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Something in the Water - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
Something in the Water
The Proms yesterday were preceded by a talk from Sir Roger Norrington, accompanied by a couple of players from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, who were to give the first concert of the evening. It was interesting to hear about the development of instruments - and orchestras - over the period from the late seventeenth through to early nineteenth century. Of course, someone had to ask a question about vibrato.

The concert itself featured works from all four of the "anniversary" composers: beginning with a suite from Purcell's Abdelazer - which includes the theme more recently famous in Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, we moved on to Handel's arias Ombra mai fu from Xerces (popularly known as "Handel's Largo") and Ah! mio cor! from Alcina, both majestically sung by Joyce DiDonato. That was followed by the Water Music Suite No. 2; the first half finished with Haydn's Scena di Berenice.

For the second half of the concert, many of the players had changed their instruments for Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 (Scottish). Here the lack of vibrato was particularly noticeable, and gave the work a sharper and darker feel. I also think the natural harmonics of the wind sections came out from time to time. Despite the bloke next to me squeezing his two girlfriends into his space and giving them a running commentary, a pushy mother who insisted her "special" children should be allowed on to the front row (whence their interest disappeared the moment the music started, and they retreated), and the unidentified person who came to the concert solely to scrunch their polythene bag all evening, I enjoyed the concert and rated it possibly the best so far.

The late-night concert was a programme with the Michael Nyman band; beginning with excerpts from The Draughtsman's Contract, it struck me quite how loud and energetic the ten or so players were. It was certainly worth seeing live, as the intensity doesn't seem to have quite come through on Listen Again.

A new commission, The Musicologist's Score, fitted into a similar vein as Nyman weaved his way through more Purcell and Handel samples. I didn't like the first of the Celan Songs: Blume seemed to have been Nyman sampling Berg and Schoenberg, but I did quite like the second, Psalm, and soprano Anu Komsi and the band clearly played well even when the music wasn't to my taste. They rounded off with Memorial from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, and Nyman gave a short piano solo encore. In fact, having scored the OAE so highly, this concert possibly topped that. The Albert Hall was not so full as it had been for the other late-nighters I've been to this season, but it was still a respectable showing for what uitlander described as "special interests".

Current Music: Listen Again - Prom 54

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