The anticipated excitement at seeing in the New Year proved so daunting that we decided to give it a miss in the hope that, even so, the following day would yet prove to be the first day of 2022 – and so it came to pass . . .
The day started early because, for me, 1 January 2022 began with the Berlin Philharmonic’s live stream of their 5.00pm New Year’s Eve Concert (5.00am on 1 January NZ time) on the Digital Concert Hall, and ended with the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day Concert at 11.15pm NZ time (ending at 1.45am in the morning of 2 January).
In between there was a lovely Christchurch summer day, which we made the most of with a walk over the hill, from our house at the bottom, to the top of Huntsbury, overlooking the Rapaki walking tracks on the next hill, and across to the estuary and sparkling Pacific Ocean; then down and home by a different route. Preparing dinner took up much of the afternoon for a lively New Year catch-up with friends in the evening before settling in to watch that keenly anticipated Vienna New Year Concert, where I couldn’t help noticing Christchurch-born violinist Ben Morrison on the second desk of the 1st Violins. Also of interest, at each end of this day, was the observation that the two well-known Ottensamer brothers were the principal clarinets in each of these two New Year concerts: Andreas in Berlin and Daniel in Vienna, where their father had also once been principal clarinet.
All of this was ‘live’ – exactly as it was happening in Europe, on the opposite side of the world in the wintery Northern Hemisphere! I couldn’t help thinking that, despite the travel restrictions of the current pandemic, we still have the world at our fingertips and, musically speaking, in such superb sonic and visual immediacy.
At the end of the previous edition of Troubleshooter I included a picture of my CD collection; every disc chosen with care after reading reviews, or hearing broadcast performances, or familiarity with the musicians’ previous performances, or recommendations from others. The batches of CDs that I buy always comprise a shortlist, reduced from a significantly longer wish list. The collection has continued to grow from the mid 1980s to early 2020 (not forgetting the hundreds of vinyl records accumulated before that), so that Ursula suddenly wondered if it was time to stop! She pointed out that the capacity of our wall of purpose-built shelving would soon prove finite; not to mention that she’d already begun to fill some of the small remaining spaces with items from her own impressive collection of equally-valued and carefully-and expertly-chosen ceramic pottery.
WHAT TO DO? I began to consider getting to grips with network and streaming technology. A visit to my favourite local audio showroom, as soon as lockdown restrictions allowed, quickly offered solutions. A home internet and network streamer connected to my sound system has proved simple and ideal. This particular unit has both hard drive storage and streaming capability, so the occasional download purchase (as opposed to acquiring a physical CD) along with a subscription to a high-quality streaming service (costing roughly the equivalent of one CD per month) has abruptly ended further additions to the CD shelves.
The collector’s mentality of owning tangible objects has quickly and comprehensively been replaced by the real motivation (which, all those years ago, had set the whole process in motion) of more easily being able to access the music itself. Now, not only is the whole long ‘wish list’ available, but an extended ‘luxury list’ of albums that I wouldn’t have previously considered for purchase has revealed some rather special discoveries that have already become favourites and, no doubt, contributed towards the artists’ incomes with so many repeated streamed playings.
Other advantages, especially with a significant proportion of my CD collection now stored digitally on the new network player, include the ability to select music and feed it to extension speakers in my study simply by means of an app on my phone, without having to go back to the player, select another CD, physically adjust the volume, etc. And creating a playlist of favourite songs from our youth also made quite a special contribution to ‘significant’ birthday events which we hosted at home this year.
Returning briefly to my New Year’s Day musical experiences – there’s been some debate on the ‘Save RNZ Concert’ Facebook group about the total absence of the annual Vienna New Year Concert on New Zealand radio and TV, even though the list of countries who take the Austrian live TV broadcast include Tonga, Fiji and other Pacific, African and South American countries. Let’s be clear – these concerts, featuring indisputable masterpieces of Viennese music, played by one of the world’s greatest orchestras and conducted from year-to-year by some of the world’s greatest conductors, are sanctuaries of unaffected artistic potency that help to unify nations, break down borders and blur the boundaries of musical genres that have been constructed and marketed by self-appointed guardians of art and culture.
Thankfully, with the ease of access to new technologies, we can now bypass these censors. For me, a year ago, and in audio only, it was BBC Radio 3 streamed via my new network player; this year it was Medici TV, free of charge to all countries whose artistic censorship prevented local coverage, that enabled us to experience the great Daniel Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in their full visual and audio glory – a positive and promising start to 2022.
Tony Ryan has reviewed Christchurch concerts, opera and music theatre productions and many other theatre performances since the mid 1990s.
Tony has presented live and written radio reviews of numerous concerts, opera and other musical events for RNZ Concert for many years. An archive of these reviews can be found at Radio New Zealand - Upbeat
His reviews of opera, music & straight theatre and numerous reviews of buskers and comedy festival performances are available at Theatreview.
An archive of Tony’s chamber music reviews is held at Christopher’s Classics
He has also reviewed for The Press (Christchurch). Links to Tony's Press reviews are listed below:
A Barber and Bernstein Double Bill – Toi Toi Opera
The Strangest of Angels – NZOpera
Will King (Baritone) and David Codd (Piano) – Christopher's Classics
Ars Acustica – Free Theatre
Truly Madly Baroque – Red Priest
The Mousetrap – Lunchbox Theatre
Iconoclasts – cLoud
Last Night of the Proms – CSO
An Evening with Simon O’Neill NZSO
Catch Me If You Can – Blackboard Theatre
Brothers in Arms – CSO
Fear and Courage – CSO
Sin City – CSO
Don Giovanni – Narropera at Lansdowne
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – Funatorium
Weave – NZTrio
Tosca – NZ Opera
Sister Act – Showbiz
Broadway to West End – Theatre Royal
Chicago – Court Theatre
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 – CSO
Homage – CSO
Last Night of the Proms – CSO
SOAR – NZTrio
Pianomania – NZSO
Rogers & Hammerstein – Showbiz
Songs for Nobodies – Ali Harper
The Beauty of Baroque – CSO
Travels in Italy – NZSO