Sunday, March 15, 2015

Review: Anna Da Silva Chen plays Tchaikovsky with the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra

Saturday 14th March 7:30pm I went to the Russian Romantics concert put on by the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra with a program of Chris Williams Kolam, Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major with Anna Da Silva Chen, and Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 in E minor in the auditorium at Ravenswood School for Girls in Gordon (Sydney, Australia) conducted by Colin Piper.

Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic are a community orchestra with a range of talent. I have an older friend who plays cello, her new second instrument, in the section. It's a lovely community and I admire how well they put on concerts. The programs were well written and well designed, and I always appreciate some free good refreshments in the interval. The ticket entry was pretty reasonable at $15 for students and $30 for adults (managed to get two student tickets even though I'm a student in Germany and my boyfriend isn't a student at all). Normally I wouldn't say this is a reasonable ticket price for an orchestra of this standard, but I understand they need to raise money to get music and pay the conductors fee etc.

It was brilliant to see Colin Piper at the helm of the orchestra and he catered very well to the audience. With a friendly stage presence he gave the audience a little explanation of each of the works beforehand. With a modern piece on the program I always appreciate this because it's unlikely I've ever heard it before and sometimes it's nice to know what to look out for. In any case I'm not the model music student and have sometimes not even heard what may be considered common listening before so I welcome any more personal introduction to the pieces (that is, more personal than the concert program which I often don't have much time to read before the concert because I'm always cutting it close to the wire and almost running late). He held the orchestra together well and instigated some great eye-contact amongst the players. There was a clarity in his conducting technique and yet it still had appropriate energy.

The first piece, Chris Williams' Kolam, I approached with completely fresh ears. I hadn't read the program notes at all, didn't know anything about Kolam and didn't fully understand the explanation of the title given orally by Colin (not his fault, I wasn't listening). Colin had a few of the orchestra members demonstrate some of the sounds that would be heard in the piece and I really enjoyed this. He also said something along the lines of "the tune you'll be whistling when you leave is this: " and had the clarinet play. I was expecting a tune, because generally that's what characterises a tune that I'll be whistling, and the clarinetist played two notes: an A flat leaping up a fifth to an E flat. I am certainly not whistling this now or even directly after. This was a mistake for me by Colin, it is not a melody and the piece itself doesn't really have a melody. It was a piece that was made of sound; the sound of sandpaper blocks being rubbed together, string players tapping the bodies of their instruments, wind players blowing plain air through their instruments. Colin didn't need to try and make it into anything it wasn't. It was a picture piece and evoked some kind of foggy landscape for me. I liked the colours created and thought that the KPO should play more pieces like this. Being neither horrendously technical and yet still effective, it is the perfect sort of music for a community orchestra. My concert-partner didn't enjoy it as much as I did though..

The second piece on the program, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Anna Da Silva Chen, was actually the drawcard to the concert for my boyfriend and me. Anna is a first-year student at the same institution we have both done degrees at: the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She first came into my news-sphere for getting into the finals of the Young Performer's Awards last year. She didn't take out the main prize but it's still quite an achievement to get into the grand final and play your concerto with one of the major state orchestras of Australia (especially seeing as how I had also auditioned and not got through the preliminary round). Overall impressions are that she played very well (and I'll apologise up front for any technical jargon some readers may not understand in the following paragraphs). The first movement started with a shaky opening from the orchestra's first violins, which somehow made Anna's sound when she began very wow. I was super impressed with her contact with the string and consistent sound. I'm a big stickler for a strong concentrated sound and like to hear this in players (no fluffy fluffing around for me thanks! [unless for convincing musical effect of course]). Not long into the concerto did I realise that this was almost her only sound. I started to long for some more lightness in it, some playfulness in certain phrases. I'm no expert on the Tchaikovsky Concerto, having only heard it a few times before and never studied it myself back when I played violin, but I know what I like in music and there was no other side to the coin from Anna. She played the whole concerto rather seriously and I would be grabbing at air trying to find other characters in her musical interpretation. Basically nailing the technical difficulties isn't really enough, and even for me that wasn't achieved because it's through a great varied technique that one can create the level of contrast required for various sounds. Another little critique from me is that when she played repeated phrases, or parts of phrases, they sounded relatively the same. The first time what I thought was an audible passing-note shift for musical effect ended up being there the second time too because evidently that's the only way she shifts to that spot. Some greater attention in her study of the small variations that can be made will transform her playing in the future. Additionally, loving Anna's strong and concentrated sound, it was weaker on the A string. She has an excellent E-string sound and her sound on the lower strings was also well controlled and gutsy, but her sound on the A string was lacking and meant that across long runs that travel from the bottom of the register right up through all the strings to the top of the E there was a loss of energy due to the A string sound. Often this is where it is needed most in order to really crescendo into a climax (I won't go fully into it, but: exponential crescendos).

