Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Damp Day, Much Music

Two weekends ago, I spent a rainy day trip in Stratford, one of my favourite cities in the world. Well, it was rainy on the way, but then dried up and cooled off. I got in with lots of time to see the Stratford Festival's Fiddler on the Roof in the Festival Theatre, a very good production of a very dated piece that is so very much of its time (1964). I won't need to see it again.

Then, I was off to a concert of music that was once mostly lost, but is timeless in its appeal and virtuosity. Yes, this blog's favourite chamber music group, the ARC Ensemble, was giving a performance as part of the Stratford Festival's Forum program. The concert, "Music Suppressed in Fascist Italy," featured three pieces by Jewish-Italian composers: String Quartet No. 1 (Vittorio Rieti), Piano Quintet No. 1 (Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco) and Pavana (Aldo Finzi). Between the pieces, actor Sam Moses (the Rabbi in Fiddler) read excerpts from "October 16, 1943" by Giacomo Debenedetti, an account of the night the Rome ghetto was raided by the Gestapo and when many Italians were shipped off to Auschwitz. The playing was full of energy and panache and I particularly loved the Castelnuovo-Tedesco which - excuse my coarseness - seemed to have everything in it, including the kitchen sink. The whole program was unmissable.

THEN... I hared back across town in good time to see an evening performance of Pete Townshend's Tommy. I saw Des McAnuff's production 20 years ago, and this was a new one of his. Ah, what can I say... I love great rock. The first chord nearly killed me. It fell while the lights were still up. I did worry that the older gentleman next to me might have keeled over. He didn't. It was LOUD. I could have used earplugs and still heard it perfectly well. Damn, I sound middle-aged. But actually I remember having the same reaction 20 years ago. What the hell - it was fantastic.

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