qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

In which 6000 people are given silly things to do, with 1008 setting some of them to music

I attended both Proms last night. The main concert was a Central European programme performed by the excellent Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer. They began with the orchestral version of Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew Themes, surprisingly a first performance at the Proms of this work. The principal clarinettist was to the fore of the orchestra as the Klezmer-inspired tunes rang out. I was particularly struck by the measured tempo: any slower would have begun to turn it into a dirge, but it was paced to allow you to hear all the notes and anticipate what was coming next, like a dish whose taste is perfectly balanced between sweet and sour.

Leonidas Kavakos joined the orchestra for Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2. I'm not familiar with this piece, and Bartók is not one of my favourite composers, but it was colourful and energetic; the final movement in particular made me think of it as a concerto for orchestra. Perhaps it was more subverted, but I also felt there were clear folk-themes woven into the music, not unusual for Bartók.

The second half of the concert was taken up with Dvořák's Symphony No.7, which showcased the rich sound throughout the orchestra. "We have no more serious music for you", intoned Fischer at the end, no doubt deliberately setting the tone for the following concert. Strauss' Peasant Polka, complete with orchestral "La"s, was played as an encore.

The late night Prom featured the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and was not to be taken too seriously. Amidst classical reworkings and tunes from the Hit Parade, there was also dry verbal humour. Fortunately, the amplification of the eight performers on the stage meant that they dominated the combined "performance" of Beethoven's Ode to Joy featuring approximately 1000 ukuleles brought in by the audience and scattered throughout the hall. (If you weren't there, you missed the tuning up and rehearsal before Radio 3 began its broadcast). I've never heard The Ride of the Valkyries or The Dam Busters March in quite that way before, and I haven't heard Anarchy in the UK or Wuthering Heights like that either.
Tags: music
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