#BRISTOLPROMS: Day 3, Part 1 – Melly Still, Iris Supple-Still, Tim Evans, Ed Woodman, Megan Brand

Theatre Director Melly Still shares with us her thoughts on Day 3 of #BRISTOLPROMS

Daniel Hope and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, photography by SWNS

Music with historical narrative was the theme of the first half with both Tom Morris and Daniel Hope brilliantly conjuring verbal snapshots of the lives of Vivaldi, Louis XIV (was it?) and Paganini.

The most striking image was of the 18th century Bristol Old Vic audience arrangement: the men sit with their backs to the orchestra pit so that they can eye the ladies.

In rural Italy a concert was more a duel: the fastest and loudest wins. The urinals were situated in front of the pit (so that the musicians needn’t leave mid duel?) Sounds like an Eminem style rap competition.

The sweet melodrama of Ferdinand the Bull recalled to my mind, happy indolent boys off now travelling around Europe to bask in Dance scene festivals. It was a joyously playful antidote to the macho.

I’m a bit speechless about the music, the playing… no words can quite convey the quality and vitality I think. All of it enhanced by the intimacy and balmy fervour of the auditorium.

The second half began with a demonstration and explanation of Max Richter’s reclamation of The Four Seasons. I found myself longing for the full Vivaldi version after some teasers from the Royal Philharmonic. But in the event Richter’s re-imagining seemed to wipe the slate clean. Deep persuasive chords felt strangely familiar and disarmingly current in a film score sort of way. That doesn’t sound very positive but it all sounded exquisite, staggeringly so, to my ear, albeit an untrained one.  And the proximity to the players was a rare treat. How mad the concept of the pit seems. Tonight I made a promise to go to more concerts. The liveness is so invigorating. And does anyone else have a problem keeping still? I wanted to dance.

Play Nicely created a visual accompaniment, the challenge of which sounded both breathtaking and baffling. But the gaming aesthetic (as it was introduced) is inescapably Simsy porn. I’m not entirely new to the aesthetic after two decades of living with kids into games, but tonight I feel like a bit of a dinosaur, trapped in Penelope Pitstop’s car. I’m intrigued. Did it compliment or distract? Bucolic landscapes were represented but I felt like I’d stepped into an apocalyptic nightmare. I wonder if a less representational response, given the brute plasticity of the imagery, might have complimented the seasons more quietly. I tried to embrace the ugliness, recalling the advice of the authors of Learning From Las Vegas (architects Venturi and Scott Brown), to hate, hate, hate, hate and look until you love. A sort of self generated brain washing. Something like that anyway. I don’t know whether i’malone in the struggle to like the aesthetic. I’d like to like it. Or at least appreciate it. I’ve recently attended a couple of conferences on creative computing (accompanying computer scientist husband) so I can appreciate the excitement, the brilliant nerdy ingenuity and passion for experiment but in the end I find myself feeling sorry for the computers. Its not really their fault they have to generate that ‘look’ is it? I think I’ll shut up, I hear a resounding: yeah… it doesn’t really work like that.

Oh but I feel too exercised. Much better to sleep with the memory of Autumn’s last movement. The musical one. That was the most sublime highlight. Truly breathtaking (if you closed your eyes to avoid the weird black sci-fi rock posing as a cloud).

Continuing on from her opening night blog, 12 year old Iris Supple-Still shares her thoughts on last night:

Daniel Hope and The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, photography by SWNS

INCREDIBLE. Full stop.

It was outstanding – it had rich textures, unimaginable acoustic work, stuff I can’t even name.

It took me through a journey that absorbed me totally. Any thought that came to my head was eaten, crushed, hoovered, you name it, by the power of this music.

There was no point I wasn’t in awe. I was constantly hypnotised by its magic – transported by its power.

The journey started off with three pieces – each different and captivating in their own exciting way.   

Then we entered the story of Ferdinand the bull – a humorous mixture of violin and storytelling by the extremely talented soloist. Some more pieces, and then the revolution of The Four Seasons.

I am not lying when I say this is the best classical music I have witnessed in all my twelve years.

Not only could I hear the music – but I could smell the music, touch the music, see the music vividly even with my eyes closed and taste the music. It overloaded every one of my senses until I felt they were all going to burst in the midst of this masterpiece.

Each of these musicians have remarkable talent. Each note had its own story, own character, own ambition – all thanks to these weirdly talented people. The songs were so thick with purity, balance, surprises, textures, tones, dynamics, persuasions, arguments, agreements, darkness, happiness, uniqueness the list quite literally goes on.

