Thursday, 26 August 2010

Turnage Hammered Out Shaham Prom 54

At last, after a long artistic drought it's good to hear Mark-Anthony Turnage back on form with Hammered Out, premiered at BBC Prom 54. Nice and punchy, like a prize fighter strutting his stuff. Good omens for Turnage's opera Anna Nicole, next year at the Royal Opera House. Maybe Anna Nicole's desperate post-Diana Dors persona (Marilyn's too classy) fits Turnage's thing for kitsch interpreted vaguely ironic. Hammered Out is nothing scary, and quite entertaining. If the opera's more of the same it will be a hit especially with audiences that don't usually do opera. Much as I had fun because I don't normally listen to pop.

Pity, though, for Anna Nicole Smith was a disaster waiting to happen. Tacky as she was, her life was tragic, She exploited others and was exploited in return, but she's still making money. There's plenty of sociological comment in her story, but it isn't like Turnage to penetrate psychological depths. It isn't always needed, and Anna Nicole was such a character that maybe she'll fill the opera with sheer panache.

Turnage's Hammered Out could not have found a better interpreter in David Robertson, Mr Energetic himself. He stresses the tension in the repeated patterns, punched out rapid fire. In the middle movement, there's some respite, but then the sassiness begins again. Tight, muscular playing from the BBCSO.

David Robertson and Gil Shaham have such rapport that it's always an event when they play together. Robertson's married to Shaham's sister but the relationship goes much deeper. It's practically symbiotic as this performance of Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto showed. They've probably done this piece together dozens of times, but it still feels fresh and exciting. If anything, their experience warms the performance, as it flowed confidently and naturally.

Evenly paced Sibelius Symphony No 2, as well. Listening to this old favourite after listening to Shaham made me think about Sibelius as violinist, so I paid special attention to the strings. Every time we listen to something we're always hearing "new". If we're human, we're always developing, as the performers do too, and it's not a bad thing.  I was delighted then to spot that BBCTV 4 is showing Christopher Nupen's wonderful film about Sibelius again tonight. No rebroadcast, get the DVD. It's one of the few music documerntaries that you can play over and over and stll enjoy because it's a work of art in itself.

Latest news is that a long passage of Turnage's Hammered Out is almost identical to a pop hit by Beyoncé. Yow!! Good for her!  There's no reason why pop shouldn't cross into so-called serious music!  Not so sure, though, about Turnage not giving her credit.

See also THIS  Until this week I'd never heard of Beyoncé but managed to guess that Hammered Out was "not scary", "entertaining" and would be a popular hit ! What a laugh !


Jim N said...

I'm a particluar fan of the St. Louis Symphony in St. Louis Missouri, USA. I've followed it live and on radio and recordings for years. With the hiring of Robertson the orchestra choose a mediocre school teacher dba a wind mill, both physically and egotistically. There's a youtube clip of him doing the Bruckner 6th that illustrates my remark. Listening to him talk about music puts me in a bad mood.
Robertson also had a concert with the Berlin Phil during the last season that featured the complete Wooden Puppet of Bartok which is a dry piece anyway and was nearly combustible for the wrong reason under Robertson.
His concerts in St. Louis are equally dry and plain. I fail to understand why any orchestra players committee would have an interest in him after a single concert. His fee must be on the low side.

The St Louis orchestra tried last year to have an online presence on a radio station that had too narrow a bandwidth resulting in a distortion making the sound unlistenable. The concerts might have sounded fine on the FM dial but as a streaming source it was totally inadequate. Couldn't testng have been done first to prevent this problem? I sent emails to the radio station and orchestra management but all I got back was publicity spin.

This year the concerts are supposed to be on the public radio station of the U. of Mo in St. Louis so hopefully the sound will be better. I've heard the orchestra play with much more enthusiasm but not when Roberston is on the box.

Doundou Tchil said...

Robertson's excellent, regularly conducting really major orchestras both in London and Paris. Heard him lots of times and live, too. Maybe he should stick to Europe where he's appreciated.