orchestra, viewed from outdoor audience’s perspective,
was dominated by a huge drum poised vertically and centred
above and to the rear of the players. This drum, was, undoubtedly,
the star attraction of this colourful, cosmopolitan concert
conducted by the Japanese-American maestro, Kent Nagano.
gigantic drum, poised as though to summon some King Kong,
figured prominently in both Isao Matsushita’s Hi-Ten-Yu (Fly-Heaven-Play),
a concerto for drums and orchestra and Eitetsu Hayashi’s Utage.
We are told in the scant notes that “Eitetsu Hayashi is
a famous master of wadaiko, the traditional art
of Japanese drumming”. Fly-Heaven-Play began softly
with a deep rumble from the huge drum. There’s also some
virtuoso playing on an array of assorted drums spread across
from the orchestra’s percussion section and occupying at
least as much space both vertically and horizontally. Part
of Matsushita’s orchestration also kept the Berlin Philharmoniker’s
percussion busy. I will draw a veil over the cacophony
that was Matsushita’s modernistic writing for the orchestra.
This clearly left the audience bemused. Instead I will
concentrate on the amazing extended cadenza, played solely
on that imposing drum, that reawakened them and had them
giving Eitetsu Hayashi a standing ovation for his amazing
performance. This writing coaxed both thunder and delicacy
from his instrument. Utage was another item performed
on the big drum that riveted audience attention.
this Waldbühne concert, exoticism won over traditionalism.
One of its joys was the performance of Jiping’s suite from
his sublime film score for Farewell My Concubine.
It features a small orchestra of ethnic far Eastern instruments
and soprano soloist, placed in front of the orchestra..
Again notes or subtitles to identify performers with their
instruments would have been helpful. The ethnic instruments
enhanced the music considerably, adding dimension and character
to the texture. The music has a haunting pathos, and excitement,
in the form of a thunderous gallop, and a most appealing
late romantic style coda that might have been penned by
Steiner or Korngold.
main attraction for many will have been the appearance
of the American mezzo-soprano, Susan Graham, singing six
George Gershwin melodies: Fascinatin’ Rhythm; The
Man I Love; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Someone
To Watch Over Me; Summertime and I Got Rhythm. Cross-over
singing can have its drawbacks and I have to report that
I was not completely won over by Ms Graham’s way with Gershwin.
In this I am maybe overly conscious of the great Ella Fitzgerald’s
performances. Sometimes I was too aware of Susan Graham’s
vocal dexterity and not enough about the line of the song.
Having said that she was certainly animated and expressive.
the other items in the concert: sisters Mari and Momo Kodama
made exciting and lyrical soloists in French composer,
Jean-Pascal Beintus’s brief He Got Rhythm (Hommage à George
Gershwin). Nagano led the orchestra in a performance
of Ravel’s La Valse that accentuated not only the
lilt but also its sardonic, satirical aspects. Thye also
included a scintillating and exciting Daphnis et Chloé suite.
notes – just a half page – give little or no detail on
the works performed.
concert dominated and highlighted by Far Eastern music
that thrilled and fascinated.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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