The final moment of the Shostakovich symphony No 13 is a simple long sonorous B flat chord that dies away over an eternity . The cellos hold that note over 13 agonisingly slow bars. (Is this Shostakovich's idea of a mathematical amusement) The celeste chimes, celestially over this soft wall of sound. The cameras have recorded every detail of the concert so far and capture these final moments to perfection. Cello bows barely move, each player holds themselves still, focusing on softness and serenity. In the editing suite I hold and hold and hold the shot and finally I move to the shot of the conductor, where we can see Mark Shiell and feel the whole audience holding a collective breath. The marking of the last bar is "morendo" which means dying away. There is no discernible moment at which point the music has finished. Is the note still hanging? We can hear it in our mind. Are the cello bows still moving? Are they still connected to the strings? Finally Mark lowers his baton, and his eyes and bows his spent body. The audience takes the cue to erupt into appreciation for this emotional concert experience.
Even though this moment was two months ago, I still thrill to the wave of emotion and elation that swept over me at that moment in the Hamer Hall video suite. Months of planning the shoot, anticipating all that was required to capture the concert well, a week of studying and marking up scores, attending rehearsals and putting together the video team finally over. 8 hours of sitting in that small dark room directing the dress rehearsal shoot, making last minute score changes and trying to follow 5 screens as well as the score was done. I walked into that bright Spring evening dazed, knowing we had done all we could to make the project a success. We caught as much on digital film as well could. A project that had been two and a half years in the making since its conception, finished in two and a half glorious hours of music and ceremony.
But the adventure for Hofland Music had just begun. The magic happens in the editing suite where you work with the different camera angles, the score, and your feeling of the music to create a second version of the concert. The version that is history captured but as a work of art, the version that gives you vantage points to the concert not available from even the best seats in the house. The version that gives you greater insight to the music as you are directed to seeing the main instruments from every section. The structure envisaged by the composer, and embodied in the musical score is brought to light for greater understanding through the visual cues.
After 2 gruelling months, the project is nearly ready for final mastering then replicating and delivery. It seems an eternity when I sat down with great optimism to create the library in the editing suite. I've watched the concert over and over, and yet I still find passages that surprise and delight me. And I know anyone who owns this DVD will find their own passages that will speak to them about the glory and wonder of music to teach us something that words cannot.
As the Hallelujah Chorus began to end the concert, the packed audience at St Andrew's stood up in unison, and when the final stirring Hallelujah was finished, they erupted into the loudest applause to date of this truly Spectacular concert.
The ingredients were all there for a wonderful event; A truly historic occasion, an accomplished choir, high calibre orchestra, booming organs (yes there were two in operation), and a boy's choir on the balcony.
When maestro Thomas Heywood, doyen of the organ, and Director of Music at this special place is handling the ingredients the result is an afternoon of pure musical rejoicing, that delighted all.
The first half featured works by Sir Hubert Parry (I was Glad), Mozart (Ave serum corpus), Vivaldi (Gloria), Handel (Zadok the Priest et al) and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Mendelssohn (Elijah) and Hayden (Creation), utilising the orchestra, organ, choir and soloists. All joyful works, splendidly introduced by the booming voice of Thomas, who can spin an amusing musical anecdote as well as he navigates the organ. He projects his love and joy of the music to the very last pew. #Infectiousenthusiasm might be the only appropriate hash tag.
The second half stripped the performance back to the usual setting for the church of choir and organ, presenting a few longer works including a new arrangement (Heywood and Stretch) of the Messe Breve by Delibes. The orchestra was brought back for the Messiah excerpts and encore of Jesu Joy of Man's desiring.
In collaboration with St Andrews organisation, Thomas and Simone Heywood, Hofland Music has had the privilege of recording this choral spectacular to enable both a CD and DVD to be produced. It will be a very special memory of this once off event. The acoustic in the church is a joy to work with as a sound engineer, so we have made a beautiful recording that will capture the grand space filled with music.
Available on the Hofland CD Store for a limited time only.
