qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Frei aber froh

I doubt Brahms has ever been in fashion, but I suspect he's always had a quiet, determined following, and there was already quite a queue when I arrived in the drizzle yesterday afternoon. The pre-Prom talk for this all-Brahms concert was about the man himself and whether he was ancient or modern - unsurprisingly, the speakers argued for both at once.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer began with the Symphony No. 3. This is one of my all-time favourite pieces, and it was a good performance with plenty of detail. The programme notes describe Brahms as intellectually rigorous and (specifically for the Fourth Symphony) intimidating; I prefer to think of his music as intellectually rewarding. Fischer seemed glued to the spot at the base of the rostrum, but thrashed around wildly above, making me think his conducting was as legible as a GP's prescription.

At the end of the interval, there was an unusual announcement - that the second half of the concert was delayed. The tone was somewhat serious and produced general relief that the final word hadn't been cancelled. It turned out later (on the Proms Twitter feed) that Fischer had "felt unwell". After an additional 10 minutes, it transpired that the magic spray for footballers can also be used on conductors: at any rate, he conducted the whole first movement of the Symphony No. 4 without turning a single page in his score. Again the whole performance was very clear, picking out all sorts of detail (particularly in the strings) you don't always get to hear.

The concert was running a little late, and I wondered whether we'd get an encore or whether it would be shelved (there was a late-night Prom to follow). Fischer announced they would do Brahms' Evening Serenade. I didn't know the piece, but it sounded like a good idea. But what's this? The orchestra stood up and began milling around the stage. When they had settled, women at the front, men at the back, it became apparent: it's a choral piece. The Budapest Festival Orchestra aren't just good players, they can sing beautifully, too.
Tags: music
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