Thursday, 27 September 2012

Possibly The Best Music In The World

Well, there had to be some kind of reference to Carlsberg advertising, considering we were in Copenhagen. ('Carlsberg, possibly the best lager in the world'...)

But what brought me to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen?  Brahms. Brahms and a smidgeon of Schubert.  And a (non music-) student orchestra that didn't play like (non music-) students, thanks to their excellent conductor, a very dear friend of mine.

Brahms with a mix of Sir Malcolm Sargent, I should say, as I got to sing Brahms in a wonderful new version (for mezzo-soprano) of Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs), originally written for voice and piano, in a wonderful full orchestration by the afore-mentioned Sargent.  So very lush and multi-dimensional!  

The smidgeon of Schubert was Berlioz's orchestration of Die Erlkönig.  I have a beautiful cd of Ann Sofie von Otter singing some of these orchestrations, and I was thrilled to find out the encore would be one of these glorious arrangements!  Needless to say, I found all five songs so very different to sing with orchestra than with piano.  Of course, you can still be intimate when singing with an orchestra, but I find it's such a different kind of intimacy.  Piano and voice is quite stark in many ways, but is also very present.  Just two people and their instruments creating expression and colour and their own little world.  The palette is much more full with an orchestra, and it is always fun (and challenging) to try and create equally vibrant tones with the voice.  (I suspect you can tell I've had more experience singing with orchestras and ensembles than with just piano!)  But, needless to say, any given piece, on any given day, with any given singer, using any given accompaniment will create a myriad of different performances.  It is, after all, what live music (to me) is all about.

Copenhagen is full to the gunwales with strangely out-of-place architecture.  Their city hall (
Københavns Rådhus, pictured above) looks like a northern European version of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, slightly clunkier and not having quite the right glowing red brick.  And the inside is even stranger - walls, ceilings staircases all in 15th century style covered in tiles and trompe l'oeil of the early 20th century Art Deco period.  

And if that wasn't enough, there was the rather splendid World Clock - an astronomical clock designed by Jens Olsen at the beginning of last century.

But, as much as it would have been wonderful, wonderful, Copenhagen itself was not one of the places we were performing. 

There was intimacy of a different kind when we did our first concert, not in Denmark, but in Germany.  (I would have mentioned this before, but it didn't go with the title of the post!)  The lovely town of Münster played host to our fair company for a few days, and (apart from hellishly sleepless nights due to noisy incumbents of the same hotel) it was an interesting visit.  

The town itself is lovely - the centre looks very old indeed and is surrounded by wonderful churches, but in reality 90% of the old town was destroyed in WWII.  The old city has been rebuilt to look the way it did pre-war, and it is very charming, although slightly melancholy when you think of how old the buildings were before they were bombed.

We didn't, sadly, get to sing in any of these wonderful buildings, but instead were given the great lecture theatre of the university.  Complete with the acoustics of a taxidermied donkey.  The dusty and air-conditioned (and, strangely, central-heated) stuffy air of both backstage and front of house gave the impression that you were singing and breathing into an ancient velvet curtain, letting no sound resonate but instead smother it to death in a surprisingly efficient manner.  This is the kind of intimate sound all performers can do quite happily without...

But back to Denmark, where we had acoustics in cathedral-loads. 

Århus Domkirke was very generous with its sound.  Perhaps a bit too generous, but after Münster anything was delightful!  (And there was the added bonus of seeing the exterior of the rather amazing-looking theatre - found at the bottom of these five photos.)  I shall always remember Århus, however, not for being a pretty town with lovely architectural features, but for supplying me with possibly the finest cappuccino I think I've ever had.

Finally we arrived at the Messiaskirken in Charlottenlund, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, but do I have photographic evidence of this? No, because I caught a stomach bug and spent most of the time I wasn't singing, hovering around the only loo...  (And let it be noted that it was due to very greasy pizza, and not copious amounts of Carlsberg!) But Mister Google is, as always, most helpful...

I have to say that although it was quite small, it was, in comparison to the other places, happily oh-so-acoustically perfect!  And like the ending in all traditional fairy tales, the last of the three was the 'just-right' setting in the story of Goldi-Redlocks and the Three Venues.  

Possibly the worst pizza in the world, though...

Mair Bloag Weejits

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