra really enjoyed this guest conductor.
 

Urban Shocker

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... and last night, while the rest of the town was at Roy Thomson Hall for Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, I was to Koerner Hall, to hear The English Concert under the direction of Harry Bicket, parlaying this programme to glorious effect:

Purcell: Suite from King Arthur

Vivaldi: Trio Sonata in D Minor, Op.1, No.12, RV63 "La folia"

Telemann: Selections from Tafelmusik

( Intermission )

Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major RV537

Telemann: Concerto for Viola and Strings in G Major

Purcell: Suite from The Fairy Queen

Impossible to select any highlights because it was such a rewarding evening all round. I thought oboeist Katharina Sprekelsen and violinist Matthew Truscott were particularly good, and the viola player Alfonso Leal del Ojo the outstanding soloist of the evening, but singling them out from such a strong ensemble seems somewhat unfair. May they return soon ( Bicket, of course, was at the COC last season to conduct Orfeo ed Euridice )!

I sat in the first balcony, seven rows in front of the stage - the sound was lovely. There had been a reception earlier for the architect of the hall, and she was introduced to the audience before the concert to much applause.
 

Urban Shocker

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Last night, with my plucky, madcap friend Libby to the preview of the ROM's wonderful new exhibition about the Maya. I thought it every bit as as good as their Terracotta Army exhibition of a year ago - the exquisite small figurines, especially. And there were plenty of works on display - the gift shop was pushed waaaay back at the end. That show earlier this year, about Water, was such a bore by comparison, they really ought to stick to the arts/cultural field most of the time. And I'm delighted the Museum has significantly dropped their admission prices. I hear that the Modern Design gallery may not go in the Level 3 centre block after all, but where the deco furniture is in the east wing instead.

Saw the Grace Kelly exhibition at Lightbox last week. Pretty frocks ( the simple, purple Givenchy gown was stunning; she got rather lost in bolder patterned numbers such as the floral print dress though ... ) and her family home movies ( check out the teenaged Prince Albert in his little speedo, screened in that area just before you go into the show ).

Enjoying the Hitchcock festival there - Dial M For Murder last week, more to come soon.
 
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Urban Shocker

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This afternoon, joined the Occupy Toronto march from the park, along King, up Yonge and along Dundas to Nathan Phillips Square. Quite a good turnout in the nice weather - a couple of thousand at least, perhaps three, and a good range of ages and representative groups of the citizenry. I can't remember there ever being a march, like this one, against a Mayor - the Evict Ford message was loud and clear - nor one that was so much fun.
 

TonyV

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.. and I was with the 1%, in Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday November 19th, listening to the world's greatest pianist, Lang Lang, in collaboration with the Toronto Symphony.

The piano concerto No. 5 ("Emperor") by Beethoven was a feast (seemingly for all, judging by the crowd's reaction after). Lang Lang gave us edge-of-seat stuff, some wonderful capriciousness, and most of all, a thrilling dusting-off of this well worn piece. I wish I was still there, and it was still happening. This may have been the best live music making collaboration by anyone or any orchestra that I've ever seen. Had to be there. During Lang Lang's two-week residency in Toronto, critics have shone a light on his risk taking (one critic was a tad negative). I opine that Lang Lang is a pianist very qualified to do risk-taking, and that he should. Classical music is not museum stuff; approaches to it should be revisited all the time. Peter Oundjian and the TSO matched Lang Lang beautifully in this very energetic take. (Frankly, this was awesome backing. Oundjian really excels in concerto work, I've noticed).

The Beethoven 7th conducted by Oundjian was a masterpiece, too. The interpretation was close to text, the rendering was elegant. Thick, Germanic string playing as good as one could want. The TSO made it their own. Fabulous night.

A Bright Sheng piece, Tibetan Swing, opened the concert. The composing may have been a tad derivative but that is no flaw when the influences are so great (Bernstein, Prokofiev, and more).

A concert that I will commit to my diary, one of the all time best from the TSO.

Edit: good heavens, don't ask me why I looked, but this is my 1001st post.

Another edit. Well, this was my 1001st post, but it has become my 1000th. One of my posts was arbitrarily deleted by a mod. I still get the cupcake don't I?
 
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Urban Shocker

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I'll bring a cupcake with a candle to the next opera.

Back to the ROM today to see the Maya again. We do so well out of our Museum - the shows that they put together themselves rather than picking up from other institutions - such as this one and the Chinese Terracotta exhibition - are of such high quality. The small ceramic figurines are the defining Maya objects for me - there's a pristine white one, beautifully constructed, showing the Moon Goddess and her Rabbit offspring ( which looks curiously like Tenniel's version in Alice ) that I've just gotta have... somehow or other.

One of the videos talks about the evolution and "decline" of the Maya world, through war or famine or drought or whatever, and how the monarchy was challenged by a growing aristocracy in the 8th century, at a time of much temple building. The point made was that the 99% were supporting the increasingly wealthy 1%! And there was a wall illustration showing squatters in the ruins of one of their temple/palace complexes - a bit like our Occupy movement perhaps? The point made was how similar their times were to ours and the difficulty of defining whether or not a culture is in decline.

To the subway via Yorkville Avenue - the new m0851 shop still not open - passing Michael Lee Chin going in the opposite direction on the sidewalk, stopping off at that luggage shop that carries Swaine Adeney Briggs luggage and admiring the vulgar red Boss shoes as I cut through that laneway to Cumberland Avenue.
 

TonyV

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Let's meet up, dressed in our finest pinko garb, and give Edsel heck at the Mayor's Levee at City Hall six months hence!

I think I will pass, thanks. I can think of positive ways to spend New Years Day (Ford is not worth my time, or even the sweat off my ... umm ... handshake). I can imagine perhaps a handful of his supporters will show up.