With the animation accompanying the seasons I could feel myself be guided through the year. while the animation’s simplicity let the music avalanche its way into the seasons through its re-composed version.

The textures and varieties for the different seasons in the melodies created such a vivid yet abstract setting. I could see myself weave trough the blossoming smells and colours of Spring, the April showers; the pounding heat of the sun, the serenity of a Summer’s sunset; the golden crunchiness of Autumn, the crisp air refreshing me; the air of Winter stabbing yet welcoming with snow as well, a cozy fire inside and so one – all trough the music.

If I had a whole week to write this your eyeballs would have decayed by the ending. Unfortunately I don’t. I could go on for eternity, just as this concert should do.

Thank you for this extraordinary performance and good luck for the future as you certainly all have one. I am still mesmerised. Congratulations to you all you should all be extremely proud!!!

Yours musically,

Iris 😀 😀 😀

Films@59‘s Ed Woodman shares his thoughts on Max Richter: The Four Seasons Recomposed:

Daniel Hope and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra’s performance of Max Richter’s ‘The Four Seasons Recomposed’ at Bristol Old Vic tonight was simply brilliant. To start, we were treated to another of Vivaldi’s works and a piece from Johann Paul von Westhoff; linked together with a brief and amusing biography of Vivaldi. The first act ended with the delightful ‘Ferdinand the Bull for speaker and solo violin’, by Alan Ridout.

The second act started with Hope and the orchestra demonstrating how Richter’s re-composition differs from, and interprets, the original – providing a context for the performance. Richter’s ‘Four Seasons’ is an amazing piece of music and tonight’s performance was breath-taking. The abrupt end of the fourth movement, ‘Summer 1’, was met with gasps from the audience and rapturous applause. The real-time graphics from Play Nicely were very cleverly woven into the experience. Like an additional instrument, at times the images on the screen were the focus of the piece, at others simply an accent. The performance ended with lengthy and deserved applause. For the encore we were treated to ‘Summer 3’ again. As the last note faded, the entire audience leapt to their feet to give a standing ovation for a truly spectacular evening.

Tim Evans on Daniel Hope, and a completely new experience at Bristol Old Vic:

Daniel Hope, photography by SWNS

We all know that familiar feeling, walking into Bristol Old Vic. But not this time. Music stands, a harpsichord, harp, and a couple of double basses scattered about.

We’re joined by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and Daniel Hope to be, what I can only describe as magicked away through the life of Vivaldi, with a smattering of Old Vic history to boot. More importantly we have the pleasure of the music influencing and from around the time Vivaldi was living.

The evening captivates us all from piece to piece. With works beautifully expressed in a surprisingly acoustic friendly theatre venue, this is just the perfect intimate setting for a truly brilliant musical experience.

With some very clever visual companionship, that I can’t quite explain, but didn’t distract, but definitely added to the experience. This has definitely been one of the finest musical performances that I have been to. Captivating, informative and magical, in that friendly way that only Bristol and its arts venues can pull out of the hat!

Megan Brand on the Standing Pit: onstage secrets, spontaneous dancing and the inability to give a standing ovation

Daniel Hope from the Standing Pit, photography by SWNS

The Theatre was packed to the Thunder Run for this evening’s performance of Max Richter’s Four Seasons Recomposed. From the front of the Standing Pit, the view of the full auditorium was spectacular, as was seeing a full orchestra on the Bristol Old Vic stage. Standing just a few feet away from the performers meant it was hard to ignore those usually invisible moments such as a violinist pointing to their neighbour’s music when they had got lost or pulling off a stray bow hair after some vigorous playing, and I found this both added to the experience and distracted from the illusion. In balance, it just made the performers seem human and, therefore, even more remarkable.

Daniel Hope put Richter’s Four Seasons into context with extracts from Vivaldi’s original score and some words from Richter about his reason for recomposing: he felt that we had become desensitised to Vivaldi’s score by over exposure in lifts, on the telephone, in adverts. This made the performance even more powerful, as Hope and the RPCO communicated on behalf of both Vivaldi and Richter. After rapturous applause and an encore that had us dancing as if we were at a rock concert, the entire auditorium unanimously stood and cheered. I suddenly realised the disadvantage of standing to watch a performance: how do you give a standing ovation? My friend responded to this predicament by jumping into the air, which seemed entirely appropriate.


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