Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

10 March 2010, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London

Over the years, OAE has become one of my favourite orchestras. I particularly love how they are really animated when they play. Especially tonight, I couldn’t stop watching the first chair cellist. He wore the music on his face – furrowed eyebrows when frantically bowing, raised eyebrows during the light dainty notes, cocked head when listening to the violins across the stage play their soft sections… loved it. They play on period instruments, which makes the sound really interesting (albeit slightly muted). Plus I always really enjoy their repertoire. But then, that might be more of a reflection of what I choose to go listen to.

I was thinking tonight, why is it that I pretty much enjoy all the classical concerts that I go to? More than some of the theatre or dance stuff that I go see? Slightly odd, considering it’s an artform I know the least about and thus should have the least ‘tools’ to enjoy. I think the reasons are… precisely so – I’m less critical so more easily impressed. Also, I make safer choices. I don’t see many classical concerts and so when I do decide to go, I choose something that seems safe. Something recommended, something mainstream. Beethoven is good, Mozart is good. Elgar and Purcell are good too. Schubert not so much. Contemporary classical isn’t something that I enjoy particularly. I (somewhat) know which orchestras play pieces that are usually too challenging for my taste. Whereas for theatre and dance, I like to be challenged. I like to see something different. Even if I don’t end up impressed when I come out of the theatre, it’s all part of the bigger experience. All part of the thrill, part of taking risks, where when you do come across something amazing, something different, something that inspires you, you get blown away.

Another random question – you know how when the player on the left stops playing to turn the page for him/her and their stand buddy… does the other person then play louder to compensate? Or do they do it so quickly it doesn’t matter? Or is the score arranged so that those bits can be played by less people? That can’t be right, right? Hmm. Must remember to ask someone about that.

Anyway tonight, unfortunately my head was still spinning from being in work mode all day for the first half of the concert. They played Beethoven’s Symphony No.1 and No.8, which I know from Nodame Cantibile, heh heh, the Japanese anime that supposedly got the youth in Japan into classical music… (who says pop culture isn’t good?) But when the second half started and they played ba da da daaaaa!, OAE swept my mind and my thoughts away…

I love how they are quirky. Look at the image they’ve used in their marketing campaign. The only problem is, I can never spell them correctly on the first go.

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