But fortune favours the bold – and impresario/convicted fraudster Garth Drabinsky (of Livent fame) is nothing if not bold. Evidently, on Saturday night the gods were impressed by his initiative: as New Yorkers hunkered down for Hurricane Irene, Torontonians enjoyed a perfect summer night, with gentle breezes and a starry sky.
The big piece on the program was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and so there was also a chorus. This was a local group – and despite rumours that the choristers were involved in a contractual dispute with Drabinsky, and might possibly not show up, they were there and in fine form.
And of course there were soloists: a star-studded quartet consisting of soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, mezzo Ekaterina Metlova, tenor Richard Margison and bass René Pape. Hard to argue with talent like that!
This being an outdoor concert, also present for the occasion was a forest of microphones, and an imposing phalanx of loudspeakers. This equipment set the tone for the evening – and the best word to describe that tone is “edgy.” I intend this in a way that’s complimentary and in a way that isn’t.
The sound system gave these top-notch performers a striking directness and immediacy. Every note was picked up and projected at the audience. This kind of “edgy” was exciting and grand.
But at the same time, all those mics, placed closely among the performers, had a disintegrating effect – disrupting the balance and blend of the LSO’s sound. And when the vocal soloists entered in the fourth movement, their voices were conflated beyond anything that could, would or should be achieved in a concert hall. This kind of “edgy” was raw and jarringly unnatural. (Curiously, this was less a problem in the other piece on the program, an excerpt from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godinov. Here, the balance between Pape and LSO was better.)
The microphone doesn’t lie. But it can certainly exaggerate.
© Colin Eatock 2011