>All Classical Music Explained! by action theatre

>reviewed by derek lim

>date: 28 may 1998
>time: 8:15pm
>venue: dbs auditorium
>rating: not rated

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.

>>>>>a touch of class

"Why would someone who likes classical music pay thirty bucks to watch his or her favourite composer get insulted?" That's what I thought as I curiously accepted the invitation to go watch Rainer Hersch, apparently the only classical hooligan around (and a "half-German" to boot!)

The performance at the DBS Auditorium started 15 minutes after the stated 8:00pm, to much excitement. Soon the audience was engaged in this extremely smooth comedian's sometimes rather randy jokes. His account of his experience with a certain dog, for example had the audience in stiches. Some of the ladies in the audience whooped in shock (or delight) at his musings on the joke preferences of teenagers and adults. The audience settled in quite quickly; and most of us started responding enthusiastically to his jibes at certain members of the group.

>>'You love classical music? Now learn how to laugh at it!'

Through the course of the one-and-a-half hour show, he tickled the audience with his spoofs on various musical greats and their masterpieces. Ever played the recorder? Hersch did, and he gained much empathy and admiration from those who have ever had the experience of being forced to learn an instrument - his stick contraption that he used on the Yamaha mini-grand must certainly have sparked the imagination of some youthful members of the audience. Don't suppose one could use that to play a concerto? His very valiant attempt to play the crashing chords in the opening of the Tchaikovsky piano concerto in b-flat minor certainly gained my sympathy. He is, by the way, quite a passable pianist.

Later, he taught everyone how to differentiate the different recordings of the Four Seasons and demonstrated the indispensability (or otherwise) of a conductor. In twenty minutes he also introduced what scholars might take many years to introduce - the history of Western music - from the "Aaaaaaaaaaaaa-----aaaaaaaaamens" of the medieval chant through Mozart, Haydn (surprise!), Beethoven (dadada DUM), Wagner (scream), Mahler (zzzzzzzzzzz) all the way to music as we know it now.

Among his many tricks, one of the most engaging and side-splitting must have been the one on Carl Orff's choral masterpiece "Carmina Burana" (You'll remember it perhaps as one of those pieces in Michael Jackson's videos.) It was so bad (and so ha-ha-funny) that he had to apologise to the fans of the work at the end of the performance. To wrap up the show he offered Franz Liszt's Liebestraum (Dream of Love) on the piano - first without accompaniment and later with the full rock band played over. He wouldn't let the show go just like that - during this time he spoofed the ultimate bad concertgoer - ringing handphones, pagers, cameras - you name it.

Apparently that Thursday night was to have been his last performance in what is his second trip to Singapore, but due to the overwhelming response the organizers added two extra nights. I can understand why. Hersch makes the audience feel completely at home. You'll laugh at his really funny jokes (and the not-so-funny ones too!) If you get a chance to watch him, sell the dog, mortgage the house, but don't miss it. You love classical music? Now learn how to laugh at it! A friendly note to habitual late-comers - come late for this show and it'll certainly be the most memorable experience you'll have for some time.