London opera, orchestra events

bonzo

Wammer
Wammer
Sep 13, 2013
878
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London
Hi all, I am looking to attend opera and orchestras in London, around Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House, Southbank, or any small suggested places, so that I can better appreciate the music I am getting more into on these music systems. I don't see much point listening to Beethoven's 5th unless I can understand how the rows are seated, and how the strings move row to row and culminate into the bass horns in the last row, which is what a hifi system should be imaging.

If there is anyone on this forum into this, would be glad to have a mentor. Or, if people around want to team up and attend events, say aye. I have mostly watched live rock events, so this is something I am looking forward to. No point being an audiophile unless it expands music tastes.

 

Tenson

Wammer
Wammer
Mar 2, 2006
407
2
0
You will probably need expensive front-row seats to get any imaging at a live orchestral events. The seats that are more affordable tend to receive a wash of sound from the hall acoustics. IME. Southbank Centre often has classical tickets for £10-20 each.

Last thing I heard was 'Des canyons aux etoiles', Messiaen. Not my cup to tea really.

 

AmDismal

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 22, 2007
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It is well worth doing - but I agree with Tenson, you get surprisingly little of an image in live classical music.

Try Wigmore Hall for smaller scale stuff. The Proms are great, but not until summer (buy tickets early though - if you buy tickets for 6 Proms then you can get one for the Last Night, which should be tried...)

 

topoxforddoc

Wammer
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Apr 11, 2009
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Charlie
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If you’re looking to get a reference point for your hi-fi system, go and watch some smaller less well known orchestras/chamber groups in small venues. You will quickly get a feel of what a live orchestra sounds like. Also it’s easier to get close up and it’s a lot cheaper.

The orchestra at the ROH in Covent Garden is miked and the music comes out from lots of speakers around the auditorium. I haven’t been to ENO for a few years, so I can’t tell you if that is the case at the Coliseum. Smaller operas will not have a miked orchestra and sound system. It will be in the raw, so to speak.

 

bonzo

Wammer
Wammer
Sep 13, 2013
878
17
38
London
Thanks. I just booked for Peter Grimes and Rigoletto at ENO, will book for Carmen, and catch some smaller ones as well. Good point about the mikes.

 

AlmaAtaKZ

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 29, 2012
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London
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Superb option are the concerts in various local churches and other small venues. Although in churches the acoustics are not always great, what you do get is much more intimate atmosphere, you can get much closer to artists.

 

batteredhaggis

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 29, 2013
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Jamie
HiFi Trade?
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Superb option are the concerts in various local churches and other small venues. Although in churches the acoustics are not always great, what you do get is much more intimate atmosphere, you can get much closer to artists.[/QUOSo well put. My experience is the same.

I grew up singing in madrigal groups and choirs at school (wasn't entirely happy about but it taught me to love music). I also attended dozens of church recitals given by the choir my mum sings in (still). That introduced me, often very willingly to a wide range of secular and church music from the 16th century to the present. I completely agree it's a great way to get closer to some absolutely amazing music. There is an intimacy about such concerts that is rare in any venue (although you are sometimes at risk of coming out with a chilly numb bum).

If you're interested PM me for details of their next concert in St Alfege, Greenwich on 05/04/14. They are a small but very high quality choir and their concerts are always carefully programmed and superbly sung. This concert will also have a very good cellist, organist and guest soprano in attendance.

Read music reviews by all means and if you can get to a couple of major concerts then do. Don't worry where you sit. If you close your eyes and try to work out where the second bassoon is you may find you can't - fact of life I'm afraid. I was disgusted as a teenager to find the imaging in the Festival Hall was significantly worse than my relatively inexpensive stereo in my bedroom. Of course I had forgotten in my excitement for all things Linn how magnificent that full orchestra had sounded there (oh - that fantastic advertising, imagining you were a nude diamond(!) cannonballing down a mountain-sized record groove at the vinyl-equivalent to Mach 1 or some such BS)!

