The Sydney Opera House has been the house of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for almost 50 years. And as it is about to get a billion dollar makeover, the SSO has secured the Sydney Town Hall as a new venue for the next two seasons.
Interestingly enough, the SSO started at Sydney Town Hall before the SOH was purposely built for it and the first subscriptions started in 1936!
However it is not until Eugene Goossens took over that the SSO became fully fledged and became internationally recognised. Here is what the SSO says of that era on their website:
“Following the recommendations of visiting conductor Eugene Ormandy, the ABC built the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to full symphonic strength, collaborating with the state and municipal governments. An 82-player orchestra gave its first concert in January 1946, and Eugene Goossens was persuaded to become the orchestra's first Chief Conductor (and Director of the Conservatorium), beginning in 1947.
Goossens said he wanted to make Sydney's orchestra 'among the six best in the world'. He also said Sydney must have an opera house, and chose the Bennelong Point site. Goossens introduced Sydney audiences to orchestral works old and new, and many were Australian premieres, including Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Australian John Antill's Corroboree. His 1953 EMI recordings were the orchestra's first international releases.
Notable guest conductors during the Goossens years included Otto Klemperer, Rafael Kubelik, and Sir John Barbirolli. Goossens appointed players who were to shape the orchestra's sound for years, notably Ernest Llewellyn as concertmaster. Llewellyn's predecessors included Lionel Lawson, his successors Donald Hazelwood (another long-serving concertmaster), John Harding, Michael Dauth and Dene Olding.
Goossens was succeeded as chief conductor by Russian Nicolai Malko (who died in Sydney), American Dean Dixon, and Israeli Moshe Atzmon. In the 1960s, ABC Director of Music and conductor John Hopkins initiated and conducted the Town Hall Proms concerts, still fondly remembered today. In 1965 the orchestra made its first international tour, including an appearance in the Edinburgh Festival. Noted composers who have conducted the orchestra include Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Witold Lutoslawski, and more recently Thomas Adès.”
The Town Concert Hall is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture and is fitted with a magnificent organ which was the best and biggest in the World at the time.
You can read its whole history here:
The acoustics iof the Hall are legendary and experiencing it myself for the first time triggered the writing of this article.
Granted, I was sitting bang pang in the middle of the third row from the stage and from there I could experience the whole gamut of what audiophiles call soundstage, both in width and depth.
The SSO is a world class orchestra and I have always admired and appreciated their impeccable timing, cohesiveness and articulation. It was on full display both visually and sonically last Friday night!
Starting with a not so approachable piece from Sibelius, En Saga, a so called tone-poem, op.9, "a thematic tapestry where one theme shows a different face-off another, a if, through out, we are looking at a sculpture from different perspectives" as the program reveals, was as great way for the orchestra to get warmed up together on a cold winter Sydney night!
Then we were treated to two of my favourite pieces of music that I have never heard live, the Piano Concerto in A minor, op.16 from Edvard Grieg with pianist Kirill Gerstein a Russian born, now American who started piano at the age of three and who just turned 40, playing fabulously from memory on a Steinway grand piano and the Symphonie Fantastique from Hector Berlioz after the interval.
The amazing thing about this concert hall, together with the virtuosity of the pianist and the orchestra was that every instrument was so articulate and precisely positioned in the sound stage that one could almost read the score by actively listening and watching the musicians performing. There was a particular auditive and visual feast later in the Symphonie Fantastique when the bass section of the strings on our right side were frantically playing pizzicati and a little later the high section of the string section on our left were delicately doing the same.
Not mention the percussionists who were acting devilishly at the back. A real treat!
As a fellow concert goer put it on our way out: "I think I am going to enjoy the next two years"!
A new friend and vinyl enthusiast who lives in Newtown gave me a list of shops to visit on Record Store Day 2019.
I had never really explored that suburb for that particular aspect of it, apart from occasional visits to Classic Hifi who were not participating this year, their emphasis being more on gear.
And my report will be biased toward gear as well! You have been warned...
So let's go on a wander together!
HUM - 271 King Street
One of the biggest shops on the Main Street, HUM stocks all kinds of vinyl, but also CDs and DVDs of music, TV series and film. Well organised, easy to find what you are looking for.
Pretty average in terms of the sound system itself.
EGG RECORDS - 3 Wilson Street
Not the biggest shop around but the owner is very knowledgeable and he is also the DJ.
Good vintage set of speakers and electronic together with a current AudioTechnica rig to play vinyls. Do pay it a visit, worth the little detour via Wilson Street just off King Street.
