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Les Adieux - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
Les Adieux
The final Prom I went to this year was Prom 71 on Wednesday. I think this is the only Prom this year I've seen with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; on this occasion they were conducted by Osmo Vänskä. The first half of the concert featured Górecki's Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), a curiously popular work when it was released on CD in the 1990s, and still popular today, as the seats had been sold out and the Arena was distinctly full. Ruby Hughes was the soprano in this unsettling work. The ever-moving bass lines in the first movement contrast musically with the somewhat lighter second movement, although the text, taken from graffiti on a Gestapo prison cell wall in Warsaw, is almost unbearably harrowing. The silence at the end of the third and final movement, under Vänskä's control, was quite remarkable.

The second half began with a new orchestration by Anthony Payne of Vaughan Williams' Four Last Songs, with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston. Although this was an unfamiliar work by someone who is not generally one of my favourite composers, I thought these short settings worked quite well, and I thought Payne's orchestration was very effective in faithfully reproducing Vaughan Williams' orchestral sound.

Finally we had Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique). For such a popular piece and perhaps something of a war-horse, Vänskä became quite pixilated (in the archaic sense), dancing all over the podium and forcefully wielding the baton. Certainly it gave the live performance the impact it needed to distinguish it from a mere CD recording.


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