Monday, November 16, 2009

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra played Toronto tonight and the more Oriental the more sublime. In the end I was quivering and wondering if it's still possible to live, to really live, quivering like this somewhere.. in China? of all places?

The music was so open, the silences so profound and I thought, oddly, of Ed. McDowell's "To A Wild Rose," from "Woodland Sketches" and Ellington.... Cecil Taylor crossed my mind and Puccini.... "Find the distinctive melody" he wrote in his notes... and tonight I heard it. I heard Turandot melt.

Tears and sniffles made the Chinese man lean forward, thinking I might have H1N1. Talk about irony. How long to total integration? About one generation. The young Chinese man in the men's room confirmed this: "I got it till they played the second half." Right. He got Rachmaninoff's ambivalent East/West stuff (I prefer Dostoevsky, who really had a Russian soul to that fool Tolstoy who wrote a thousand pages just to set one stone, one great idea on history* in its setting).

The Rach-3, as Olivier so stupidly said in one of the most moronic movies ever made, "Shine," is, of course, the musical acrobatic act that tore poor David Helfgott's mind. Right. I'd call the movie a piece of shit if I didn't believe so strongly that that kind of language shouldn't be used in public and, secondly, if I thought the movie was anywhere near deserving of the insult. What was I saying before I so comically and artfully digressed? It was pretty good.... which is about all you can say about a slob like Rachmaninoff. I mean, it was better than I've ever heard it. The dynamics were far in advance of anything I've heard recorded but who wants to hear a crazy lout who can't decide if he's Oblomov or Stolz?

Still, the Russian insanity was infinitely better than the German noise the pianist, Yja Wang, played as a second encore just to throw a wet towel over the more excited of us in the audience so she could go call her broker.

For me, it was all in the second half. Xiaaoduo Chen, soprano, Meng Meng, soprano were extraordinary, as were the three musicians nan Wang on erhu, Jia Li on pipa and Xin Sun on guzheng. Together with the orchestra under Long Yu, they made a sublime bucolic masterpiece of sound and silence that quivered and made the soul grateful to be alive, especially grateful to have been born an artist. To sweep the floor under the feet of the master who wrote this would be an honor.

Now.... where the hell in the program is his damed name?! I'm serious! The list is there for the night before and the night after but... ah! It's Qigang Chen: "Iris devoilee" (minus an accent or two)

Correction... the first crazy Russian (better) was Mussorgsky (Prelude to Khovanshchina) and the second was Rach-2, not the impossible Rach-3 upon which so many minds have been flayed and left to rot.

My bad

*from memory: “All great events take place in the unconscious and a man who participates in an historic event never understands its true import: the moment he tries to realize the significance of his actions, his actions become sterile.” (this explains the galleries of our day)