Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Joyful Noises

I heard a wide range of music at Disney Hall last month, from string quartets up to the fabulously orchestrated Wing on Wing - when was the last time you saw a wind machine on stage or heard the voice of the plainfin midshipman? - but the one kind of work I didn't hear, and regret not hearing, was one of the great sonic-overload works in the repertory. Wing on Wing and Radical Light were loud, but not that loud.

That's because I agree with Patrick about the sheer elemental pleasure of a symphony orchestra at full cry: I remember a few of those astonishingly loud pieces with glee. The insane Elektra taken straight through at, apparently, triple forte (well, it felt that way in the balcony at War Memorial). The first time I heard The Rite of Spring live, a fantastic performance at the 1999 SFS Stravinsky Festival. The Turangalila conducted by David Robertson the year SFO did St. Francois. What a racket! Buying the second-row ticket was a big mistake. I'd like to hear it again, next time from the tenth row.


Henry Holland said...

I came to classical music and opera via rock music, specifically ELP & King Crimson & Yes who would talk about Ginastera, Sibelius, Stravinsky and Bartok in interviews. So, I really really really like loud sounds!

I still think the loudest single thing I've ever heard was sitting in the seventh row, on the "brass side" of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Pierre Boulez conducting the Mahler 5th. There's that trumpet solo and then that big A major chord. Boulez and the Philharmonic nailed it--it was so loud, the first ten rows or so leaned back from the sound. Amazing.

Loudest concert? Easy! Metallica on the Black Album tour at the Forum. It was a physical thing, the sound that night, but whoever mixed it was a God because you could hear the sounds of fingers across guitar strings, the sound was so clear.

As an aside, I wish Pierre Boulez would come conduct the Phil at Disney, but I think he's pretty much done conducting these days. Please please please?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Well....he's conducting in Cleveland this coming spring, so there is hope!

In 1994, the Rolling Stones were on some tour or another and came to the Oakland Coliseum. Some of my co-workers got tickets after standing in line for hours and hours.

My girlfriend and I decided it would be fun to go if any tickets could be had, so she got on the phone and was told some tickets had just been released. This was three days before the concert.

We arrived and were pointed down toward the field, where we got closer and closer and closer...and found we were in the second damn row.

I was very, very glad we'd brought earplugs. That was certainly the loudest thing I've ever heard. Thank god they were really good speakers.

Mike Walsh said...

I've sat in the second row for the Saint-Saens "Organ" Symphony and in the terrace above the brass section for Holst's Planets (Mars and Uranus definitely go to eleven). Corigliano's symphony has to be counted as sonic overload, too, as much with a thick, fractal texture as with sheer volume.

winpal said...

My all-time favorite has to be MTT and the SF Symphony's first go at the Mahler 8th back in the 1998 Mahler Festival. Maybe you caught that one? He placed brass all around Davies and up in the balcony (one of the singers also sang at one point from the little door up in the rafters). When he spun around and faced the audience to conduct the massed ensemble and monumental sound was coming from everywhere, it was one of the most thrilling things I've ever heard. The cheers from the audience at the end of the performance were almost as loud. Unfortunately, when they repeated the work a few years later, they didn't do the surround sound placement and it just didn't have the same visceral impact.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I heard the 8th a few years later, though I cannot recall exactly what year. It was loud too. I wish they'd done it with the surround sound placement!!

Anonymous said...

That Robertson Turangalila on the day I heard it was something else - one of the great concerts ever. I listened to the LAPO recording a couple of days after hearing concert and was astonished that the live performance of SFS was more precise than the recording.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yes! It was fantastic. I have an off-the-air CD of the piece.