qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Last of the Summer Wine

I knew rather better what to expect this year, so after I signed in at the Albert Hall I repaired to Hyde Park for a few hours before the 3pm roll call. The stewards didn't manage the queue this year as well - last year we were shunted back so that we were unambiguously in order; this year you had to guess roughly where you should be and hope that the stewards called your name at the right time. Still, it seemed to work about right. Pith helmets and pink cowboy hats seemed to be this year's must-have headwear. I had neither, but still attracted enough interest due to the uniqueness of my Northumbrian flag. The number of English regional flags - and of Scottish, Welsh and Irish ones too - seemed greatly diminished this year in favour of the Union and St George's flags, with some notable presence from Germany, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Australia.

The first half of the concert was the usual mixed bag - Dvořák's Othello overture and Rachmaninov's Vocalise (arranged for violin) worked well; Ravel's Tzigane was fair; Thomas Adès' The Tempest was mercifully short. It was, perhaps, surprising, that it has taken until 2007 to have Elgar's The Spirit of England performed at the Proms, but it's one of his more mediocre works, and as that was the only thing tenor Andrew Kennedy sang in the whole concert, it did seem he was under-used. We rounded off with the effervescent soprano Anna Netrebko singing some Bellini.

With the balloons and beach balls dispatched, and the rostrum decorated with L-plates, Jiří Bělohlávek began the second half with Fučik's Entry of the Gladiators - a piece whose origins were perhaps rather more serious than its appropriation into the world of the circus would lead you to believe. Nevertheless, it has a rousing and festive air that set the mood well. Netrebko returned to sing Lehár and Richard Strauss; Joshua Bell returned with his violin. We had the usual round-off; Bělohlávek's speech was short but considered; he's a consummate musician but perhaps not such a showman, and he did seem to be most comfortable with a sentence that seemed to have no vowels (which of course was his native Czech). We finished on time, and I easily caught the last fast train of the evening back to Reading.
Tags: music
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