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Novelties - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
qatsi
qatsi
Novelties
A rather short queue gathered for Prom 31, and there were plenty of spaces in the seats as well. I suspect the balance of familiar and unfamiliar works in the programme hadn't worked in sales terms as well as expected. I was surprised to read that this was only the third performance at the Proms of the openin work, Walton's Orb and Sceptre. The BBC Philharmonic and John Storgårds were appropriately enthusiastic. I liked the programme note that both of Walton's coronation marches take their titles from the speech in Henry V and that "he liked to point out, [it] contained enough potential titles to keep him in business in this way for some time to come. ('Bed majestical', he suggested, would come in useful one day)."

On to the next item, and the first novelty of the evening, Rubbra's Ode to the Queen, with mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley. Rubbra is a name I've heard from time to time, but I've never had the opportunity to listen to any of his music. This short cycle of songs based on verses by Richard Carshaw, William D'Avenant and Thomas Campion, was enjoyable. The final movement, using Campion's Yet once again, let us our measures move, worked particularly well (despite the infamous "etc." in the programme text).

I had assumed the crowds would flock to the next work, Bruch's ever-popular Violin Concerto No. 1, additionally because the violinist Vilde Frang was well received in a Proms Chamber Music concert earlier in the season. As a whole the performance was accomplished, although I felt some of the passages in the final movement lacked clarity on occasion. We had an encore featuring a short piece of Norwegian folk music.

The second half contained the final work, Korngold's Symphony. Another Proms premiere, and another composer whose name I'd heard but not knowingly his music, although surely I must have heard pieces of film music from time to time. The symphony dates from 1947-52 and marks Korngold's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to re-establish himself in Austria after the war years. Korngold specifically disavowed any programmatic interpretation of the work, although he noted himself that many people found it represented to them the suffering of the years 1933-45. In terms of style I could find elements of Shostakovich, Mahler, and Rachmaninov, with more distant Debussy and Richard Strauss; but ultimately it's a unique sound. The second movement contained some sublime yet bizarre harmonies, and the third movement (adagio) is definitely where the meat of the work lies. Although some of the Prommers were already planning their visit for Nigel Kennedy (tomorrow), I am more likely to revisit this one on Listen Again.

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