I do give Anna some kudos/cut her some slack because playing with a less-than-professional orchestra is hard work. It is not rare that the orchestra can't keep up with the tempo required and then what must the soloist do? I could feel that Anna wanted to take some more spritely tempos but the orchestra wasn't able to support her in this. I was happy to hear her stick with them. It's difficult but sometimes at this level you have to go with the orchestra; it's the great orchestras that can go with you when you want. I understand how difficult it must be not to play your ideal tempos and how that must effect your performance and Anna managed this well. However, it did result in some passage work sounding a little study-like. Equipped with a great detaché stroke is almost a shame for Anna because it showcases the fact that her off-the-string stroke is weak. I'm not sure if it was because it wasn't the ideal tempo for her but it definitely called up some memories of Kreutzer studies for me. It was neither light, nor did it have direction or character. I knew that if I was playing up there I would feel much more comfortable with a faster tempo in which to create the lightness more naturally (with the natural bounce of the bow).

Lastly there's an aspect to performance that I loathe to touch on and that is: performance persona. I hate that it is necessary in this world to have on-stage charisma etc etc. To me, for a long time, this was unnatural. In my mind I'm not playing the music for the audience, I'm playing it for myself. I want to produce what I think, what I feel. I understand how silly this is because it is a performance art, and something which we bring to a wider group. I have spoken to performers who live for playing the music for the audience and I know there's a logic to that. The thing I hate is that people go to a classical music concert and say that the performer wasn't "into the music" just because they weren't making faces and rolling around the stage in fits. Having said that, it is important to not hinder your performance through what you're doing physically. Anna needs to work on showing the audience the conversational aspect of music by interacting more with the orchestra. There are passages where the solo violin has difficult filler music and the melody is in another section of the orchestra. It is difficult to achieve but the soloist must play their technical passage-work effortlessly whilst looking and listening to the melody in whichever part of the orchestra it is. As this is quite a heavily fashion-based blog I would also like to mention Anna's fashion choice for the evening. She wore a purple satin-looking dress with some embellishment in the bust. It was fine but perhaps not the finest choice for her figure. Anna is a beautiful girl however she is very slender (not meaning this in a bad way at all!). I think she would do better to wear gowns that are more draped and able to create some body for her instead of satin which showed everything (obviously not belly-pooches, more bony hips). The colour and cut of the dress were very good.

In the end, a solid performance from Anna. Solid in sound that's for sure. She has what it takes to project over an orchestra and the beginnings of a good technical basis but from my perspective she needs to take more care to look into the details. The need for more characters, a greater variety of sounds, and more interaction with the orchestra are what made this performance lack in musical conviction and are the areas in which I think she could improve. At only 18 she has the chance to become very good in the future. I look forward to seeing what happens with her playing through her Bachelor Degree and after.

There was a performance by the orchestra of Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony after the interval but unfortunately my concert-partner and I didn't stay for it (he has a huge test to study for). In any case I was not too sad to miss it because the orchestra didn't have the greatest moments in the Tchaikovsky. The upper strings did very well but I felt the lower strings (celli/bassi) were often out of tune and this is the foundation. When the foundation is shaky it is extremely difficult to build on. I won't comment on the wind and brass. Good effort in any case from a community orchestra! I hope to see more modern pieces like the Williams on their programs in the future.

