Tag Archives: Dublin

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Leif Ove Andsnes NCH, Dublin 24/11/13

Ludwig van Beethoven:
Piano Concerto no. 2 in B flat major op. 19
Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major op. 58
Igor Stravinsky:
Concerto in E flat – Dumbarton Oaks
Septet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and piano

Before I start, this will be a relatively short review for various reasons. Mostly because I unfortunately didn’t have time to write a long one. Here it goes:

I travelled for yet another concert this past Sunday: the last scheduled one of this year. As you can see from the above, the concert programme had music from Stravinsky and Beethoven. One of which I am not so familiar with, the other I am.

The music of Stravinsky started the concert with music I admit I’ve known about for years but never really wanted to listen to. The Concerto in E flat ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ is named after a house where the first performance was held in 1938. You can read about the music and also follow the link to an article to the house here.

When asked about the concerto by his publisher he said “A little concerto in the style of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos“. Stravinsky was expert in eluding to other composers music but still sounding as his own. Try his earlier ballet Pulcinella.

In the first movement violas have a Bach reference, but throughout the movement each of the players have their own solos which showcased the wonderful sound this orchestra can make. Short motifs develop into complicated counterpoint. There are also frequent rhythmic changes as well as constant syncopation. The rest of the work was along these lines with references to music of Boccherini, Haydn and Mozart as well of Bach of course. I noticed that the string players didn’t use any vibrato which is common now-a-days in period instrument performances but not for the music of Stravinsky. I think Bach would have approved!

You can listen to it here in a recording from the 1970′s:

Leif Ove Andsnes made his first concerto appearance at the NCH. He is in the process of recording all the Beethoven piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He made his recording debut with Sony Classical, with the concertos no. 1 and 3 last year, and I presume is recording the two that were played that evening soon. He played, as well as conducted the orchestra, the piano facing them, so from my angle I couldn’t see much of what he was playing. I said he conducted the orchestra – he waved his hands a little when not playing but I think the orchestra were on autopilot most of the time. Normally with a conductor-less orchestra the first violin moves around (in this case) her chair a lot directing each player but not that night. He played both concertos with great clarity and poise, I’ll certainly find the recordings of these when they’re released.  The orchestra had a fabulous sound particularly the woodwind and brass. Top class!

Have a listen to the concertos 1 &3 below:

The other Stravinsky music was his septet which I found quite boring and mathematical. Written in 1953, it’s from his third compositional phase. Thankfully it was short. As the composer, writing to his wife Vera, said of its first performance: ‘Septet, received indifferently well by a young audience’. It was the same in the NCH…

Have a listen to it below:

All in all an entertaining and interesting concert. I heard music I knew quite well (Beethoven), music I avoided before and appreciated it now (Stravinsky Dumbarton) and others I didn’t (Septet) but a good night out all the same!

West Side Story, Bord Gais Theatre Dublin, 8/11/13




Before I begin it’s come to my attention that  a number of people have not realised that the words in RED are click-able and send you to a link on Youtube or Wikipedia. This might happen a lot on my blog posts so note that for again. It my help explain some musical terminology or the music that I am writing about. So here’s the post:

Friday of last week, I travelled to Dublin yet again for another musical night out in the city this time going to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. It was my first time there and as you can probably guess I saw a production of Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story‘.  Coincidentally this is the second time I’ve heard this music recently, but this time with the dancing and the singing. This  UK touring  company which have been touring around the world for 10 years or more.

I had seen this musical before over 10 years ago in London, so I always wanted to see it again so this time I brought my folks along with me. The Bernstein and Robbins estates are very strict on every production of the musical around the world so, every production is virtually exactly the same everywhere..

Inside the theatre itself it’s all very red and cosy, we were up in the balcony with a great view but alas I forgot to take a photo while there.   :-?

It all started with wonderful irish timing at 7:45 rather then 7:30 with the late comers. My main worry was that there wouldn’t be an orchestra and it would be piped music with live singing. But to my pleasant surprise there was an 18 piece band. I don’t know much about choreography or staging or lighting so I’m going to concentrate on the music. Firstly it seemed to me that everything was miked for the musicians to the singers which was okay for the singers, but for the musicians everything seemed very loud. Granted the acoustics in the theatre might have been superb and the players might have been playing naturally but to my ears it sounded amplified.

A list of the characters and how they’re related to each other is here

For anyone unfamiliar with the plot of Jerome Robbin’s updated version of Shakespeare, West Side Story is set in 1950′s New York City where newly arrived Puerto Rican immigrant Maria falls in love with American Tony, whose gang The Jets are rivals to The Sharks, led by Maria’s brother Bernardo.

As the pair fall in love with each other, the gang feud worsens ending in violence and death.

The cast have all appeared in the West End shows in London and touring groups over the last number of years. I’m going to concentrate on the leading 3 roles, Maria, Tony, and Anita,

Maria was played by Katie Hall who was finalist in the BBC programme to find a representative for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. She  had a fine voice almost operatic which the role of Maria needs. 

Tony was played by Louis Maskell was a bit problematic he has a fine voice most of the time, but from his very first song Something’s Coming I noticed that he had a problem with the volume produced in his voice, going out of tune in that and Maria and the Quintet. But he sang a wonderful high C which Bernstein, requires at the end of Maria.

Djlenga Scott, who acted,sang and danced as Anita, was the best of leading roles on stage that night. It was worth the tickets alone just to see her do all three mentioned above in the song ‘America‘!

The conductor for the evening was a young Australian called Ben van Tienen, sometimes conducting his 18 musicians a little too vigorously. Some scenes conducted to fast than a expected, ‘ A Boy Like That‘, others a little slow ‘Gee, Officer Krupke

The show was directed by Joey McKennly who has been directing this musical around the world for the past 10 years. He studied with Jerome Robbins so is handing down the knowledge and upholding the tradition of original version of West Side Story to a new generation.

Great show but a few small irritations (tempo changes) in the performance, a good night out all in all.

São Paulo SO; Marin Alsop, NCH Dublin 26/10/13

Last Saturday I traveled to Dublin for my first concert of my live music year, which runs from September to June.

I booked a hotel close by, the O’ Callaghan Hotel. Alas, the taxi I hopped into at the train station brought me to the wrong one! Apparently there are three O’Callaghan hotels in the city centre. So, following a second taxi journey, it cost me an extra €15 from hotel A to hotel B.

When I got to the NCH* I noticed there seemed to be a younger crowd than normal. The usual concert-going people are of an older generation; don’t get me wrong there were still quite a few, but less. Even more to my surprise, I didn’t spot anyone falling asleep during the concert – which happens a lot!

Anyway here is my review of the concert.


Clarice AssadTerra Brasilis Fantasia sobre o Hino Nacional Brasileiro
Leonard BernsteinSymphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’
Gustav MahlerSymphony No. 1 in D major

The American and now Irish** conductor Marin Alsop was, somewhat unusually, the second woman to take charge of a symphony orchestra at the NCH this weekend. Galway native Sinead Hayes made her debut with the NSO with a programme of Mozart on Friday evening.

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