REPRESSED RECORDS - 413 King Street
The busiest shop by far! They are also selling second hand books on art, architecture and other topics.
A self-service headphone based turntable system lets you sample the records you might want to buy, a great idea!
SOMETHING ELSE RECORDS - 488 King Street
A very small shop, highly specialised, also selling DJ gear, and having their own DJ for the day.
If you are into things like Dub Techno, Tech House, Electro and other esoteric - to me - genres, then this is the place for you. A tad too rad for me though...
HALCYON DAZE RECORDS - 498 King Street
Very knowledgeable owner Brett Young, both in vintage hardware and software was a pleasure to talk to - I actually ended up talking to the two couples in the shop at the time too - and his shop is a paradise for vintage gear nerds like me! I will be back...
NETWORK CONNECTION RECORDS - 463 King Street
This was definitely the best shop in terms of fit out, atmosphere, quality of music played and best staff. It reminded me of the now closed Turntable Lab LA that I was lucky to visit a few months before they closed. The Turntable Lab still has shops in NYC and Brooklyn.
I bought the Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures album there, released after her untimely death...
PAPA DISQUO - 103 Enmore Road
Friendly staff, almost 100% vinyl, good listening system, deserves a mention...
COTTONMOUTH RECORDS - 182 Enmore Road
It is certainly a great little bar, although I didn't partake as I had to drive the car home. But I have the feeling that the vinyl is almost a gimmick to attract the right clientele for the bar.
There is a tiny dark room at the back named as the whisky room that I might go back for per public transport to sample some of their great collection of single malts. Stay tuned...
In the mid 90s, I was lucky enough to be involved in the design of the audiovisual archiving system of the National French Archives INA, soon to be installed at the TGB, also know as the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand , designed by French architect Dominique Perrault.
At the time, I was distributing in France a German made CD Jukebox from a company called NSM. The rapid advance of hard drive capacity and the cost and lack of speed of access of a physical CD archive killed the project for me, but I made very good friends at INA and I was allowed to buy this collection at a very special price. Pity I never got to buy the other 25 CDS alf the collection at the time. If anybody has any I will be interested to talk to you!
My favourites are Bill Evans live in Paris, Vol 1 and 2, top left, Chet Baker, top right (I have a great vinyl of his "tournée en Europe", as well as Memphis Slim that we used to go and listen to at Les Trois Mailletz, one of top jazz clubs in Paris in the 70s, and actually talk to him, my elbow resting on his piano...Priceless! My great friend and a very good pianist Cyril L himself. introduced me to these places when we were together at IUT de Cachan where we were learning electronics together. I just discovered today that Cyril was actually in the audience for the Bill Evans Vol 1 recording at ORTF in 1972! And although, we have talked music, wine (his Dad was a famous Burgundy wine merchant (Ah ces Aloxe-Corton, Cyril...) and girls, not necessary in that order! We ended up working together at Hewlett-Packard for many years. Great friend!
Et pour finir, a video from the INA archives, a tour of the Paris Jazz clubs of the time, including Tabou, Blue Note, Les Trois Mailletz and the Club Saint-Germain. Enjoy with no moderation!
I have used Spotify for a while to listen to music on my computer, but when it came to listen on my speakers, I was not satisfied with the glorified MP3 performance of the service...
I have signed up to Tidal Premium six months ago and I have not looked back!
For less than the price of buying a CD a month at A$11.99, you get access to a vast library of music both recent or vintage, our subject at hand here.
I am getting lazy at times by playing via Tidal an album I have in physical form from the convenience of my iPhone6s and the comfort of my sofa!
Having said that, the classical music library is not as well populated as the other genres, but still significantly bigger than mine!
If you follow me on Instagram (and you should...), you will see the eclectic array of my music tastes and also how much music I consume via Tidal.
It has been particularly true recently as I am fine tuning the design of a new (and hopefully improved...) version of our 1980s speakers. There will be soon a series of articles on the Hardware page of this blog, so stay tuned!
Andrew Russell sings and play the guitar and the banjo. I have met him a few times at this market, but this is the first time I had a chance to record him. I hope you like it as much as I do
Michel Polnareff - Le Bal des Laze
I found myself whistling this song this morning...completely out of the blue. I don't even have a record from French troubadour Michel Polnareff. My sister was a big fan and had a serious crush on him, even managing to go to one of his concert. So I went onto Spotify first and to Youtube...
