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Zwei Großen Nachtmusik - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
qatsi
qatsi
Zwei Großen Nachtmusik
I can confirm that Paddington was unusually busy on Monday afternoon, as I struggled to make my way out of the station - the exit by Platform 1 being closed by CrossRail works, and the other apparently swarming with Olympic greeters. The Proms queue was unusually quiet; I ended up centrally in the second row of the Arena, which was quite generously spaced; the seats in the circle were barely taken, and there were plently of seats available in the stalls.

The consensus was that this was more likely due to the Olympics than the programme, featuring the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda, which began with the overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni. My familiarity with this work is passing at best; by word association it conjures memories as an undergraduate, when a friend turned up at my door to ask if I could fill in as an accompanist (the original being a no-show) for the auditions they were running for a performance of Don Giovanni. I agreed to do what I could, with my scraped Grade VI piano and allegedly fair sight-reading. My advice to would-be singers is this: bear in mind that the pianist may not be as technically accomplished as you are: you won't impress if the pianist can't keep up with a frightfully difficult G&S ditty. The one who turned up with the simple Libera me from Fauré's Requiem faired much better. Anyway, the overture seemed to go fine.

Apparently The Independent reviewer came along for Oliver Knussen's Symphony No. 2; but I think the rest of us wouldn't have minded had it been skipped. Gillian Keith clearly sang with feeling, and there were some moments that verged on a descent into tunefulness, but certainly in the opening movement one could have been forgiven for thinking the orchestra were still tuning up.

The main event, after the interval, was Mahler's Symphony No. 7. Although the programme notes state that it is Mahler's least performed and least understood symphony, I reckon it probably contains his best-known tune - and if you think you don't know it, try this. In fact, as I listened, it occurred to me that the symphony can be viewed very straightforwardly as a journey from the sixth to the eighth. The opening movement shares enough of its sound-world that it could be the aftermath of the sixth; the closing movement is exuberant enough to point to the eighth. In between, are three transitional central movements - the two Nachtmusik, the first menacing, the second calmer, separated by a central demonic scherzo - which Noseda conducted in a continuum. Unfortunately at the start of the finale, one of the Prommers in front was taken ill - fortunately the space allowed the stewards to help her out without too much distraction; I overheard afterwards, hopefully correctly, that it wasn't serious. Noseda is a passionate conductor, and this was evident throughout the performance, perspiration flying and the odd involuntary vocal addition. The tempo was on the slow side, but never too much so - just allowing him to draw out the maximum tension. This concludes my own personal Mahler cycle at the Proms, though I'm sure I will return for more.

Tags:
Current Music: Prom 22 - Mahler 7 (BBC listen again)

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Comments
thegreenman From: thegreenman Date: August 3rd, 2012 09:53 am (UTC) (Link)
It is amusing isn't it. I mean the way the Proms think that if they sandwich the naff modern stuff, that nobody except a few critics/intellectuals pretend to like, next to the usual favourites then somehow nobody will notice. (and the masses will have been educated)

qatsi From: qatsi Date: August 4th, 2012 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
To be fair, I have been to concerts with decent modern but unfamiliar pieces dropped in to the middle of their programmes. But this wasn't one of them.
thegreenman From: thegreenman Date: August 6th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
My mum went to such a concert at the Prom a few years ago.

After the cacophony died away, there was a polite silence from the audience.

The orchestra had the good manners to look embarrassed.


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