Rainer Hersch & the HPO- ‘shtick’ but no sticks 2

Review by Danny Gaisinreviewerdgcolor1.jpg

reviewer_DannyNov. 15th, 2009   “Conductor/arranger/performer/writer Rainer Hersch is a knowledgeable and highly talented musician. What Victor Borge did for (and to) the piano; Stan Freburg to many pop songs of the fifties; and Anna Russell to Wagner’s Ring Cycle- Hersch does to all classical music. He also destroys every preconception about the orchestra, its sections and its instruments. A learning opportunity- hardly; a comedic instance –CERTAINLY. I actually was concerned about peeing in my pants!”

The above intro paragraph is what this journalist opined about Rainer Hersch’s last visit with the Hamilton Philharmonic. Last night; more of the same except that London (the other one) and Beethoven plus Mozart were the subjects for his clever barbs.

Sutherland toasting the audience with her bottle of 'gargle'

Sutherland toasting the audience with her bottle of ‘gargle’

Hersch is a talented musician and is certainly adept at connecting with an audience. 2½ hours of music and allocution without a single ‘um’, something unusual from the Phil’s podium. Maestro Hersch’s shtick is hyperbolizing musical truisms and exaggerating traditions or factoids. Even the least knowledgeable folks in the audience will realize that der füehrer’s testicle was not an attribute of Mozart’s opera aria – the so-called laughing song from “The Bat”. The maid ‘Adele’ singing “fingers, ankles, feet – Ha Ha; shapely, trim petite – Ha Ha” would certainly be a more probable surtitle. Soprano Lindsay Sutherland  Boal just about stole the show with her vocally serious rendering of the piece and then gargling baby Duck; all the while staying on-key and in tempo. This writer guesses that she must ignore the TV monitor/prompter in order to maintain a straight face and demeanor. Giving a lap-dance to cellist Jack Mendelsohn had the audience totally in stitches.
‘Baa Baa, black sheep’ segued into Wolfgang’s “voi che sapete; che cosa Ǟ amor”; forever ruining Nozze di Figaro for this particular opera-buffo fan.  Glinka’s Ruslan/Ludmilla overture encompassed Superman’s theme; the Batman musical insignia and an impolite body emanation that cumulated with the ‘Shave & a haircut, 7-note motif. Beethoven’s 9th was given the Hersch treatment by performing it in various supposedly improvisational and audience-recommended styles (we could see the musician’s scores!). The Last Night at the Proms requisite “Rule Britannia” was à la Karaoke, but this pedant can’t accept “We shall never never never, shall be slaves”. “Britons never never never etc. also scans, but is certainly more grammatically correct. Having flags projected over the stage was a nice touch; but given the latest local brouhaha; a flash of the ‘Stars and Bars’ would have been effective, and also a paean to all of us latent CSA’ers!

All was not humour. The HPO’s rendering of the ‘Elizabethan Serenade’, and especially Holst’s Jupiter was immaculate and arranged with effective & dramatic tempi. Hersch and the musicians certainly captured the composer’s probable concept of what a God of Jollity would musically encompass. Marvellous music; clever and hilarious comedy; talented vocalist and a ‘with-it’ orchestral company…all the makings of a delightful evening. Tons of shtick but alas; no chord-playing sticks – a Hersch standout component that he must bring for his next visit!


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