World Record Store Day 2015
It looks like an eternity since the last Record Day Store, but this year I was determined to go and visit a few stores in the Sydney CBD and report back to you. There was definitely a buzz in the three stores I visited, and a big queue in front of Red Eye Records. Fish Records in our beautiful Queen Victoria Building (QVB pour les intimes...) was busier than normal, although not much vinyl there, but still some animation with a singer - Alicia Crossley - and a group of baroque musicians playing some Swedish music from the 16th century - The Marais Project. Unfortunately, my duties a the designated family cook prevented me to stay and listen to them. I will have to buy their CDs another day. Our friend Elodie Sablier was virtually present with her two albums, but is away from our shores at the moment going on to new adventures and hopefully a third album sooner than later...
HAPPY WORLD RECORD STORE DAY TO ALL OF YOU!
One of my IG friends and DJ extraordinaire Charlie Puzzo put this photo on his wall a few days ago. I don't have a copy of Oxygene, but I do have the "concerts en Chine" album recorded in 1981 in Shanghai and Beijing. Jean-Michel Jarre was the first Western musician to be invited to perform in the PRC...So, I decided to listen to these two records today, and to my utter surprise they were still in pristine condition and fabulously recorded. Jean-Michel Jarre was a great client in the 80s as he liked buying test & measurement instruments from HP. My good colleague Philippe B was in charge of his account and I would occasionally convinced him to take me with him to visit his studio, combining my love of high-tech with my passion for music.
Philippe passed away a number of years ago unfortunately, probably succumbing to his great love of Riesling and other liquids, as he was from a family of vigneron in Alsace...
And Jean-Michel Jarre has recently signed with Sonty Music and we are told that they will release Blu-Ray versions of his concerts and other albums:
"The new contract with Sony Music allows for the re-mastering and re-releasing of Jean Michel Jarre's entire back catalogue, and the first of these re-mastered releases should be available from April 25th 2014 in both digital and physical formats.
Jean Michel Jarre's Management have confirmed to JARRE UK, that the re-mastered releases are expected to be released over the coming months, and although some will have updated artwork, there will be no changes to the tracklisting from the original album releases, and no bonus tracks added.
The first wave of remastered releases appears to include 'OXYGENE', 'EQUINOXE', 'MAGNETIC FIELDS', 'THE CONCERTS IN CHINA', 'CITIES IN CONCERT: HOUSTON / LYON' and 'DESTINATION DOCKLANDS' at the time of writing." I can't wait...
Music at the Markets
As part of my wanderings in the Sydney Organic Food Markets for my other blog, I often have the chance to record musicians who are kind enough to give their time to entertain us while we stuff ourselves with all the goodies that the stallholders are throwing at us to tempt us...
Below, you will find a few unpretentious videos recorded on such occasions.
Come back from more as we will add them as they become available. They are not of ECM quality but I believe they reflect well the ambience that they are aiming at creating. Enjoy!
Paul Sun - Double Bass - and Cameron - Guitar - at the North Sydney Market - 17012015
The Sentosa Trio plays "La Vie en Rose" - North Sydney Markets - 161114
The Shadows Trio plays at the Rozelle Markets - 171114
We met Elodie Sablier at the Langham Hotel in The Rocks, Sydney a while back, when she was the regular pianist at their bar. She also used to play at the QVB on Thursday evenings during extended shopping hours. And then, she went on to release her first CD, Vertigo, in 2013.
And now, she is just about to release her second album, Silent Bridge, already available on iTunes, and in shops from December 6th.
Elodie plays the piano with the same ease as I cook everyday for my family. Years of classical training and practice as well as her long dabbling into improvisation and jazz give her compositions a strong foundation onto which she builds an often melancholic music, or reinterpret a famous Debussy or Satie piece with finesse and brio, and the occasional humour!
This second album shows a greater maturity, fluidity and assurance as a result of her still recent success with her first album, but also many radio appearances and concerts around the place.
She also ventures into partnering with a Cello player - Kenichi Mizushima - on some tracks as well as trying her hand at singing. When she sings, she reminds me of Brigitte Bardot, although at times it is difficult to understand her lyrics, as the balance of the recording gives precedence to the piano and cello.
I really like the second track on Silent Bridge and also her rendition of a Gnossienne of Satie.
Elodie shows a new "lightness of being" on these compositions which pervades the whole record and makes it a delight to listen from beginning to end. So start saving to buy Silent Bridge CD!
For the geeks reading my blog, you will be interested to know that Elodie plays a Steinway Concert Grand model D built in 1912, belonging to the ABC, our national radio and television network, who also provided the recording venue and gear, under the technical guidance of Mitch Kenny, recording engineer extraordinaire and Kathy Naunton, in charge of the mastering.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.