Friday, 13 September 2019

Science and Mahler - Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra season opener

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra- photo : Oddleiv Apneseth
Opening concert of the new season at the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, combining music and science. An intriguing concept, but done so well it worked.  Scientists talking science but in such a way that ordinary peopole get drawn in by their enthusiasm.   Science can be fun!  I can't imagine English language audiences being able to cope with intellectual stuff like this without gimmicks and dumbing down. Before the concert, the discussion was in Norwegian, a language that's not even on the radar for English monolinguists, but I listened anyweay, just enjoying the sound and syntax.  (It helps if you're a voice person and communication skills are what you do).  In the interval, the speakers switched to English.  More casual, but sincere and natural - none of the faked staginess of BBC Proms interval talks, (especially the ones with New Generation Thinkers who don't think).

Thus the mood was set for Eric Whitacre's Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe. Again, this worked extremely well because of the way it was presented, against an abstract backdrop with projections of images of the cosmos, star clusters, space stations and so on, with occasional fades back to the orchestra.  Whitacre writes planetarium music, yes, but very relaxing and atmospheric. Normally I'd run a mile from Whitacre but I enjoyed this presentation a lot.  Magical sounds from the  Edvard Grieg Kor and Youth Choir.

What science and the cosmos had to do with Mahler's Symphony no 4, I'm not sure. The Heavens, I guess, though the vision of Heaven here is decidedly non-factual. But with Markus Stenz conducting it was a worthwhile experience, not the most memorable either way, rather slow, but well played.  I was glad to listen though in order to hear Caroline Wettergreen.  After a succession of disappointing soloists in this   symphony this year, what a pleasure it was to hear Wettergreen negotiating the lines with agility, judging her phrasing sensitively.  She has a flexible voice which is clear and pure yet has character.  Though the protagonist is a child, this is a child who has suffered in the past, and thus can exult in the joys of physical life. 
Next Bergen Philharmonic livestream : 18th October - Brahms Double Concerto and Brahms Symphony no 4 with Erward Gardner. 


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