A few weeks ago I asked my partner in crime and sound maestro Michael to put together the most eclectic sampler CD he could, so we could show some examples of the wide range of music styles, ensemble size and performance setting that we can capture live.
Hopefully we will create a new tradition, and produce one for every year, because its just a lot of fun to go through the archives and select some brilliant musical memories,
We had a wonderful afternoon in the listening room putting all this together. All performances are live and performed by ensembles in Melbourne.
Michael left me with one hitch. He sent me a jumbled track list, which I have tried to reorder as best I can to match with the CD. I think it was his idea of a little musical joke, to see if I could use musical detective work to get it together. Anyway listen to the CD yourself and see if I got it right or wrong.
Look out for our 2016 sampler as bonus CDs or as a thank you for filling in surveys, and do your own detective work.
1 Art of Sound@Whitley College 31 August 2015 - de Falla El Amor Brujo
2 Tudor Choristers@St Johns August 2015 Masters - My Lady Careys Pompe
3 Art Of Sound Victoria Chorale@St Pauls Cathedral 19th September 2015 - Hallelujah
4 Thomas Heywood organ recital @Melbourne Town Hall May 24 2015 - War March of the Priests
5 Verdi - Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum. July’15 MTH Star Chorale and Zelman Symphony
6 Flute Duo and Organ Recital@Toorak Uniting Church 8th Nov 2015 Vivaldi
7 Art Of Sound Orchestra @ Holy Trinity Aug 2015 - solo by a Bach Counter Tenor
8 Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra @ Eldon Hogan Hall Sep 2015 Haydn Trumpet Concerto
9 St Andrews 2016 Mothers Day Puccini Chorus
Here's a sample of the sampler. Music detectives on your marks get set go! Match the tracks if you can
La Fraternita di Solisti which will henceforth be know in this blog as LFDS is an exciting recent addition to Melbourne's fine music scene. Artistic Director Gyula Cseszko is supported by a very innovative and incredibly energetic team, who's mission is to bring interesting repertoire to performance with a chamber orchestra of virtuosic musicians.
This concert nicknamed Bach Brews teamed the Bach Coffee Cantata, which in reality is a short comic opera, with the incredibly beautiful double violin concerto, featuring, finishing with Cantata 51, the only "Churchy Bach" in the programme, sung by Elena Xanthoudakis.
The concert was made truly entertaining with some simple yet effective staging allowing the Coffee Cantata to come to life . Elena who sang wonderfully throughout with a clear fine soprano voice, also created a wonderful character on stage. She pouted and glared as her father (sung by Lucas De Jong) forbade her to drink more of her preferred elixir, coffee, and she was demurely coquettish in response to being wooed by her gentle suitor Zachary McCulloch. The male voices were also superbly clear and fine, all played with a gentle humour. The final movement pictured above brought all the musicians together in a rousing finale.
The programming was delightful, interspersing encores, stories and historical background. The playing in every piece was quite brilliant and very precise, reflecting the ethos of LFDS to bring the best music to Melbourne. The audience response was truly enthusiastic, with spontaneous outbursts of joy and appreciation for the playing.
The double concerto was handled magnificently, the second movement soaring with melody and yearning that only a violin can provide. The fast passages were kept completely under control with the exact precision that Bach requires.
The Cantata 51 added horn playing to the mix, giving Elena a platform to demonstrate her incredible range and abilities. The call and response between singer and horn kept the piece bouncing with joy, the second movement reflectively communing with angels. The horn stayed around for Elena's rousing encore - the famous Handel aria from Samson - "Let The Bright Seraphim".
Fortunately Hofland Music captured this special concert in sound and video. The CD which was also sold at the end of the concert will be the first product available on the Hofland Music store.
We are looking forward to more great concerts with this really fine musical team.
