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Only £5, and no Harrison Birtwistle - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
Only £5, and no Harrison Birtwistle
The queue, especially among the "hopefuls", was curiously busy for a programme that tinkered with some of the main elements of the Last Night. A dispute over the size of my flagpole with the bag-checking staff led to me losing my place by a few rows while a Steward summoned a Senior Steward, who had to check with the House Manager. Why the customers understand the rules better than the staff ought to be beyond me. (For the record, flagpoles must be less than one metre in length, but the bag check staff were preventing any "large" flagpoles, an unhelpfully qualitative description). I can't deny that this somewhat soured my evening, particularly as some people around me had got a couple of glass bottles and several wine glasses through the bag check unhindered.

The music improved things, though. I hadn't been especially engaged with most of the Last Night programme, but Beethoven's Choral Fantasia is a work scored for an unusual collection of resources - piano, orchestra, choral soloists and chorus - and is therefore not often performed. This also makes it arguably quite a good selection for the Last Night. I thought Hélène Grimaud did a fair but not brilliant job on the piano, and was accompanied by a lot of coughing all around the hall; the choral soloists were very good, though. Bryn Terfel was on form throughout the evening.

The second half was mixed. Funiculi, funiculà didn't really get the party atmosphere going, I thought; a Vaughan Williams song hardly did that either. Chris Hazell's medley of folk-song arrangements was certainly an improvement on the Bob Chilcott numbers which have inserted themselves into Henry Wood's Fantasia in recent years; particularly Loch Lomond and Molly Malone, with their choruses, got the audience going. Anna Meredith's froms [sic] wasn't at all bad; the orchestras in the parks playing in sync with the hall mostly worked. The military band in Hyde Park was clearly playing in a different key from the BBC SO in Henry Wood's Fanfares, but the other parks were more in tune. Amusingly, one of the fluffs in the hall (on the horn I think?) was echoed by a corresponding fluff in the park. Vaughan Williams' Sea Songs, which replaced Wood's this year, was better than I feared it might be, and had the virtue of not having a hornpipe which the audience (and their foghorns) would mutilate.

Then into more or less familiar territory. Norrington's speech was patchy, with some dry humour ("the first day of summer!"), but he struggled to impose himself and control the heckling. I thought we would overrun considerably, but in the end it wasn't too bad, and the train back had quite a few flags. Some people are raving about this season; it has been better than I first feared, but I don't think it has been a vintage one by any means.


2 comments or Leave a comment
uitlander From: uitlander Date: September 14th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm saddened to hear you got bumped down the queue. I watched briefly keeping an eye out for you, and once I'd seen the Northumbrian colours waving right in front of the camera felt that honour had probably been served.
mraltariel From: mraltariel Date: September 14th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought that the Meredith was pretty good, too (on telly, at least!) and I tend not to like stuff until I'm familiar with it. I wasn't totally convinced by the VW, though.
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