qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases

Tuesday's Prom was the second of two given by the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. With such world famous names it was bound to be popular, despite the programme perhaps being something of an acquired taste.

Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is never going to be a favourite piece of mine. Though I did find the first movement interesting, it was a bit spoiled by some of the percussion members being a little clumsy in putting down their instruments at times. The coughing at the end of the first movement was, frankly, louder than the music itself had been. Later in the piece there was a loud ker-thunk of someone fainting several rows back in the Arena. Barenboim's conducting style is not to my liking, being extraordinarily impressionistic whilst his face is always impassive.

The second half was more interesting, beginning with Kodály's Dances of Galánta, a piece owing something to Brahms' Hungarian Dances of some decades before. Ligeti's Atmosphères (used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey) was fascinating to watch, matching the ethereal sounds to the various sections of the orchestra. I've never seen the piano played with scrubbing brushes before. I wouldn't want a whole evening of it, but for 10 minutes it was quite compelling. The final scheduled work was Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody No 1, a youthful work hailing to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, which the composer subsequently regretted, though it is his best known work, by quite a long way. Most popular pieces are indeed popular because of their quality, and so I feel with this one. It's not a highbrow work, but it is a set of good folk melodies skilfully collated into a successful and fun piece.

I think it was Sir Thomas Beecham who coined the word "lollipops" for encores, to be handed out to deserving audiences. Of course the Vienna Philharmonic needs no lollipops when it has the Sachertorte of the Strauss family, so we were given two additional numbers - the first, I think, the Annen-Polka, and finally, in keeping with the eastern European theme, Éljen a Magyar!.
Tags: music
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