I look forward to Saturday. Not only will it contain my last performance in the sunny old England but also my final visit to Manchester (though I will be briefly passing through it to the airport later next month). This final concert features George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the North Cheshire Wind Orchestra and me/I, and it is a strange coincidence that I played the exact same piece with wind orchestra in my last concert before leaving Australia in the first place. Then I return to London and eventually after a few months back to Australia 😀
While I find the Rhapsody great fun to play – it is to be brought to the attention of anyone who reads this far that Gershwin’s later Piano Concerto (albeit scored for symphony orchestra) is objectively a dwarfing-ly superior work in ALL regards. The only thing it doesn’t outperform the Rhapsody in is popularity. And even then it should. Go and listen and update your aesthetics.
In any case, it will be particularly interesting to hear two equivalent-quality (Zoom) same-concerto (Rhapsody) recordings of my playing on either side of this whole England jaunt. I almost succeeded in doing so with Carl Vine’s piano concerto in 2008 and 2010: the first performance had a good recording but the latter (at the Queensland Conservatorium) was of somewhat bizarre audio quality. One must assume the trained monkeys they normally used had smallpox™ that day and so they brought in Plan B – the music technology students.
The ‘Mutechs,’ as they are ‘affectionately’ known, are a special breed. Part heavy metal enthusiast, part computer nerd, and equipped with no practical musical experience or knowledge. Only the most inexperienced first-years were ever allowed to participate in the concert-recording ritual – once they matured or showed signs of competence they were taken off this duty and, well, we never saw them again. There were rumours that a select few managed to survive up on the Conservatorium’s third floor, but I’m sure that colony would have died out (much like the smallpox virus in the late 1970s) when that floor’s vending machine broke in 2011.
On this occasion when miking the auditorium, one of the Mutechs widely interpreted the term ‘piano’ as ‘glockenspiel’ – they both look kinda similar after all – and so miked the crap out of it. Secondly, they somehow acquired a consumptive nonagenarian for the concert, gave him a microphone to hold and asked him to sit at the back of the hall and cough regularly into it to make sure it worked. No other mikes were deemed necessary. Ah, good times.
Anyway I digress. Digress from what? Oh yes, last trip to Manchester. I’ve been getting to know London intimately and for the last two days have spent an hour-and-a-half weeding (or de-weeding?) this overgrown Mill Hill backyard, to the bemusement of a neighbour’s cat. You don’t really get to know a place intimately until you spend a lot of time doing menial tasks and thinking up blog ideas in it. Such is life*.
*Fact: not actually Ned Kelly’s last words. According to Wikipedia his execution morning dialogue went thus:
“Such is life” -> “What a nice little garden” -> *mumble* -> death
So in summary you can update your general trivia that A) Gershwin wrote a piano concerto THAT IS NOT Rhapsody in Blue(and for that matter several other solo/orchestral works), B) smallpox no longer exists and C) the next time you’re praising someone’s landscaping prowess, try and retain Ned Kelly’s sense of existential resignation.
It is late so I must leave you there. One last thing: extra points if you know what quasi-famous and surreal London monument this is a terrible photo of?