During my travels I’ve been reading Music In The Romantic Era by Alfred Einstein which is a history of classical music of the Romantic period, covering pieces from Mozart to Beethoven. When we got back down to Sydney I noticed that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was playing at the Sydney Opera House and was glad to get some tickets.
The Opera House is an amazing venue and a great experience just to visit to look at. The performance I went to was held in the Concert Hall, highly regarded internationally because of it’s great acoustics. It’s a very impressive space clad in beautiful wooden panels which apparently has naturally acoustic properties. The programme consisted of Tchaikovsky’s The Voyevoda – Symphonic ballad, Prokofiev’s Symphony – Concerto for cello and orchestra (cello was played by Alisa Weilerstein), and Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 in E flat (Eroica).
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1932 and has evolved into one of the world’s finest Orchestra. They are a full Symphony Orchestra comprising of first and second violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and keyboards. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra supports local by regularly performing and promoting the work of their own Australian composers and also running a program engaging young people to ensure a long-term future for symphonic music in Australia. They have recently toured around European summer festivals including BBC proms and the Edinburgh festival, and are in the middle of recording the complete Mahler symphonies.
For this performance the orchestra was led by a great conductor called Osmo Vänskä, who has been praised for his intense and dynamic performances. Vänskä started his musical career as a clarinettist in Finland and despite being busy working with many of the finest orchestras around the world has recently found time to return to playing the clarinet. He has worked with the London Philharmonic and BBC Scottish symphony orchestras amongst many others.
The Sydney Opera House has got to be one of the best music venues in the world. Australian woods are used exclusively throughout the building, providing an excellent acoustic setting for live music. The ceiling (25 meters above the stage) and upper walls are panelled with white birch plywood, and the lower walls, stairs, boxes and stage platform are panelled with a hard brown wood, brush box. After a little research I discovered that the Concert Hall, which I was in, has a volume of 26,400 cubic meters giving a reverberation time of about two seconds, which allows symphonic music to be heard with a full, rich mellow tone. Above the stage 18 adjustable acrylic acoustic rings or “clouds” are suspended, which assist musicians by reflecting sound from their instruments straight back to the stage. I noticed hundreds of mics hanging down from the ceiling, suspended above the orchestra to pick up every little sound.
All this works – the sound quality during the concert was incredible, I’ve never heard a cello sound so crystal clear. The solo cellist was Alisa Weilerstein, who made her orchestra debut at the age of only 13. In 2010 she made her BBC proms debut with the Minnesota orchestra and was invited among three others to participate in a classical music event held at the White house for Michelle Obama. For more information see her facebook page AlisaWeilerstein.
Watching a concert at the Sydney Opera House was the best experience of live classical music I have had, the sound quality was exceptional. It was a fantastic experience – the hall, the music, the atmosphere, and stepping out afterwards onto the Circular Quay overlooking Harbour Bridge all lit up – brilliant.