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Prom 40 - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
qatsi
qatsi
Prom 40
The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra gave their debut Prom last night with a programme covering a hundred years of Austro-German music. As conductor Paavo Järvi emerged onto the stage, he really was a doppelgänger for Vladimir Putin - cue a round of sushi jokes and flashbacks to Boris Yeltsin with that military band, or even The Madness of George III - though Järvi was clearly taking his role more seriously. The orchestra began quietly, with Weber's overture Oberon - a piece I couldn't have named but whose tunes were certainly familiar enough. The main work in the first half of the concert was a selection from Mahler's songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, tenderly sung by Matthias Goerne, who hobbled onto the stage with what looked like a broken foot. It's a dangerous life, being a concert singer, evidently. There had also been some mix-up at the printer's, and the programme had some of the songs out of sequence, which was occasionally irritating, particularly as the notice explaining this wasn't especially clear on the running order either. Järvi silenced premature applause after Urlicht with an irritated wave of his baton and a stern half-look.

It's not often I have anything positive to say about Schoenberg, but his orchestral arrangement of Brahms' Piano Quartet No. 1 is magical and inspired. The tunes are clearly Brahms, but equally clearly, the orchestration generally isn't. There are one or two string passages that might be Brahms, but there's a more brash and percussive style which works well. The second and third movements were perhaps a little bombastic in places. Even Järvi was doing a little foot-tapping in the final Rondo alla Zingarese, in which the orchestra was pushed to the limit for pacing, almost struggling to keep up and sounding raw rather than ragged. It really is a musical romp and I would recommend the Listen Again feature if it was working - there seem to be quite a few problems on the Radio 3 website at the moment.

An encore of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 6 (again orchestrated by someone other than Brahms) was perhaps predictable, but nonetheless enjoyable. Now, I'm putting my feet up until John Adams next week ...

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