Get into the habit of listening to Radio 3 every week if you don't already - very little old-fartage apparent these days, you'll pick up tons of good stuff. There are often amazingly good concerts (last Thursday and Friday there were repeats of two whole Proms concerts played by the Oslo Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko with great works by Beethoven, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Szymanowski. The sound was incredible. The playing was even better and made me sit up and listen. A very few obvious bum notes, but somehow it made the performance more real, more like you were there. A truly wonderful orchestra. Somewhat different but highly accessible is Late Junction, providing an exciting bridge between multiple genres (often way outside classical confines) and often has stunningly good sound quality on FM, just as the grid is nice and quiet. There's a good thread about how valuable R3 is in the classical section here at the moment.

Try also to get to a few local concerts a year, they are not usually expensive. Many will be in churches. Get to know the sound of the performers and perhaps hear them in other venues too. You'll soon gain an appreciation of acoustic space (as said previously, not always great but can sometimes be amazing). More importantly you'll find yourself quickly lost in the music. Relationships between the various musical parts are sometimes more easily heard in choirs and small ensembles, all of which will inform your developing ear. If you can hear things going on in live rock events you'll have no trouble hearing 'into' the music in a classical concert. I often find it harder to follow what's happing in a complex studio mix or live rock recording than a classical one - maybe it's what I know, or maybe I just need a Naim system and a cosy fold from which to appreciate all the detail.

Bonzo, when you say you want to understand the positioning and workings of the orchestra to appreciate Beethoven's Fifth, it makes me oddly happy to hear - I wanted exactly the same as a teenager even though I played in an orchestra. I couldn't hear much beyond the woodwind section around me and the feckin' timps behind. What I really enjoyed was to hear everything laid out in front, I suppose as the composer intended his audience to hear. My first hifi (an LP12, MF B200 amp, butt-ugly MF MC2 speakers and funny solid-core DNM speaker cable) allowed me to hear much more than I'd ever heard before. My system has improved over the years, as with so many others on this forum, but the extraordinary thing to me is that with experience, through listening, through concert going and through listening again, my priorities have shifted quite a bit and I obsess far less about the micro-details and 3D-tactility (although I certainly do like to 'see' a mental picture of the musicians and their space) and much more about what's going on in the music. Perhaps, ironically, the hifi, or rather the obsession I had with it as a boy and young man, has provided me the means to grasp music more fully, even though I do not class myself in any way as a musician. It's not an entirely unhealthy hobby, contrary to many people's belief!

Above all, forget about being an audiophile. Go to concerts to hear pieces, performers, things you haven't heard before. Often the group or choir will have recordings of theirs for sale at the interval. Have a glass of wine, spend a tenner, support the players (many groups are registered charities and operate on a shoestring). When you put the CD on at home they will reappear, making more sense; you'll quickly relate to the acoustic because you understand the size of the group and their sound (although it likely won't be the same venue in which you heard them perform). You'll have a connection to something you heard in recent memory and possibly really enjoyed. Even if you didn't you'll have engaged with it - god knows how much brittle, up-itself 20th century grunge I've suffered in the name of loving music (no, not the Seattle school). But in EVERY concert there has always been at least one thing I was glad I heard.

Your life will be richer for it. But keep rocking too...

All the best
 

bonzo

Wammer
Wammer
Sep 13, 2013
878
17
38
London
Wow, that's a brilliant post. I related to most of that, and " When you put the CD on at home they will reappear, making more sense; you'll quickly relate to the acoustic because you understand the size of the group and their sound " is exactly what I want to get to. I knew everything there was to about Led Zep and their live shows, and yet, when I saw a nice cover band in a small venue up close, some things about their music made more sense. I have watched Swan Lake thrice, and each time my love for classical has had a spike after that

 

batteredhaggis

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 29, 2013
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East Sussex
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Jamie
HiFi Trade?
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Hi Bonzo, thanks for your kind comments. I'm sure I would benefit from your experience equally.

It can be awkward speaking from the heart. I reckon I have experience that's as valid as anyone else's, and a genuine contribution to make. I swear this forum is barely any different from the toy wigwam in my small son's playground... though certainly ruder. There - rant over, sorry.

OTOH, I find I receive reputation (though I don't understand it) from the least expected quarters, so never judge one's judges.

So where in London are you? I'm up there fairly often and would be delighted to meet up with a like-minded Wammer. I imagine the flow of information might be more from you to me.

