I was invited to a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra last night to hear a performance of Strauss which was a part of “The Rest is Noise” year long music festival.
There are great views of the London Eye and Big Ben from the top of the Centre which is where the Beecham Bar, the members bar of the Southbank Centre is located. Villa Maria is a major sponsor of the LPO and prior to the performance we were invited to sip on Villa Maria’s pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and rosé along with some tasty canapes in the bar. One of the best things about the event was the chance to speak to members of the orchestra during the interval, when we all returned to the Bar for more wine and canapes.
The performance itself was a great show. I must confess that I’m not all that familiar with Strauss’ music other than ‘Also sprach Zaruthustra’ which opened the performance, but watching the orchestra play is an experience in itself: the intense concentration on the players faces, the ramrod straight posture of the violinists and the entire orchestra swaying to the music they were playing. Ok, maybe I did get carried away by the music but it’s hard not to be when the melodies wash over you.
Unusually for an orchestral performance, the conductor, Vladimir Jurowski spoke to the audience about each piece of work before it was performed and even had the American baritone, Thomas Hampson, join in on the conversation. It was definitely helpful from a novice’s point of view to have a bit of background about each piece of music. There were two singers that evening, Hampson who performed Notturno, Op.44 No.1 and Finnish soprano, Karita Mattila who sang the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils and the final scene from the, then shocking, opera Salome.
Last night’s performance was part of the “Rest is Noise” festival which is based on the eponymous book by Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker. The book and the festival focus on the composers of the 20th century and covers everything from …”Romanticism, Nationalism, the Second Viennese School, The Darmstadt school, electronic music, minimalism, Hollywood, musicals and pop music.” After last night’s event I’d definitely like to attend more performances of the festival.