Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I want more
To have the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (ASMF) play here is already a big deal. To have Joshua Bell perform, an even bigger deal. To have Bell lead ASMF, well that just about caps everything. And two for the price of one, at that.
The first time I heard ASMF in a live recital was more than 20 years ago when I was a teenager (well, maybe a little bit more than 20 years ago then). I don't remember them as a large orchestra. They were a chamber group then. Perhaps there was woodwind but I don't remember a brass section then, and definitely no timpani. Well now, they're more like a symphony orchestra, quite capable of taking on Beethoven -- Symphony No 7 on opening night, and Symphony No 4 on the second night -- "angry music", as L calls Beethoven.
We went on the second night. It was a lovely concert but ended somewhat abruptly -- no encore, no nothing, despite a standing ovation at the end of the evening. A gentleman sitting next to us said that he was there the previous night, and not only was there an encore at the end of the evening, there was also one at the end of the first half of the programme, before the intermission -- which is pretty unusual. L thinks that Bell wanted an early night. Or maybe he thought we were Philistines -- there was scattered applause in between movements in the pieces. At the end of the night, there was a queue for autographs but signing was restricted to just 30 minutes. Yup, the man probably wanted to knock off early. Can't really blame him -- he didn't so much lead the orchestra, but danced to them. I still can't believe that he's my age, he looks like a 20-year-old kid!
We enjoyed the concert very much, but were rather disappointed -- cheated, even -- that there was no encore. When I first heard ASMF all those years ago, it was the encore that stayed with me over the years, whatever else they played has been long forgotten. The encore was Pachelbel's Cannon, and I remember that they dedicated it to someone in the music world who had passed away then. I had heard the piece countless times before then (and I've heard it countless times since, mostly as a wedding processional, and only lately, at a state funeral for a former deputy prime minister -- which will probably do it in for the next person who wants it in a wedding). ASMF was the first time that I heard it live. You know what they say about snapshot moments -- that one vivid moment that will stay in your memory throughout your life. ASMF and Pachelbel was one of those moments for me. It was then that I realised how much a live performance can add to a piece that you only knew as a recording. When you're a teenager still trying to decide whether you prefer Bach or Bon Jovi, that can leave a lasting impression.
I still like both Bach and Bon Jovi, and I even see a Bach structure in Guns n Roses' November Rain, much to the amusement of a professional rock musician I once told that to. But that's another story.