Prom 56 seems a long time ago now, just before the Bank Holiday weekend. The first half was a piece by Richard Strauss, Burleske for piano and orchestra. Though I think Kirill Gerstein's performance was technically accomplished, I don't think it worked particularly well as a piece. It's a piece by the youthful Strauss and it just didn't seem well structured or thought out. Fortunately, the reason for attending this concert was the second half, Mahler's Symphony No. 6. In fact the first Prom I ever attended (in 1993) featured this symphony. It was an interesting performance by Semyon Bychkov and the BBCSO and I wasn't disappointed. It's the only time I have seem a member of the orchestra covering their ears (a member of the percussion department directly in front of the "hammer", just before each hammer-blow in the final movement).
A popular programme by a famous visiting orchestra is guaranteed to pull in the crowds, so it was no surprise that I was quite a few rows back for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Charles Dutoit on Thursday. The concert began with Sibelius' Finlandia and continued with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. At this point I discovered I was in the midst of a Janine Jansen fan club. I admit I'd never actually heard of this violinist: she did a decent job, though I thought the performance was somewhat workhorse-like and lacking in the fireworks one might have expected. She also had a bizarre way of stooping towards the orchestra, almost as if she was straining to listen to them. We had an encore of solo Bach. After the interval, Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances were particularly well played. Perhaps the orchestra - for whom the piece was written in 1940-41 - has continued to have a special relationship with the work. The programme was rounded off by Ravel's La valse. I'm not a Ravel fan, but this is probably my favourite Ravel piece and I thought it worked quite well. Berlioz's Hungarian March was given as an encore. It's been an odd season, with some concerts not really meeting expectations and others exceeding them.