It was quite an honour to be invited by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra located in Dewan Philharmonic Petronas or Tower 2 KLCC for a date to watch A Romantic Rachmaninoff conducted by Fabio Mechetti. It had been ages since I last stepped into the hall so I was very excited as I love the classics and really loved the orchestra to bits.
Going to review the long awaited orchestra at #Mpo #malaysianphilharmonicorchestra and this place is like filled with police right now #music #blogger A photo posted by Leona Lim (@leonalimdotcom) on
I collected to my tickets at the box office and it was a fast and efficient process, before proceeding upstairs to the hall, found my seat and waited for the concert to start. For first timers, do note that no photography is allowed inside this hall. As magnificent and acoustically beautiful the hall was, I can only tell you in words. Seated at the top right, I could see the stage quite clearly, and I believe my seat was quite the perfect one. I do not want to be too near as the brass would be quite loud. The hall was quite filled that day, with people from all walks of life, young and old. I marveled at that, was pleased to know that people in Malaysia do really appreciate the classics after all, it is not just the concert halls of pop and rock stars that are filled. Immediately, the MPO will somehow transform your mood into a mood of elegance and thoughtful appreciation of your surroundings and sensitivity to every little and big instrument held by the members on the stage.
The ensemble for this concert was largely concentrated on the strings, the violinists. The concert opens with Le Corsaire Overture composed by Hector Berlioz in 1845. It was the perfect awakening for those feeling dozy from lack of the afternoon tea. It was inspired by memories of a pirate, stormy seas, a view from a tower and a suicide attempt. Berlioz’s characteristics of brilliant orchestration, rhythmic energy and yearning melody are present throughout. This first work lasted only 9 minutes before proceeding to the second part, short and sweet I’d say.
The second part was by Francesca da Rimini, a vivid portrayal of a love affair which ended in disaster, written by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The premiere was given in Moscow in 1877 to critical acclaim and it went on to establish itself as one of the most successful transformations of literature into music. I love this 24 min piece that was very dramatic in its parts and able to portray the storyline through the flow of the music.
After much applause at the end, we took a 20 min interval, where snacks and coffee can be bought just outside the hall on several levels. 20 min might seemed long but at the MPO it passed by in a flash amidst the chatter of the music lovers. We reentered the hall and took to our seats once more.
After the interval, it was time for Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2 in E minor; its premiere was conducted by the composer himself in 1908 in St. Petersburg. The audience responded enthusiastically and the work has enjoyed an unbroken run of popularity to this day. I marveled at the thought of how many years this symphony was played to this day, popular in all the years, Rachmaninoff was probably a prodigy, a self professed last romantic composer.
Pic from azquotes.com
There was this amazing quote by the composer in my program book, about what is music, how to define it. I thought it was so beautiful, spoke directly to my heart, that was what it was all about, unexplainable. When something is amazing, I almost always find that I have no words to describe it. That is the music of Rachmaninoff’s second. Divided in this hour long performance into four movements, namely i) Largo – Allegro Moderato ii) Allegro Molto iii) Adagio iv) Adagio Vivace.
The whole hour I felt like I was watching a pictureless movie, the music befitting of a movie soundtrack with the slowness of the beginning and the deep bass and ending with a highly energetic finale…I do love the third movement the most, as I think this is where the ‘romantic’ part comes in, with three beautiful melodies with a solo clarinet repertoire, like a lover longing for their loved one that is far away.
The finale, the fourth movement was fast, loud and even celebrative. It would carve a smile on every face with lots of clashing of cymbals! I almost wanted to stand up and clap, but a fine gentleman above one of the pews really did, echoing ‘bravo’ multiple times over the claps and cheers from the audience.
Hats off the Brazilian born conductor, Fabio Mechetti who was superb in every move, the only man standing throughout this nearly 2 hour performance literally, and I must add that I was amazed how he conducted without a score, remembering every detail of every move of every instrument. It was a delight to watch him and his orchestra. I was deeply moved and yet thrilled having witnessed this concert, it is not my first, and surely not my last. I will be back!
There will be another great popular concert this weekend by the MPO. Beethoven the 5th will be conducted by Roberto Abbado who has chosen a work by Haydn and Beethoven to frame a new work, composed by Giorgio Battistelli, which was premiered only recently in 2012. Titled Mystery Play, it was commissioned by St Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota, USA; the ensemble gave its premiere with Abbado himself on the podium. The work depicts ‘sorcery’ involved in composing music, a theatrical genre that began appearing in medieval Europe to represent legends and stories featuring mysterious and supernatural events.
The concerts will open with Symphony No.93 in D which was composed by Haydn in 1792 while he was staying in England. The MPO will then close the concerts with Beethoven’s instantly recognizable Symphony No.5 in C minor, a famous work written in 1807 and premiered in Vienna a year later. It was a forward-looking and ‘modern’ work back then. Its intense and concentrated four-note rhythmic opening unfolds with an unparalleled energy, leaving the audience gasping under its emotional impact. The finale represents a festive ending, acquiring the status of triumphal solution that resolves conflicts and tensions.
Abbado’s crisp and dramatic music-making, and evocative command of styles have made him an esteemed conductor among orchestras and opera productions. He has led the Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus and major orchestras in North America. A passionate interpreter of modern and contemporary music, he is frequently involved in programming works by 20th century composers. He is also a prolific recording conductor and was honoured the Franco Abbiati Prize by the National Association of Italian Music Critics as Conductor of the Year. Do not miss this if you can, opening this Friday and Saturday nights, 18 Sept and 19 Sept at 8.30pm. Bring a date, it will be the a most unforgettable one.