Saturday, 1 May 2010

Barenboim, Berlin Phil, Elgar, Sheldonian, Oxford

This morning, at 10am, Daniel Barenboim conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Barenboim and the Berliners playing in a theatre seating fewer than 1000? And at ten in the morning?

It was a historic occasion. German press and TV in attendance: this was being filmed for international broadcast and DVD. Barenboim and the Berliners played the same concert at the Philharmonie on 27th April. It can be heard (and watched) in full on the Berliner-Philharmoniker site.

Obviously, the Sheldonian is an important historic site, but there are plenty of historic sites elsewhere. The significance is that Barenboim was conducting Elgar's Cello Concerto,  so closely associated with Jacqueline du Pré. Indeed, Barenboim played with Jackie and Pinchas Zuckerman in Oxford (at the Town Hall) forty years ago. Maybe I shouldn't upstage this morning's soloist, Alisa Weilerstein, but the fact is that Jackie is forever associated with Elgar, Barenboim and with Oxford.

And why May Morning? It's an Oxford tradition. May Balls are the biggest social occasion in the year. Colleges hold elaborate balls. Students party like crazy and get blind drunk, the way you do when you are 18 and it's the first time away from your parents! Then they roam the town (which is very small) in their evening clothes, drinking, falling in the river, etc. Part of the tradition is staying up all night and then sobering up in the dawn to music. Walpurgisnacht, Anglo-style. Berlin and Oxford traditions converge.

Walpurgisnacht witchery might have bedevilled last night's rehearsal. Nearly an hour delayed, because part of the orchestra were held up at some airport. Then when they landed there was a crash on the road into Oxford. Then suddenly a rush and they came in and the rehearsal started immediately.

The Prelude to Meistersinger Act 3 was a wash out, very slow tempi, but in the circumstances definitely the right way to do it, if they'd all been rushing and tense beforehand. Nothing calms and centres a musician better than playing something familiar. No such problems in the "real" concert as they've had a night to settle down. The last-minute rush might have helped Barenboim, too. It must have been very emotional for him to come back to Oxford ((he hasn't played theatres this small for years) with its memories of  Jackie. But he's a consummate professional, and had a job to do.  In the Elgar Cello Concerto, the orchestra was fully engaged, energetic. It must have been intimidating for Alisa Weilerstein too, given the inescapable Jackie presence, but she acquitted herself very well. (there can be no comparison)
Here is  where I broke this story in JANUARY, but which is now elsewhere. Proof that there is no difference between print and online journalism. Quality isn't dependent on status. But maybe quality doesn't count.

Paul Rah was at the Berlin rehearsal and concert, and caught this morning's broadcast. His report will follow. Watch this space ! (and catch the concert online and on TV) A friend sent this :"Today at (registering is required but free) you can watch BPO/Barenboim with Alisa Weilerstein (cello)

Wagner Meistersinger Act III Prelude
Elgar Cello Concerto
Brahms 1st Symphony

"I THINK the web-videocast is at 3pm GMT, i.e. 4pm British Summer time, 5pm Paris time, and 11am EST. " Check Medici TV site, it's a treasure. Video on demand of the concert is available for an unspecified time. See under Europa Konzert 2010.

photo credit

1 comment:

pyr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.