And you thought I’d forgotten who this blog is about, didn’t you?
“Overtura [Sullivan’s made-up word] di Ballo” is a concert work first conducted by Sullivan himself in 1870 in Birmingham, a year before he began his collaboration with W.S. Gilbert. It opened a program of British Light Music given in London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2011 by the BBC Symphony and conducted by John. The piece itself is okay, but the real delight is in watching my bonny enjoy himself starting at 10:48.
This is what I’ve been waiting for since last summer: a vidcomp of the complete annual summer concert of the greatest festival orchestra in the world, The Johann Strauss Orchestra, led by Andre Rieu, in the town square called Vrijthof in their home town of Maastricht, The Netherlands, 7 July 2018.
From their rousing entrance to the tune of “76 Trombones” by Meredith Willson (that’s two l’s, thank you) to their invariable sign-off pieces: the Maastricht city anthem; Strauss Sr’s “Radetsky March”; “An der schönen blauen Donau” op. 314 (of course!); Shostakovich’s Jazz Waltz No. 2; “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (from “Plaisir d’amour” by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini, 1784); Austrian composer Robert Stoltz’s “Adieu, mein kleiner gardeoffizier”; and the Rocco Granata standard “Marina” (which I used to hear every year at the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, NYC), there’s two hours here of sheer delight, drinking and dancing. It’s always a special afternoon when I get to play the entire Maastricht concerts for me and Mister Grumble, I open a bottle and dance around the room and he just grins and drinks. Will write down the whole playlist one of these days.
John and his orchestra don’t always perform semi-staged musicals badly at the BBC Proms—their 2012 My Fair Lady was pretty much all right, no shenanigans there (although The Guardian wrote, “John Wilson’s adapted score—which borrows from Andre Previn‘s movie arrangements—adds a sparkle to even the most drearily expository songs: the flutes somehow sound cheekier, the brass ruder, the strings zingier”); and their 2014 Kiss Me Kate was big, sexy and playful, as it was meant to be. Winsome John even gets a speaking part!
The entire production is available to watch here.
The Sage houses two performance spaces—Hall Two seating 600, Hall One seating 1,700—with impeccable acoustics. This impressive concert venue serves a city with a smaller population than, oh, Eugene, Oregon—you know, the corrupt and insane berg where well-known, well-respected Oxford-trained conductor Matthew Halls was so cavalierly fired. (See the Telegraph‘s 9 September 2017 article: “British Conductor Sacked by US Music Festival After ‘Innocent’ Joke with His African-American Friend was Labelled Racist“; then Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc post from 17 September 2017: “Oregon’s Stupid University is Seriously Damaged“; Drew McManus’s post from Adaptistration: “Are Things About to Go Sideways for the Oregon Bach Festival?“; and Bob Hicks’s post from Oregon Arts Watch: “BachFest: The $90,000 Solution“.)
Why am I going on about bad music mojo in the middle of Oregon when this post is entitled “The Sage, Gateshead”? Because I came across this pic while the Halls story was breaking and it filled me with such a longing to be in a civilized place with a fine concert hall and honest beer. And I’ll tell you something, The Sage is going to be around long after the Oregon Bach Festival crumbles into dust. I’m clocking it.
Update: See my posting from 23 August 2018.
Revson Fountain at Lincoln Center on 63rd and Broadway. At 18 I worked across the street at ASCAP as a night solfeggist and this was the view outside our window.