Zelman presented a hugely enjoyable program for their September 10th concert. What can go wrong with Copland, Gershwin, and Bernstein? The answer in this case: absolutely nothing! (Unless you count the soggy arrival.) But it was a good night to be indoors and enjoying Zelman at their best. The playing was very good as usual, and true to the title, the showmanship made the concert a hoot. Imagine a whole orchestra donning costumes during the West Side story suite, not to mention shouting the word rumble at regular intervals. MSO clarinetist Philip Arkinstall did a beautiful job with the Copland clarinet concerto, being backed by a trimmed down orchestra, but with the addition of piano and harp. The playing was languid and fluid, with perfect breathe control in a piece that is all about restraint and beauty early on, moving towards pyrotechnics in the second movement, finishing with a Gershwin flourish reminisicent of the opening to American Rhapsody. The encore, walking the dog, was a perfect choice and appreciated by the enthusiastic audience.
To finish the night the orchestra provided another pitch perfect comic performance, bringing on stage a typewriter, for a quirky and joyful ending. We might just post a video of that one in the future. So keep a look out.
The bright program and artwork meant we were able to create a really impactful CD and sleeve, trialling out the white sleeves as opposed to the recycled cardboard we began our production journey with. Thanks to the little typewriter performance which held the audience in the hall just long enough, CDs were available as the audience walked out of the auditorium. CDs were flying around in the chaos of last minute sales and production. But thats how we like it at Hofland. Also we trialled our listener survey and thank all those who filled one out. As a reward we gave out our free sampler and gave a discount on the american story CD. We do note it was a tad long and will give some thoughts to edits before we launch it again.
We also gave our new C100 HD video camera a good work out. Eldon Hogan hall has a perfect vantage spot in the sound booth at the rear audience, giving us uninterrupted access from above the audience. Our 105mm zoom almost got us really close to the action, producing some beautiful footage of the orchestra.
Overall a super busy and productive night for the folk at Hofland. And a shout out to cousin, Sonia Glenk, who worked our second camera from the side balcony, for even more exciting shots of the action, including an orchestras eye view of the conductor which is always great to experience from the front. Mark Shiell's beautiful conducting deserves to be seen from all angles by the audience.
The Zelman orchestra sprawled across the main hall of the 1882 Daylesford Town Hall. The Daylesford music lovers filled every other available space in the hall. Fortunately there was a large balcony area which gave an excellent view of the orchestra, almost in the round.
The solid stone and huge ceilings provided a rich reverb for the lush romantic music that was being presented. The Victorian detail of the hall provided a lovely visual backdrop to the almost balletic conducting of Mark Shiell, who nurtures this excellent orchestra with great empathy. I was fortunate to sit in on a few rehearsals with the orchestra and delighted in the detailed yet caring way Mark worked with the orchestra to achieve a fine level of detail.
Kathryn Taylor, whose day job is with the MSO, gave a spirited and lush performance of the Mendelssohn violin concerto, with excellent support from the orchestra. We are very glad to have captured that performance, as it was received with great excitement from the audience, who then delighted in the encore of meditation from Thais (Massenet). Both performances were excellent, but possibly she was more relaxed in the country ambience of Daylesford. Its always a plus for an orchestra to play major works a few times in front of an audience.
Beethoven's seventh symphony made up the second half of the concert. The orchestra approached this with huge energy and intensity. By the end Mark Shiell was physically spent, and from reports from the orchestra it was a "big blow". Apparently all repeats were included. But the impact of such a work in the intimate atmospheres of the town halls proves why live music is such a great experience. You feel the music, you are surrounded by the music, you are drawn into its darkest depths in a way that you can't be when you put it on in the background while doing the housework. To really appreciate classical music, you need to apply great focus to the task. It is an inward journey that requires time and space, and one that is now much overlooked in our social media fuelled lives.
At Hofland music we were especially proud of the quality of the recording that we achieved. We caught the warm tones and the raw energy of the concert perfectly. We continue to strive to improve for every recording. It's all to do with the right microphone selection for the right instrument section, placement within the orchestra space to allow close capture yet a fully developed tone, the mixing on the board and getting our master CD just right with the entries. The instant live CD is really knife edge stuff for the Sound engineer, as you can't go back to remix anything.
At Hawthorn arts centre we unveiled some of our production process to audience, by doing the CD duplication at our sales table. This proved quite fascinating to the audience and helps them to understand that we can achieve an (almost) "instant" CD.