I get a thrill now from hearing small-scale jazz groups or choirs that I completely took for granted hearing large orchestras playing when I was younger. I used to attend many proms every season religiously. Watched the Mravinsky performance of the Nutcracker the other day on Sky Arts HD (good sound BTW) and it took me back to when, as a boy of ten or so, I was lucky enough to be taken to see Nureyev dance the same ballet. I still remember him twirling - improbably - around the stage. Seeing how you enjoyed Swan Lake, I'm not ashamed to admit that at the time I had absolutely no idea who he was and, having seen 'Cats' at around the same time, I often confused him with Wayne Sleep. The gaucheness of youth... Anyway, I would love to attend more London concerts, small or large. I take it when you say you've watched Swan Lake thrice, that's live, or was it on TV? Either way is good.

Must say, if you're going to get into classical it seems to me you've a got a fantastic system to explore it on.

 

bonzo

Wammer
Wammer
Sep 13, 2013
878
17
38
London
Earl's Court. Yes, I have seen Swan Lake live thrice, and am watching the Mathew Bourne version tomorrow, have also booked for Peter Grimes and Rigoletto, and will do some of these smaller ones now. Drop me a note whenever you are coming to London. What's your system, btw?

 

batteredhaggis

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 29, 2013
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148
East Sussex
AKA
Jamie
HiFi Trade?
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I stay in SE24 from time to time. Sounds like you've got a hectic schedule of music ahead - enjoy!

Sorry, system profile will be amended later, just being silly with it yesterday for someone else!

Regards

 

pimlicoquad

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 25, 2013
31
4
0
Complete and utter nonsense re ROH - a couple of productions have used amplification in a very limited fashion when required by the composer eg Mark Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole for electric guitars etc, or to transmit non-orchestral sound effects. In Parsifal recently the bells were a mix of off-stage tubular bells and synthesised sound delivered via speakers. If they'd amplified Strauss' Elektra the whole bloody opera house would have fallen down it was so loud anyway. The Coliseum used an off stage organ in Peter Grimes, which was probably an electronic instrument, however the sound very clearly emanated from backstage right, not just splurged around the auditorium. I should know, I sat in the stalls for two performances only last month.

And stop worrying about imaging, "musicality", PRaT, and other audiophile nonsense and book some concerts where they are playing the sort of music that you enjoy. Every single hall in Britain has different acoustics. Revel in it. Some are dry, some are lush. Some leave a lot to be desired. We still have some of the best sung church music in the world, most of which comes free with a service. Try some of the London city churches for example - Gt St. Bartholomew's has an excellent choir. Or if that isn't your fancy, then there are scores of free lunchtime recitals in the City and across London, often in old churches, a mix of choral, piano, organ, chamber music.

And as for sitting in the front rows in most halls, avoid it like the plague. You'll end up with enjoying the sound of one instrument or section of instruments which will dominate over others. You want to hear a mixture of all the sounds of the orchestra in equal balance ideally. Think what Wagner did when he designed his opera house at Bayreuth - he used an enormous horseshoe shaped sound reflector over the top of the orchestra so that the sound of the orchestra when it leaves the pit hits the reflector, then hits the stage and then bounces back at the audience, so that the orchestral sound and the sound of the singers is totally blended. Whilst this causes a complete nightmare for conductors at Bayreuth who have to take account of the time lag when trying to coordinate the orchestra and the singers it means the audience get the most incredible blended sound unlike any other concert hall. Just try listening to some Bayreuth recordings of Wagner's operas to hear the acoustic. It's the blending of the sound of the instruments in Wagner that is so crucial to the production of different orchestral colours. When he uses a set of wind instruments playing together to produce a sound reminiscent of an organ (such as in Parsifal on several occasions) it is the blended sound of the instruments together that is important, not where the bass clarinet is sitting in relation to the french horns and tubas and the flutes.

Given the numerous different ways in which orchestras have been and can be arranged in terms of players, knowing or being able to identify the precise location of any player is of totally secondary importance. The second violons may be on the right of the conductor or next to the first violins. The double basses might be on the left or right, the woodwind and brass can be in any number of different configurations. It really just doesn't matter that much. What will matter will be the interpretation put on the performance but the conductor and orchestra.

So again I'd say, don't bring audiophile sensibilities into the concert hall and start trying to pick apart a performance as if you were listening at home. Exposure to live music will soon make you realise that so many of the things that are high up the audiophile list of must haves have no relation whatsoever to the enjoyment of real music. "With the tone control at a single touch, I can make Carruso sound like Hutch, still I never did care for music much, it's the High Fidelity" - Flanders and Swann.