N.B: I want to just state clearly here that in all reviews I don't think I am superior to the performers in any way, or that I have more knowledge than them, I am merely writing reviews as verbalisations of my perspective and opinion. I do not mean to offend any persons in any review.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Blog revive

Hi Everyone/AnyoneLeftReading!

I have taken a break from my blog for almost a year now; sometimes I really missed it and other times not as much. I've been discovering how hard it is to maintain a balance in life whilst being a classical music student. There are times when, up until now, I thought I had to put the blinders on and do nothing but practice for an audition. I've done a fair few now and I've decided to change up my method a bit. I'm really unhappy with my current "system": practising like mad when I have something coming up and then barely practising at all when nothing is on the calendar. Instead I want to implement a more lasting, and overall more beneficial system, whereby I practice across all seasons very regularly and during the lead up to events I'll still be able to manage my time across other creative outlets and physical wellbeing. There are a few things in my life which have particularly suffered from the way I was doing things and they were/are my physical health as well as my creative health. I feel it's really important, at least for myself, to allow for exploration and realisation of other creative outlets.

Aside from this, this blog didn't feel fully like what I wanted it to be. I started off this blog by following the advice of a very big successful blog (A Beautiful Mess) and analysed exactly what areas I wanted to blog about: fashion, DIY, and music. But now I feel like there are so many more things that interest me and more things that I want to write about. Perhaps they won't fit into any mould and there will be people who only want to read 50% of what I write on my blog and other people that want to read the other 50%. Instead of catering my blog to who I think might read it in order to get a large readership, I'm going to cater it to myself. Basically: I'm going to start writing about whatever I want to write about! I will try and maintain some structure though like the Weekly Wish-Lists on Wednesdays and Tunesday. Ideally I would love to do an Outfit Misfit post every Sunday but because I've moved across the Earth and don't have a job I no longer go shopping.. at all. So sadly there will very rarely be any more of these and that's purely from a point that I don't have many outfits to show you that you haven't seen (incidentally this was another big reason for the lack of blogging motivation over the last year as it was one of the main reasons I wanted to start the blog: to do cool outfit photography posts). New to the blog will be more segments on reviews, and cooking. I'm really interested in doing reviews of concerts I've been to, recipes I've tried, restaurants, books etc. It will be a new direction for Wish ToDo Play but not too far from what it already is.

I hope you'll keep reading,

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Long Time No See-anythingonthisblog

I have been terrible at blog-upkeep this year. It is something I really enjoy but, unfortunately, I can't justify spending time on blogging over practice when I'm at a point in my life where I'm at the tipping point between goingtomakeit-notgoingtomakeit. Having said that: here I am! I've decided that if I've done my 4 hours practice that day, and feel like I have something to blog about, then I should do it. It's important to have non-music interests too, if not just for my mental health.

It's also been hard to blog when I've been purposefully distancing myself from reading fashion magazines or looking at stores online or even in person. But today: I fell off the wagon. I "browsed" Moda Operandi purely with the intention of gazing at some beautiful clothing, certainly not for seriously considering buying anything. Yet here I am, actually considering dropping a load (of money) on clothes. I'm appealing to you: lovely folk of the internet, to help me decide what I should do. I have been saving all this year and last to be able to sustain myself in Germany for 2 years (by the way: I'm here right now, writing from Berlin!), should I abstain and maintain shopping celibacy (hopefully no-one knows/remembers that time I bought a coat in May.. I really just fell into it) or should I throw caution to the wind and buy myself a treat and potentially not be able to afford food for a couple of months in the next year or so?

Here are the devils that have been tempting me:

The "Katia" exposed-back faille dress by Tibi. The reasons are thus: 1. I have wanted something in mint for as long as I can remember (ok not that long, but a really long time), 2. I adore things that show a bit of back and this back of the dress is to die for, and 3. It has a drop waist: perfect little touch of Gatsby that I've been longing to try since I saw Carey Mulligan in the latest movie. This beauty is $445, see all the specs here.


This Ostwald Helgason skirt. Perfect touch of gingham no? And it's on sale!! $205 check the specs.

