Slipped disc: September 2007 Archives
Watching the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in concert at the famous Opera House a couple of weeks back, I thought the principal cellist looked a bit familiar.
'Who's that?' I whispered.
'Nathan Waks,' said my neighbour.
'Never!,' I exclaimed.
The last time I was in Sydney, in 1995, Nathan Waks was head of music at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a man of influence and authority. I could hardly imagine a BBC executive giving up the trappings and going back to play in an orchestra where he once held powers of hire and fire - and that's assuming anybody in the BBC would pass an audition to play any instrument in an orchestra of international quality.
But, sure enough, there was Nathan beaming away at the head of the cellos, relishing his solos and peering out into the Sunday audience in search of family and friends. He had grown a beard since we last met and, when I caught up with him backstage, he was full of the joys of his dual life, spending half his time in the orchestra and the other half as chief executive of an award-winning winery, Kilikanoon in the Clare Valley. Even as we spoke, he was negotiating a deal with the giant Fosters brewery to take over the historic Seppelt vineyard and adjoin it to his own.
He is spending less and less time these days in band, which is reluctant to lose him, but it seemed to me that Nathan Waks was doing something pretty important: he was creating a working model for the orchestral musician of the 21st century.
Let's face it, few societies need to sustain full-time salaried players and those that do have trouble giving them job satisfaction. Letting players have a second life seems to be the ideal solution - and there are others in the SSO who pursue similar arrngements, not least the concertmaster Dene Olding who doubles as lead violin in the widely-travelled Goldner Quartet. Dene seems pretty contented, too.
Australia, a can-do country, may well have hit on the secret of orchestral happiness.
Before leaving for Australia a fortnight ago I left a Pavarotti appreciation at the paper, sensing from the medical reports that he did not have long to go. Even so, the sad news came as a shock and, just off the long-haul return flight from Melbourne, I found myself having to adjust my perspectives to a world without the big man.
Through a haze of media calls, I tried to remember where and how I first heard that voice. And then I realised that it is the first impression will abide. The astonishing freshness of that young sound, captured live in Rome in 1967, so effortless, so distinct, will forever prevail over the excesses of the last decade, the shabby craving for fame, the tawdry duets with pop singers. When all is said and done, the voice was unique. End of.
Here's what I wrote in the Evening Standard that day:
I heard him on record long before I saw him on stage.
It was on one of those early 1970s Decca sets where Joan Sutherland was the
world star and he the polyfilla, but for me there was only one voice on that
disc. Clear where Joan was subfusc, liquid where she was rigid, Pavarotti
hit me like a snowstorm in the Sahara - a completely unforseeable
occurrence, shocking in its defiance of nature.
On stage, what I remember is the look of half-astonishment on his face as
that wonderful sound emerged. He could never act much
beyond a grin and a sob, and in later years he hardly moved. Pavarotti was
not the equal of Callas or Domingo in his enactment of gut-wrench roles.
The voice, however, was a thing apart. Unblemished by his massive bulk,
untainted by advancing years, it rang loud and true, never a hesitancy or
wobble. I hear it now as I heard it first: a unique an inexplicable
phenomenon, the one and only Luciano.
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog