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Too Many Notes - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
qatsi
qatsi
Too Many Notes
I've had a busy time at the Proms, so here are the write-ups for the last two of the week.

I didn't feel so well on Wednesday, the temperature seemed to have fallen rapidly and it was quite gloomy, and maybe I shouldn't have gone to Prom 45. But after acquiring a raffle ticket for the queue, I headed to the box office to enquire about tickets for the Last Night, and I shall be going again this year. I warmed up a bit in the entertaining pre-Prom talk with Ian Skelly, Tim Jones and Roderick Swanston discussing the period of Mozart's late piano concerti and how the genre operated at the time.

The concert began with Henri Busser's orchestration of Debussy's Petite suite, and I found it surprisingly enjoyable given that I'm not really a Debussy fan. Three of the four movements were instantly recognizable and it lifted my spirits considerably. The Mozart was next - Piano Concert No. 22 in E flat, K482. Elisabeth Leonskaja joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Charles Dutoit for her first Prom appearance in 30 years. I admit she is a new name to me, but I liked her relaxed style and enjoyed the first two movements of the concerto. To be honest I found the final movement rather long and rambling - it did rather make me think of Emperor Joseph II's comment in Amadeus. Someone in the talk said they'd heard she was going to perform cadenzas by Benjamin Britten - I don't know if that was the case, but certainly they contrasted with the Mozartian style and were closer to the twenty-first than eighteenth century. She also gave an encore of a Chopin nocturne.

The reason I'd picked this Prom was for the second half, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15. It's a piece best described as quirky, with its thin style and multiple music quotations - themes from Rossini's William Tell and Wagner's Ring are the most obvious, but there are others, including from Shostakovich's own earlier works. It was a fair performance but I certainly wasn't on form to comment at length on the quality. I did feel the timekeeping of the concert overall was a bit poor and it did finish late. I'm not sure whether there were any orchestral encores as I didn't stay to find out.

Both the weather and I were notably better on Friday for Prom 47. After a slight mix-up with the queue (the stewards had failed to notice a couple of people queueing at the door, so they didn't have raffle tickets) I found myself towards the end of the rail. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo began with a Sibelius tone poem, Tapiola, which was certainly more wintry than the weather outside. Next, the reason for picking this prom: Leifs' Organ Concerto with Stephen Farr as the soloist. The programme promised that "the work starts as it means to go on, with an ear-splittingly dissonant chord on the full organ", and it was right. It's the only piece other than Mahler 6 I've seen use a sledge-hammer - repeatedly. Nevertheless, although the work contrasted with the Poulenc I had heard earlier in the season, I felt it shared a certain light-heartedness of mood - it's certainly music to be enjoyed. Farr gave an encore of Hafliði Hallgrímsson's Oh night how sweet your darkest moment.

In the second half, we began with the UK premiere of Anders Hillborg's Beast Sampler. I had no idea what we would get, but actually it was rather a good match, particularly for Tapiola earlier in the evening, with lots of forest spirits coming in and out of focus. The concert concluded with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. I particularly enjoyed the slow movement. Oramo had chosen antiphonal seating, so I was close to the second violins, which are less overpowering than the cellos in the string passages. Sadly, timekeeping was again a bit off and combined with Circle Line vagaries to put me in Nip for a while at Earl's Court, though the tube probably didn't change the train I caught home.

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