We're off to sunny, small, fun Key West for 10 days, leaving tomorrow the 10th. Back in time to light the Christmas tree and be festive about things. Be well, all of my fine friends of the Neighbourhood Watch, you are darlings all.
 

Benc7

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Happy New Year to you, bacolod, and to all on Urban Toronto ca!
 

Urban Shocker

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Again, I think I'll pass. Be sure and ask His Worship how things are with the family.

The turnout for Gargantua's New Year's levee was meagre - Ford Nation clearly don't care any more. I didn't see any left wing pinko Councillors in line to chat to, so I didn't line up. I went straight for the hot chocolate and cookies, sat down, gorged myself, chatted to a few like-minded citizens, said hello to the nice gay man who organized the Sissy Stroll at Occupy Toronto who was lining up to give the Mayor a piece of his mind ... and left.

Here's a fun news item some of you may have missed:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/12/us/new-york-symphony-philharmonic-flap/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

New York (CNN) -- Add a new one to the irate reactions triggered by incessant ringing of a cell phone, bringing one of the world's great symphony orchestras to a dead stop in mid-performance.

In a disastrous meeting of an old classic and new technology Tuesday night, the New York Philharmonic was performing Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony -- a haunting piece some say the composer wrote as he faced his own death -- when a cell phone started ringing in the audience.

Classical music fans were quick to light up Twitter and blogs later with details of what happened in the storied performance hall.

"After the last climax, the movement begins to wind down, toward that sublime last page of the score where music and silence are almost indistinguishable," former classical singer Michael Jo wrote of one moment the phone began to ring.

"In other words, just about the worst possible moment," Jo wrote on his blog.

Jo was seated in a box seat on the right side of Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall and could hear the cell phone ringing in the front row on the left side of the stage. He described the phone going off throughout the whole performance but most noticeably at the beginning of the final movement, a particularly emotional part of the symphony.

Jo said Thursday that the most extraordinary thing was that the owner of the phone, an elderly man, did not even move.

Others bloggers said perhaps he could not hear the phone or was too embarrassed to claim the ringing intrusion as his responsibility. The phone rang for three to four minutes straight, leading Jo to believe that it was some kind of an alarm going off rather than a regular phone call.

Jo said New York Philharmonic conductor Alan Gilbert reacted to the intrusion by stopping the music. He didn't melodramatically fling his arms down; rather, he merely dropped his hands, which alerted the musicians to stop playing, according to Jo.

Then, the only sound in the great room was the "Marimba" ringtone of the cell phone, Jo said.

Gilbert turned his attention to the owner of the phone, who was seated on the front row, and asked, "Are you finished?"

When there was no reply, Gilbert said, "Fine, we'll wait," and placed his baton on his music stand, according to Jo.

After a few more rings, the phone was silenced.

But that was not the end of the excitement, Jo said.

In an unusual breach of protocol for the usually buttoned-up crowd that populates classical music concerts, three people shouted their opinions to add more drama to the already tense atmosphere.

Jo wrote on his blog that one angry concertgoer shouted, "Thousand-dollar fine." Two others shouted, "Kick him out!"

Those heckles were met with loud shushes from other concertgoers.

Gilbert addressed the crowd, according to Jo: "Ordinarily, in disturbances like these, it's better not to stop, since stopping is worse than the disturbance. But this was so egregious." He then turned to the orchestra and said, "Number 118," and the audience burst into applause.

Once order was restored, the music took back over, and the orchestra played on, Jo said.

"It was really disturbing, but everybody handled it as well as they could have. The orchestra and Gilbert were professional. There was no lynch mob or concert-hall road rage," Jo said.

There was no official statement from the Philharmonic, but Gilbert shared his thoughts with The New York Times: "It was so shocking, what happened. You're in this very far-away spiritual place in the piece. It's like being rudely awakened. All of us were stunned on the stage."

Stunned as he may have been, Gilbert's tone was quiet but firm, Jo said, and the conductor was very professional and did not raise his voice or get angry.

People applauded Gilbert's professionalism both in the concert hall and in tweets. Some classical music fans tweeted sarcastic comments like, "Taking the smart out of smart phone" and "(front row)? Best to turn off your cell phone."

Other tweeters got creative, with one calling it "Concertus interruptus: unsilenced cell phone brings a New York Philharmonic performance to a halt."
 

TonyV

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Canadian Opera Company (COC) 2012-13 season is very impressive. Looking forward to hearing Ramon Vargas! Also pleased that they are doing Salome again.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) 12-13 season will be announced on Feb 1st, I am planning to go to the announcement.

Re. NY Phil "phone étiquette" story, the incident went viral and I am happy with that, because it will raise audience awareness elsewhere (ahem) on the globe. In Carnegie Hall, a ringing telephone sound is broadcasted before the concert starts, followed by an announcement to turn off/mute all cell phones. The audiences take it in good humour, and the measure appears to work quite well. They should try this sort of stuff at Roy Thomson Hall/TSO concerts.
 

Urban Shocker

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I've heard Marshall Pynkoski remind an audience - before the opera begins - not to forget to turn their cellphones back on again when the performance is over.

On the afternoon of 15th, some friends and I heard a wonderful concert at Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory, the Cecilia String Quartet with pianist John O'Conor:

Ludwig van Beethoven:
Piano Sonata No. 31 in E-flat Major, Op. 110
String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135

Robert Schumann:
Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44

The third movement of the string quartet was a world unto itself. Here's a grab from youtube, by the Yale Quartet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85ahoS-uKmk

Tomorrow afternoon, to the U of T for Rob Ford: The Opera!
 

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