Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Late Night with the ESO

*Now that I'm finally finished all of my blogging related to my trip I can return to the regular mundane happenings of my life...*

Friday night Andrew and I went to the ESO. Not our regular Master's series, but a show which was a part of their "Late Night" series, which indeed took place late at night (at least for old ladies like me). The show began at 9:30 p.m. The evening's performance was titled Late Night in Paris and featured the music of George Bizet and Francis Poulenc (both French composers, of course). As these tickets were less expensive than our regular series seats we opted to sit on the main floor of the Winspear, putting us only a few rows back from the stage. It appears that these late night concerts are a less formal affair than the regular performances as the men in the orchestra only wore black shirts and jackets (rather than their regularly required tails) and perhaps more importantly, we were entertained by the comedy routine of ESO Music Director Bill Eddins, and conductor-in-residence Lucas Waldin.

Okay, so they weren't actually putting on a comedy act...but they certainly had a good time playing off each other. Bill treated poor Lucas with "faux" disdain as the young, still learning conductor, and Lucas took it in with good humour and some witty banter of his own. This included Bill ordering Lucas to fetch him a glass of champagne (with a well timed response about requiring the appropriate number of Euros to pay for it--they were supposed to be in Paris after all). Then, when the requested glass of champagne was produced, it was not handed over, on the demand the Bill must play for it first. All-in-all, a highly entertaining evening.

A benefit of our near front-row seating was that it afforded us a good view of the musicians facial expressions as they performed. I noticed some players were very animated, rocking and swaying with the music, while others were practically motionless and entirely focused on their music. Bill, being an already highly animated character, was especially interesting to watch. He played the piano solo for the first Pulenc piece, Aubade, while Lucas conducted (often Bill conducts from the keyboard). His posture at the piano ranged from sitting very upright, and calm during more tranquil sections, to hunched over the keyboard (making him appear even smaller than he really is--and he's not a tall man) during more intense, quick sections. I also noticed that at times of rest he occasionally conducted along with Lucas, out of habit I suppose, but kept his motions small as to not interfere.

The music was, of course, delightful. As noted above, Bizet and Pulenc were on the program list. The selections by Bizet were from his Sympony in C major. The first movement opened the show, while the fourth movement closed it (they did not play the other two). I recall both of the movements as light and bouncy, and highly enjoyable. The first of the Pulenc pieces was the above mentioned Aubade, which as Bill explained, is a mixture of a ballet and concerto rolled into one. Apparently the woman who commissioned it requested it be written for only 18 instruments, and so an intriguing mixture of woodwinds, trombone (I think), stings (excluding violin), tympani and piano made up this ensemble. Bill introduced this piece, playing the various themes on the piano as he explained this story of Diana and her friends. I liked this piece the most, probably for it's interesting themes and for the exuberance with which the orchestra played. The second Pulenc, excerpts from his Suite Francise (a series of courtly dances) although playful did not captivate my interest quite as much.

Our next ESO concert is in a little less than 2 weeks, then comes the summer hiatus before things start up again in the fall.



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