Friday, 21 September 2012
MacMillan in Grafenegg
The final concert at Grafenegg is always devoted to the composer in residence, and while looking over my photos of trees I see my review is missing a name, though Cristóbal Halffter (2010) is another composer-conductor.
There are more things I could write about James MacMillan, but instead a few words about the structure above, which was used instead of the auditorium this year and not because the weather was appreciably better. The Austrians have traditionally been suspicious of outdoor concerts, at least at the highbrow end, and I fail to understand why this space is tolerated. What we should hear is unidirectional – so if you weren’t sitting directly in front of that harp, as I was, forget it (same goes for the brass) – while the audience’s contributions are picked up from all directions. Every cough bounces around the concrete walls, gulps of champagne become like Chinese water torture, and the grassy areas around the Wolkenturm sound as if infested by Austria’s noisiest crickets. On the final chord of Tristan the previous night the local church bell started tolling loudly, though thankfully on F sharp. Thielemann shuffling around the podium was audible even in the more booming moments of Bruckner 7, while MacMillan reported he had bugs crawling all over his scores. To stop the wind blowing over pages, Grafenegg has kitted out the musicians with metal clips that, yes, fasten to metal stands, so there is the sound of a hundred mousetraps going off with every page turn. Balance is a joke, with only the strings really blending, and overall I’d rather have the appalling amplification switched off and risk an even drier sound. Or better yet, stop putting a decent concert hall to waste and move the entire festival indoors.
More Grafenegg photos after the jump.