 

Camverton

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 20, 2009
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Malcolm
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Very nicely put Jamie :^ .

In my regular concert going days I was always aware of just how different the live concert and representation on the hifi were, but it didn't really matter as they could both connect me, in different ways, with the music. I remember Solti conducting Mahler 2 at the Festival Hall and on returning home enjoyed it all over again in my dingy room on a pair of headphones.

i'm very glad that when we listen at home the "imaging" is often so much better as this helps to compensate for the lack of visual focus. At a concert we can see where the sounds are coming from, at home we rely on the hifi and recording engineers to provide a different but comparable experience. As I get older, and no doubt even grumpier, I confess that I prefer listening at home without the irritations and distractions of the members of the audience!

 

bonzo

Wammer
Wammer
Sep 13, 2013
878
17
38
London
Hi good posts both. I agree, i watched Mozart masterpieces at Southbank, La Boheme at Royal Albert hall and Peter Grimes at the Coliseum. It's very different from listening at home. Good point about not getting the front row seats.

 

Camverton

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 20, 2009
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Malcolm
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Hi good posts both. I agree, i watched Mozart masterpieces at Southbank, La Boheme at Royal Albert hall and Peter Grimes at the Coliseum. It's very different from listening at home. Good point about not getting the front row seats.
Those expensive seats in the stalls are expensive for a reason! Mind you I did on occasion thoroughly enjoy front row seats at the Festival Hall, especially when I nabbed one near the centre. Not the best place for a considered overall impression of the music but quite exciting for a change.

In my student days I was often limited to the 50p sort of seats in the choir. Behind the percussion, the last movement of Tchaikovsky 4 was great fun, particularly when everyone jumped six inches out of their seat at the dirty great big cymbal crash. The other benefit of being behind the orchestra was being able to study the conductor. With Solti and Haitink in regular attendance one could do quite a bit of compare and contrast with Solti being described by one of my friends as a machine in Mahler 7.

 

wizons

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Wammer
Apr 19, 2009
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Paul
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Hi good posts both. I agree, i watched Mozart masterpieces at Southbank, La Boheme at Royal Albert hall and Peter Grimes at the Coliseum. It's very different from listening at home. Good point about not getting the front row seats.
What did you think of Grimes? I've seen this production twice and feel the opera is a masterpiece up there with 'the greats'. As for the comments saying 'forget soundstage and other audiophile concerns', this is absolutely correct. 'Soundstage' sounds great in hifi, but it's totally different with live music.

Go to the Sheldonian in Oxford. There are many excellent concerts there that offer a different, and I think better experience than London's main halls. Good luck with your quest!

 

bonzo

Wammer
Wammer
Sep 13, 2013
878
17
38
London
Thanks to a lot of people on this thread. I have been a regular over the last few months to St. Martins in the fields, listening to a lot of Baroque. Have been to Peter GRimes, Rigoletto, and La Boheme, a Mozart show at the Royal Festival Hall, and over the next 3 months will be going for a few symphonies at the Royal Festival Hall.

Some things already heard and coming up

Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 4

Arne – Harpsichord Concerto

Vivaldi – Summer from the Four Seasons

CPE Bach – String Symphony No. 2 in B flat

Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 5

Piano Concert:

Mozart – Sonata in A, K331 ‘Alla Turca’

Beethoven – Sonata Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’

Schubert – Impromptu in A flat Op.142

Schubert – Impromptu in A flat Op.90

Chopin – Nocturne in D flat major Op.27 No.2

Chopin – Scherzo Op.31 No.2

Debussy – Clair de Lune

Johann Strauss (arr Alfred Grünfeld) – Soirée de Vienne

Magnus Lindberg: Chorale

Sergey Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3

Interval

Dmitry Shostakovich: Symphony No.8 in C minor

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/rolando-villaz%C3%B3n-opera-gala-82588?dt=2014-10-14

All of Brandenburg's http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/the-six-brandenburg-concerti-82346?dt=2014-10-18

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/philharmonia-02112014-80554?dt=2014-11-02

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/lpo-141107-80856?dt=2014-11-07

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/philharmonia-13112014-80564?dt=2014-11-13

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/lpo-141119-80871?dt=2014-11-19

 

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