Shanghai Day 4

5th May 2013

Saturday morning was spent rehearsing at the Shanghai Concert Hall, with music including a trio of works by the US-based Chinese composer Huang Ruo.  The piece provoked a good deal of interest in the venue, with concert hall staff intrigued to hear the orchestra shifting from Bernstein to Chinese folk songs.  It’ll be interesting to see how the performance goes down with tomorrow night’s audience.

In the afternoon, another impressively sizeable audience packed into the smaller of the Shanghai Concert Hall’s two auditoriums to hear Julian Johnson offer an overview of the development of music in the twentieth century – as with Southbank Centre’s The Rest is Noise series in London, one of the most striking features of this mini-festival has been the scale of interest shown in talks which set the music being performed in context.

Julian’s talk set the stage for a performance by five members of the orchestra of key chamber works from the so-called Second Viennese School of composition, which developed around Arnold Schoenberg in Vienna in the first quarter of the 20th century. John Reid performed Schoenberg’s Six Little Pieces for piano, and was joined by Timothy Orpen for the Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano by Schoenberg’s pupil Alban Berg.  At the heart of the concert was an arrangement of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony by another pupil, Anton Webern – a distillation for just five players of a work which prompted rioting at a 1913 performance in Vienna.  Thanks to Alex Jakeman (flute), Timothy Orpen (clarinet), John Reid (piano), Thomas Gould (violin) and Sarah McMahon (cello) for a really dazzling concert.

And thanks too to Tom Lessels (clarinet) for sharing with us these excellent examples of some the idiosyncratic english translations which have made navigating Chinese menus such an unbridled delight over recent days…