Thursday, 14 August 2008

Prom 38: Falling off the divan

I said I wasn’t going to review the Schoenberg from the ‘Divan’ and Barenboim tonight; so I won’t, though I did listen to it. I’ll just comment on it.

It is clear, as the presenter told us, that the orchestra does know the music very well.
Also clear, as Barenboim apparently said, that it is “A difficult piece to make work.” Whether he himself had any real, developed, considered, conception of what to do with it, I am not so sure. Conceptually, it seemed incoherent to me, just the style of performance overall that I would give to a friend so she could confirm to herself why she hates the Schoenberg of this period.

Apparently, some of the Arab members of the band were heard ‘jamming’ one of the themes in Arabic style earlier. I would have liked to have heard that; I suspect they may have shown a better sense of the structure of the Variations for Orchestra than their conductor, if they could do that. And I have heard just enough Arabic music to guess what it might have sounded like. Now that would have been very interesting if they had been allowed some of that freedom in the 'real thing' tonight. I’m sure they could recognise the musical meaning of the plural . . .

OK, I did say I was tired. Perhaps I’m jaded. Maybe I’ll have another go at it next week, but this really is a favourite of mine, and despite the skill of the orchestra, I was disappointed. Apparently he told them, being “tough on them”, that the piece sounded sometimes like “rush hour in Hong Kong” in rehearsal. I wonder if he put them off. It sounded more like SUV’s rolling along a 12-lane American freeway at 3 in the afternoon to me.

Prom 38: East-Western Divan Orchestra: Schoenberg, Variations for Orchestra.

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