The delight of the Hawthorn and Daylesford audiences proved again why bringing serious music to the public continues to be such a worthwhile endeavour. And the superb playing of Kathryn Taylor proved that Australia is blessed with truly fine musicians, and that a national orchestra like the MSO is so vital in making sure we have access to such treasure.
On Saturday night (April 30 2016) the the Heidelberg wind ensemble began their 10th season of concerts. As is customary they were joined the Monash philharmonic orchestra and the Monash symphonic winds at St Stephen's Church in Richmond. This beautiful church created a warm atmosphere on even warmer late autumn evening. The reverb in the church provides an exciting acoustic for listening to major works. The audience felt like is amongst the musicians. When things got exciting in the percussion section the whole church trembled in response. Soloists notes soared amongst the rafters and when the brass sang as one spirits lifted with the joyful sound.
The Monash Philharmonic presented the William Tell Overture as well as Rimsky Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture. The cello was featured as it should, and the orchestra even had a cor anglais to play the famous interlude. The Monash Winds also presented a varied program that began with West Side Story, wandered along a Scottish river with a Grainger setting of Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon, finishing somewhere in the halls of Mordor with excerpts from Lord of the Rings by de Meij, who is a prolific composer for Wind Band.
It was also an exciting night for Hofland Music as conductor Stephen Carpenter announced to the audience the project to create a tenth anniversary CD which will be available towards the end of the anniversary year. Hofland Music will be recording at least two concerts this year as well as a special studio session with the band in order to create a compilation of this year's best works.
HWE played a challenging program of monster works.
The Bourgeois Symphony of Winds with three movements titled Hurricane, Zephyr, and March Winds contained all the chaotic fury expected from such a program. The movement Hurricane manages to work its way through 8 different time signatures constantly changing to resemble the chaos of a hurricane. A short middle sections presents the calm of the eye.
Stravinsky can always be relied upon to write music that moves between beautiful melody, strong rhythms passages of repetition, interesting orchestral effects and unexpected mood changes. In the Petroushka Ballet suite, the music is of course foremost intended for dancing, and the pulse remains strong through all the movements. This work was created for the Ballet Russe, and Nijinsky played Petroushka.
To lighten the mood the HWE played Four Preludes for Band by Robert Russell Bennett entitled George, Vincent, Cole and Jerome, referring to those great composers of Broadway. Bennett orchestrated over 300 Broadway musicals. Although original, the work evokes the spirit of the composers being paid tribute.
Finally the HWE played a full symphonic work composed for Wind Band by Vittorio Giannini, Symphony No 3. This is a work without discernible program, but is true to the Symphony in form and structure, with wonderful melodies, and energetic rhythms.
I wonder which of the pieces will end up on the final CD?
The cultural highlight of the week long Polart festival was undoubtably the concert at the Town Hall. A number of fine Polish musicians played a varied program of Polish composers. Hofland Music had the privilige to record the Paderewski Piano Concerto. It is lush, romantic, exciting and fiendishly difficult like many written in the early 20th century. Not quite Rachmaninov, not quite Tchaikovsky, not yet Medtner. As I sat in the audience I could feel the excitement building as Konrad brilliantly executed this beautiful piece. The audience couldn't restrain itself and applauded after every movement. Konrad graciously acknowledged the support. After a rousing finish, Konrad was rewarded with a standing ovation. Needless to say the audience were astonished they could buy a CD of the performance and many did.
Eldon Hogan Performing Arts centre was almost a sell out for the final Zelman concert of the year. On the program was the Victorian premiere of the Kats-Chernin Flute Concerto - "Night and Now"
The concerto opens with a lyric and sonorous passage and beautiful haunting tune. You feel deep in the forest surrounded by mythical elves and sprites. The second movement is joyous, with a driving rhythm that gives the feeling of a high spirited dance.
An extended solo cadenza opens the final movement, before arriving at the Tarantella in C minor.
Also on the recording, was the opening work of the concert, Suite from the Nutcracker, Opus71a, by Tchaikovsky. A great start to the Christmas Season.