So what's the verdict online jurors? Should I buy one (which)? Should I buy both? Should I abstain?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Snaps: Tasmania (part 2)

This is the second installation of my photos from the Tasmania trip I took in March with my boyfriend Michael. The selected photos are from our hike in Freycinet National Park. It was an unplanned thing that we ended up doing, as we were driving from northern Tas to Hobart. The main thing that drew us there was the famous Wineglass Bay, named thus because of it's shape. We figured we'd do the 2hr return hike and go for a swim at the beach in the middle (and we had picnic-style food prepared). It was a warm and sunny day, ..until we got to the beach. It was much to cold to go swimming which we discovered when we took our shoes off. It was some truly stunning scenery and a nice depiction of the best of Australian landscape. 

Check out my technology skillz: panoramas!

This wasn't part of the Wineglass Bay walk, but a view from a viewpoint we drove to.
Wineglass Bay.
The terrain.
At Wineglass Bay itself, looking out to the bay.
A rogue little wallaby that was pretty friendly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Operation Learn German: Week 6

Last week was Week 5, which means this week is Week 6.. which means I have hardly any more time to go before I jet off to Germany!

This last week's progress has been poor. I feel like I've improved in my German conversational skills and more of the things I'm learning from my book are now coming through in my speech; this makes me happy. I desperately need to make some new flashcards but I've run out of the pad of paper I create them from (excuses excuses!) so I'd better sort that out soon. However, I have been revising them every day =) I've also got a goal of putting in some new verbs in my verb book, which has run out of space, so I need to think of a solution to that problem too. I'm going to be honest now: I haven't completed Part 3 of my book German Demystified.. Shame on me! I'm so close though so hopefully I can get that done in the next few days.

  • Complete Part 3 of my German Book. If I haven't done this next week you guys had better do something mean to me and make me feel ashamed.
  • der die das flashcards. Update the flashcards.
  • Verbs. Update my verbs book.
  • 3 x 20 minute German conversations. I've got another friend added to my arsenal of German speaking friends =)
This was taken in Stockholm. Cute letter boxes!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Operation Learn German: Week 5

Oh dear! I can't believe how close it's getting.. Week 5 of  9 (FREAKOUT!!!!)
Well Week 4 wasn't the greatest of successes.. I'm falling way behind with my study in regards to using my German book. However, I did manage to have the best conversations I have had yet. I was able to communicate a little more comfortably and closer to what I actually wanted to say so that felt good. I updated my der die das flashcards and I revised them, and my verbs book, much more than I had in any other week. This week I need to update my verbs book, now that I'm getting most of them firmly in my head, and work on my German book study.

  • Complete Part 3 of my German book. I really want to move forward through this book!
  • der die das flashcards. Continue to add more vocab and update, revise them at least 4 times this week.
  • Verbs. Add to my book, stop revising the ones that I find easy now. Revise them at least 4 times this week.
  • German conversations. I'm getting better at this one so hopefully I can do the same as last week.

This was taken in Salzburg.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy Snaps: Tasmania (part 1..)

In March I went to Tasmania, with my boyfriend Michael, for a whole week! I didn't bring my viola, I didn't bring anything except clothes (lots), a sense of adventure, and the tour booklet I made (yes: massive nerd and proud of it!). It was the most amazing week and we did so many excellent things! I was going to share them all in a Happy Snaps post but there are just too many things to cover so I'm going to do it in parts.

This first part is happy snaps of the boat cruise we did from Bruny Island. Tasmania itself is an island and then it has other islands as part of it. An island of an island! We did the boat cruise as part of a Pennicott Wilderness Journey; a company started and owned by Robert Pennicott. It was a moment of uncanniness when we realised that we had done a canyoning trip in Cradle Mountain with him! We didn't know it at the time that we were amongst Tasmanian and tourism celebrity. It was a fantastic tour and as they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll just get on with it:

Ever fashionable protective gear.
More Albatross!
Blow hole.
Cool rock formation.
Pretty sure this is called Dollarmite rock (don't take my word for it..)
That water..