Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Struggling with Sound

Fri Nov 29 2013

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Now time for some music by Felix Mendelssohn's good friend, Prince Albert (i.e. Queen Victoria's husband).… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…


My ex-housemate has always liked Philip Glass, so I got us a couple of tickets to see him perform Music in Twelve Parts at Southbank Centre the other night.

The people to my left had their head in their hands within about 5 minutes; once it became clear the singer might be repeating the same syllable for the next hour. When considering my personality, say in the bath or in public, I like to think of myself as open-minded. Sadly, half way through the first part of Philip’s concert, I began to feel that mind trickling out of my nostrils.

When the interval finally arrived, my friend and I were forced to acknowledge we weren’t enjoying it as much as we’d hoped, and however free-thinking we thought we were, we’d failed Philip’s endurance test. Still, endurance is the point, surely? That’s what I did like about it, the refusal to give something to people easily. The whole thing was certainly amazing musicianship and I’d like to listen to it again in my own time, but watching it proved too much for me.

Afterwards I asked a few people in the office if they’d had similar experiences. Here’s what they had to say…

‘I saw the Philharmonia Orchestra perform Britten’s Our Hunting Fathers at Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013 and struggled! Britten composed Our Hunting Fathers for the Festival in 1936, and it was premiered with Britten conducting the piece at St Andrews Hall in Norwich for that year’s Festival. The NNF brought it back to be performed there again in May 2013 to celebrate Britten’s centenary. This meant the concert had a wonderful context, and the Philharmonia played wonderfully but I just couldn’t get into the piece and it made me feel very on edge! (It may be because the piece was written during the period of great uncertainty in the mid-thirties, and the approach to WW2.) My only consolation was that it was deemed extremely daring in 1936 and shocked the audience then too – perhaps I belong in that era!!’
Holly Noon, Corporate Relations Officer

‘Went to see this Wire magazine event where they put on a bunch of noise bands – After 30 mins of sub frequencies that made me want to retch and my ears to bleed I’d had enough.  I even used the ear plugs that they had thoughtfully distributed at the door..  Not sure what I was expecting from a bunch of noise bands though..’
Zen Grisdale, Digital Officer

‘I was taken to A Shared Cultural Melody; a collaboration between sound artist Actress, choreographer Eddie Peake and Film/Video artist Nic Hamilton. The venue, St John’s Church, was breath-taking, a surprisingly vast Grade II listed church, nestled within busy Hackney. However, whilst promising Actress’s stripped- down electronic beats to be infused, even ‘cross fertilised’ by the dance troupe and urban inspired projections, I struggled to understand how these elements worked together. Instead, I found the supposedly ‘brooding’ beats, dare I say it, a little monotonous? Whilst others seemed entranced by the stage, I found myself concentrating more on the beautiful surroundings.’
Lucy Meechan, Development Trainee

‘I always feel a bit ashamed to admit it, especially given it’s a core piece of OAE repertoire and something that others wax lyrical about, but I’ve never really seen eye-to-eye with Bach’s St Matthew Passion. It just goes on for FAR too long, and while it has some wonderful moments in it, there’s just not enough good stuff between them. I’m reminded of that famous quote about Wagner, apparently from Rossini : ‘Wagner has great moments but dull quarter hours’. Definitely applicable to this piece. Part of me thinks that I should work harder to enjoy it – but then part of me thinks it’s fine not to like some things, and move on…’
William Norris, Communications and Creative Programming Director

Are there pieces or performances you’ve been to embarrassed to admit you didn’t like?  Let us know…



  • For me, it’s Beethoven. Especially the Ninth. I find the whole thing overblown, bombastic, overlong, and mind-numbingly self-indulgent. I came to this realization while attending a benefit concert by one of the world’s best music schools. These students were doing a better job with the material than nine-tenths of professional orchestras and I still hated it. It’s a direct result of this experience that my classical music collection consists mostly of Baroque and Early Music (including every OAE release I can get my hands on!)

    Julian Lawrence Fri Nov 29 2013
  • I went to Southbank recently drawn by the name Arvo Part thinking to hear some lovely melodious uplifting music. Yes, that was the second half. The first half, however, was a work by Sofia Gubaidulina(?) in which I could discern neither melody nor rhythm. I’m sure the failing is mine but why would the LPO think that someone who likes the one would like the other? Is it a policy of theirs to force us to expand out musical horizons? Two weeks later, same story. I bought a ticket for a Gorecki concert but the first half was a strangely modern Penderecki piece. In both concerts I was so jangled by the first half that I didn’t really enjoy the second.
    I’ve been to some super OAE concerts though. Love you Baroque n Rollers.

    linda Mon Dec 2 2013