qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

  • Music:

Handel with care

The first of yesterday's Proms was an all-Handel affair, with the Coronation Anthems interspersed with other, less well known works. Harry Christophers and The (misleadingly named) Sixteen began with The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Carolyn Sampson didn't exactly have a vast libretto to remember, what with all Handel's repetitiousness, but she was appropriately flirtatious in excerpts from Semele and serene in Salve regina. The other work in the concert, towards the end, was an Organ Concerto with the soloist Alistair Ross. I don't want to get into Humph's Lionel Blair territory, but I am afraid there was definitely something wrong with the gentleman's organ. (The main RAH organ had been eschewed in favour of a modest and presumably period-authentic instrument). There had been some maintenance carried out during the interval, but it was still breaking up on certain notes and beating noticeably on others. So there was nothing wrong with his playing, but there was a distinct divergence between the inputs and the outputs.

kharin and I stayed on for the late-night Prom, the first all-Philip Glass programme at the Proms, though both works were (mostly) new to me. We both enjoyed the Violin Concerto; I nominate soloist Gidon Kremer as the Proms Pixie of the season so far, bouncing around in far too spritely a fashion for his age, whilst Dennis Russell Davies did a passable impression of Jean-Luc Picard "making it so" with his baton. The jury is still out on the other work, a UK premiere of Symphony No. 7 (A Toltec Symphony). I enjoyed the first movement, but felt that the vocals in the second and third did detract from it somewhat. The Oo-Ah bird is so called because it lays square eggs. The programme notes stated that Glass transcribed the song of an old man in the Mexican hills, but that "other local people, despite knowing the sounds, could not say what they meant". In other words, what sounds like "yummy-yummy-we-ah-we-oh!" really is meaningless rambling; if we're going to have non-verbal vocals, I'd prefer to stick to simple ooh and ah sounds. The final movement, The Blue Deer, turned out to be based on The Unutterable from the soundtrack to Powaqqatsi, so it was actually familiar to me. Certainly the dramatic crescendos and powerful silences worked well in the Royal Albert Hall (despite one mobile phone incident); but my opinion on a first listening is that I would have preferred a purely instrumental version.

ETA: Improving after a second listening, with the choir less prominent in the second movement but still one or two members coming in before the beat in the final movement.
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