Monday, 24 April 2017

Old and New, Glass and Rachmaninov

Image result for alexander Malofeev
Alexander Malofeev

I had a wonderful experience with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night. An 80-year-old American man gave us the rhythms of life, then a 15-year-old Russian boy gave us the melody of life. Alondra de la Parra, from Mexico, was in charge of all. Almost Trumpian geopolitics.
The Philip Glass Symphony No. 11, commissioned by the Bruckner Orchestra, the Istanbul International Music Festival, and the QSO, had its second ever performance, following its January premiere at Carnegie Hall in NYC on Glass's 80th birthday. We heard the repeated rhythms of living, and the jagged.
The audience loved this new work from an old man.
Then an old work from a boy when Alexander Malofeev ravished the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto, that miracle of melody. This Russian prodigy, winner of the 8th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2014, is the real thing, brilliant and brave. We leapt to our feet. Nice to know that in July last year he recorded his debut DVD in the Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, performing works by Tchaikovsky, Medtner and Liszt.
A Medtner Fairy Tale encore was a blast.
A nourishing night of life's contrasts and contours.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Ripples of Hope

I am in the middle of directing Tommy Murphy's new play, Mark Colvin's Kidney, for Sydney's Belvoir. It's been extraordinary.   

I remember being glued to the Leveson Inquiry. All that rigorous interrogation and the testimonies of the famous, including a fragile-looking Rupert Murdoch. It felt like we were witnessing the fall of a media empire. It felt like the world was about to change and that ‘truth’ and ‘ethics’ and ‘justice’ would somehow flourish.

Five years on, that feeling is foreign. ‘Alternative facts’ fight with the truth, and justice for many seems more distant than ever.

I was not aware of Mary-Ellen Field’s story until Tommy Murphy, that most intrepid of playwrights, brought it to my attention. Things struck me with immediate force. Here was a very successful woman, a member of the Conservative Party, who bit by bit had her natural faith in the cornerstones of British justice eroded. More specifically, here was someone who had been treated savagely by the media and yet decided to give her kidney to a journalist. How does that happen?

Altruism is mysterious. Evolutionary biology and neurobiology tell us that we’re hardwired for it, but that the trigger can be untouched. We are often suspicious of those who say they expect no reward for their kindness. The idea of absolute selflessness (is there such a thing?) doesn’t quite gel in times when empathy seems to be in such short supply.

But, it happened. Mary-Ellen gave Mark Colvin, that exemplary journalist, a kidney, that spectacular centre of the body’s waste disposal system. That act of kindness, in its private, personal way, helped to cleanse. It added, in its modest way, to the sum of goodness in the world. Perhaps, in the face of crushing malice and injustice, that is the best we can hope for. Perhaps, though, such acts, however small, accumulate and cultivate.

Perhaps Mark Colvin’s Kidney can be part of that current, its own ripple of hope.

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

(Robert F. Kennedy, Day of Affirmation address delivered at the University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966)