qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Tall Tales

Sunday's Prom was free, and it was therefore very difficult to guess whether the queue would be large or small. In the end it was about normal; I was in the second row. Although all the seats had been allocated, a number were empty; it's a shame that people hadn't returned tickets they weren't going to use.

The pre-Prom talk was an entertaining but also informative discussion with Tony Palmer and Graham Lack about Orff and Carmina burana, composed in 1930s Bavaria, and more-or-less simultaneously denounced (as degenerate, due to the somewhat pornographic nature of some of the medieval texts used) and heralded (as folk art) by the Third Reich. There was consensus that Orff's other works ought to be better known - for me as for many he is a one-work composer - but perhaps there was some divergence about complicity and culpability in his accommodation of the Nazi era. (Orff never joined the party, but never stood up to defend colleagues when he could have done, either).

The music was a mixed bag, in which the BBC Concert Orchestra and Keith Lockhart embarked "on a journey into the diabolical", according to the (free) programme. We began with Saint-Saëns' Danse macarbre, but then moved on to a BBC commission with the premiere of Guy Barker's The Lanterne of Light, a trumpet concerto, with Alison Balsom. I was indifferent to much of it, although I did quite like the jazzy, dance-like sections in the middle. After the interval, the orchestra combined forces with the Southend Boys' and Girls' Choirs, the BBC Symphony Chorus, the London Philharmonic Choir, and soloists Olena Tokar, Thomas Walker, and Benjamin Appl, for Orff's Carmina burana. The opening and closing O Fortuna sections were superb; the Albert Hall is an obviously magnificent space for such monumental work. Some of the songs in the central sections ran a bit slowly, I felt, but overall it was a good performance. The three soloists all gave character to the work; Appl (whom I had seen in the OAE/Brahms prom in the previous week) had the lion's share of the work to do and I think he seemed in his element.

The last week of the season is generally constructed around big names and visiting orchestras, so Monday's concert was always going to be popular, but even so I managed to get into the top 50 or so in the queue. Once again, the pre-Prom talk was on some potentially risqué texts that inspired the music in the concert - in this case, the Thousand and One Nights. The programme by the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Yuri Temirkanov was an unashamedly popular all-Russian affair: Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Nikolai Lugansky, who took a steady pace that paid off well, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, and it all went down a storm. Lugansky gave an encore from Rachmaninov's Etudes tableaux at the end of the first half, and the orchestra gave an encore from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, and a tango by Albeniz, at the end of the concert, which was already running late. On this occasion a swift walk to High Street Kensington and some luck with the tube meant I still caught the expected train home comfortably.

For me, there's now just the small matter of a concert on Saturday evening to go for this season.
Tags: music
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