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Sydney Conservatorium

virtuosity in diversity

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Les Violons de France with Cecile Besnard (soprano)

Performed 4 January 2012


On a recent trip overseas, I was lucky enough to have the chance to hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed live by a renowned string orchestra, in La Madeleine Church, a stunning piece of architecture in the heart of Paris, France. As a long time listener of Vivaldi, I went to the concert expecting to revel in the simple pleasures of the seasons, but I did not expect to be captivated by so much more than just the music. 


The sole purpose of holding the concert in this particular church was due to its acoustical nature, in that it made it possible for an 9-piece string orchestra, and soprano, to perform without any electronic amplification whatsoever. The natural acoustics of the church meant that part of the performance was the experience for the audience to hear music as it may have been heard by concertgoers and music devotees some 400 years ago. As someone who has studied music, composition and performance, it was an entirely new and glorious way of perceiving sound. 


Hearing music played in this way made me appreciate the nuances of the music, in a way which would be almost impossible when listening to a modern recording. Watching Frederic Moreau, violin soloist and orchestral leader, perform to his audience, communicate with his musicians, directing and coercing the sound in order to utilise the space to the hilt, was fascinating. Chords seemed spacious, phrases lingering, high notes thrilling. 


Moreau’s flamboyance was also incredibly entertaining - he almost danced about the stage, flitting like a swallow, enticing the audience with sound and sight. 


While you may not be able to sporadically trip over to France for a quick concert, if you can, embrace the chance to hear an ensemble perform in as natural an environment as possible. If done right, the sound will wash over you and cloak you in notes, and will give you a chance to imagine the musical lives of people way back when.


This article was originally published in Conversation Issue 1, of 30 April 2012, published by the Conservatorium Students' Association. The print edition can be found on Issuu; it has been digitised by Alexander Poirier

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