Friday, June 12, 2015

Out with a Bang

Tonight marks the last of four performances of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks with Ensemble Zefiro. In a very much royal affair, Wednesday night saw four thousand people descend on the palace gardens of Versailles to witness a fireworks show synchronized to Handel's classic. Needless to say, they got what they paid for.

The Bassoon Section
Photo courtesy of Marco Barbaro
It turns out a wind band of 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon, 9 trumpets, 9 horns, and 3 timpanists can make quite a sound. We rehearsed indoors in Domodossola and after two days my ears were ringing with a D major chord. For me the music isn't particularly challenging, but meeting most of the next generation of Europe's wind players makes up for it. The camaraderie of the bassoon section is a special treat since I usually work alone. Already I've measured a bunch of reeds. 

Despite the power of the ensemble and our proximity to the audience, the fireworks display in Versailles required us to be amplified. Listening to the recordings of the Versailles show that I've seen so far, it's hard to think what the original performance (or rehearsal, rather, as the stage later burned down causing the show had to be cancelled) would have sounded like. In constructing the orchestra for the project, Zefiro has followed Handel's directions almost exactly (apart from a missing serpent) with a total of 59 musicians on stage. One wonders if, once the explosions began, the music was conceived as purely accompaniment as not much would be discernible to the ear. Furthermore, the possibility of syncing a fireworks display to music seems to me now nearly impossible for an 18th century production considering the amount of technology used last night. Would the music have been performed separately? However the conditions might have been, tonight Ensemble Zefiro is going to end its tour with a bang.

Un altro momento del concerto di Versailles filmato da una delle 4000 persone del pubblico.Stasera concerto ad Halle con i fuochi storici!Another extract from the concert in Versailles filmed from one of the 4000 people in the audience.Tonight concert in Halle with historical fireworks!
Posted by Ensemble Zefiro on Friday, 12 June 2015

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