qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

A Mercifully Brief Encounter

"You don't have to have Asperger's to work here, but it helps", I thought, as the Proms queue tried to rearrange itself into the correct raffle-ticket order under the canopy of the Royal Albert Hall amidst the dismal weather on Saturday. The queue was short until the last hour or so, when it grew rapidly, and the weather also relented somewhat.

Opening the concert was Roussel's Bacchus et Ariane - Suite No. 2, a new work to me and a new composer too. Perhaps there were hints of Tchaikovsky, but rather more of Prokofiev and Britten, I thought, in this neoclassical work of the 1930s. Interestingly, the composer profile section of the programme described Roussel as a native of Flanders rather than Belgium. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra seemed to play well, with an extra instrument in their repertoire: the hair of conductor Stéphane Denève, which bounced to and fro energetically.

Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 was, in contrast, a big disappointment. Stephen Hough seemed to rush and muffle the opening chords, and this pattern was repeated throughout, with plenty of wrong notes and some missing altogether in the final movement. Perhaps the conductor and orchestra had decided the pace; perhaps it was just a bad day at the office.

Fortunately, the second half of the concert brought a more pleasant surprise, in the form of Thea Musgrave's Rainbow (selected to mark her 80th birthday year). Musgrave is a name I'd heard of, but had never heard any of her work. The piece was broadly impressionistic in style, with a recurrent menacing bass line. It was an apt pairing with the following piece, the second familiar workhorse of the evening: Debussy's La Mer, which is never going to be a real favourite of mine, but seemed a fair rendition. There was a debate in the audience about whether we would get an encore, but in the end, the orchestra left the platform, the concert redeemed but still with the air that someone would have to hold a post-mortem.
Tags: music
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