Friday, December 07, 2007

Singing in the abbey

"After the glass-and-chrome titans of Oxford Street, frenetic with escalators and decibels and security guards, Harold Moores is a Dickensian haven..."
An Equal Music, Vikram Seth

HM Records; Carnaby Street by day

I made a special trip into town at lunchtime to visit Harold Moores Records on Great Marlborough Street to say our goodbyes to Hester, Tim, Andy and Daisy. While I'm likely to return one day, at least on a brief visit, this is almost certainly Bondi's last week outside of Australia.

While there, I listened to the opening strains of a famous recording of Wilhelm Furtwangler conducting Beethoven's 9th in Berlin on Hitler's birthday in 1942. Hitler is not present, but Goebbels is in the audience. Reacting to this context, Furtwangler produces what must be the most harrowing rendition of this piece ever performed. (Bondi, until now sitting quietly down the end of the store, finally bellows a "Freunde get me out of here".)

The new production of The Sound of Music playing at the London Palladium features Connie Fisher as Maria, cast from the televised search How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? Since October, the role of Captain Georg von Trapp has been played by Aussie actor Simon Burke. I've known Simon for an age (he refers to me as "the computer who wore tennis shoes", which dates both of us) and he was quick to offer me the chance to get some house seats before I headed south.

As well as I know the music, having learnt many of the pieces at the piano under the tutelage of Sister Celestine at the convent in Temora, and having been at one of the first sing-along film screenings in Seattle in 1999, I'd never seen it on stage before. I was still not expecting to find myself with tears running down my cheeks during that very powerful moment midway through Act 1 when Maria confronts the Captain about his treatment of the 7 children.

During the second act, the scene at the Salzburg musical festival becomes a direct parallel to the Furtwangler concert, with the Captain, under orders from Nazi officials, is heard to sing in the reprise of So Long, Farewell: Regretfully they tell us / But firmly they compel us/ to say good bye.

I couldn't help but notice during that "festival" that "a drink with jam and bread" gave the mondegreen "a drink with German bread". I'm not the first, apparently.

The final escape across the hills to Switzerland was rather weird, as the set device for said hills resembles an Unidentified Flying Golf Course.

Through the oval window... (or is it Sauron's eye with Visine?)

Carnaby Street by night: paper-chains and garlands

While I was watching Cinderella last night, Prince Charming's shower scene inspired a terrible German music joke to flash through my head. To wit, that "Steaming" Nell Dunn's play about 6 women in a bath-house, be set to music by the avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Naturally, and this is the core of the joke, it would be called "Steammung" after his 1968 work for vocal sextet "Stimmung". Hey, even the numbers line up! The suggested pairing for this piece would be Luigi Nono's Nonet (also sadly unwritten).

This morning I woke to read that Stockhausen had died the day before...

1 comment:

  1. I saw SoM live here in Sydney a few years back...with Lisa McCune as Maria and Moonface as Max. Was a good production.