qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

  • Music:

Chord: Something an organist plays with one finger

Dischord: Something an organist plays with two fingers.

- Hoffnung

I joined the Proms queue early in the afternoon, by which time there were already about 10 people ahead of me, so it wasn't obvious I would get a good spot in the front row of the Arena - being far off to one side isn't as good for me as going for the middle of the second row. However, as someone pointed out to me some years ago, when the music is played on the organ, it really doesn't matter where you stand. As always, another season brings reacquaintances, and it was good to see my friend W again. It turned out that we were both keen to hear the Poulenc (I've missed out on the Organ Concerto for one reason or another at least twice), and not so keen on the Mozart.

In the end I did get a reasonable spot about half-way along the day Prommers' side of the front row. On this occasion the orchestra - the BBC National Orchestra of Wales - was relatively distant, the "Burma Railway" for the TV camera being wider than usual and the orchestral forces not coming right to the front of the stage. But one shouldn't complain, and Thomas Søndergård conducted them with James O'Donnell the soloist for Poulenc's Organ Concerto. Whilst the Poulenc isn't light music, I always think it is light-hearted - proof that serious music-making can be fun. There were lots of little details that you only really get to hear and see live, the organ flitting across vast dynamic range, frequent break-neck-paced passages for both soloist and orchestra. Certainly at the front of the Hall, the organ acoustic was clear and clean throughout the piece. It was enthusiastically received by the audience.

The next piece, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, was new to me. Amusingly, the Poulenc required only the strings and timpani of the orchestra; the Stravinsky dispensed with most of the strings, leaving only cellos and basses, and reintroduced woodwind and brass, and two pianos, as well of course as the BBC National Chorus of Wales. Though quite a contrast to the Poulenc, I felt it also shared some features, particularly in its rhythmicness, and it worked well. The relationship to the Ricercar theme from Bach's Musical Offering in the second movement, observed in the programme notes, was quite striking.

After the interval, the choir returned, but this time the male and female voices were mixed randomly for Haydn's Te Deum, another new work to me. It does feel that there isn't often much Haydn at the Proms; maybe the Royal Albert Hall isn't considered a particularly suitable venue. The concert concluded with Mozart's Symphony No 41 (Jupiter). I suspect this was the draw for many in the Hall, but not for me; nevertheless it was played well enough.
Tags: music
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