Russian Masters: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky (24th November 2012)

After last night's embarrassing incident of turning up to the Russian Masters: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky performance at the Sydney Opera House on wrong day, I'm sure we definitely have tickets to tonight's performance - I've checked and rechecked the date on the tickets several times to be sure!

We arrived early for the 8pm start so had a drink at the bar before heading into the Concert Hall where the performance was held. As part of the Ausgrid Master Series for 2012, the Russian Masters: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky was a showcase of the lesser-known works of these two Russian composers. There were only 3 performances (21, 23 & 24 of November) and ticket prices range from $39 - $129. Cost us $103 per person for our stall seats located 6 rows away from the stage.

Orchestra warming up

Tonight's concert was conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, a renowned pianist (classical music fans are likely to own one or more of his recordings; I have several) and in more recent years, an esteemed conductor. It is a privilege for Sydney Symphony Orchestra to have acquired Ashkenazy as their Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, and for me as well to see the legend himself in action!

The performance began with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op.40 featuring Scott Davie on the piano. The fourth concerto was Rachmaninoff's final piano concerto and the version played this evening was an Australian premiere of original version. As with most classical performances, it always impresses me to watch the soloist's performance and Davie played wonderfully with such passion and confidence, no music score in sight for all three movements.

During the 20-minute interval, Jono and I got ourselves a cup of coffee from the bar to share. Both were happily surprised that the coffee actually turned out pretty good. I guess we've had our share of bad coffees in Sydney and wasn't expecting coffee from the bar to be great especially during the interval rush.

Back into the Concert Hall for the second half of the performance, this time showcasing Tchaikovsky's Manfred - Symphony after Byron, op.58. Many of Tchaikovsky's works were inspired by literature, and in this case, a dramatic programmatic symphony composed following the journey of Manfred through the Alps torn by despair and guilt to finding redemption based on Lord Byron's poem, namely Manfred. To me, Tchaikovsky's works are like storytelling and always filled with emotions - I often find myself dreaming up scenes as I listen to the music (I'm not sure why it often involves fairies or nymphs in the forest or running away from something fearsome but that tends to be what his music brings to my mind). We also got to briefly hear the organs in the Concert Hall in action during the finale movement which was pretty amazing - I could feel the vibration going through my whole body! Overall the performance was excellent though a rather expensive experience I must say (don't think any event held at the Sydney Opera House we've been to comes under $100 per person) .

Despite the crowd applauding tirelessly and calling for an encore, we never got one and after awhile everyone got the message and started to disperse. Leaving a tad disappointed, we were delighted when on exiting the Sydney Opera House, we were showered with a colourful display of fireworks at the harbour (it was for the large cruise ship ported at Circular Quay) making it a brilliant end to a wonderful evening :)


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