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Mahler 7 - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
qatsi
qatsi
Mahler 7
The Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle were visiting the Proms on Friday (and again today), so it was always going to be busy. Combine that with a programme containing a Mahler symphony, and it's a recipe for being very busy. So, rather than lunching and then heading off to join the queue, I headed off straight away and bought lunch on the way. It was the right decision - I was already in the 130s when I joined the queue. Sometimes the stewards are excellent, and sometimes rather less so. This time, they were quite good, but probably there were not enough of them. At about a quarter to six, light rain began falling, and the head of the queue decided to go for shelter. Unfortunately, this was interpreted further down as the queue being moved up - so we all moved up. I suspect the stewards were focusing more on the end of the queue; and while the very front would be self-managing, I'm sure some people who should have been behind me were ahead, and it's equally likely I was ahead of some people I should have been behind. For me I think the overall effect was probably neutral, and I was about seven or eight rows back, with a good view.

Rattle makes you eat your greens, and so the concert began with Boulez's Eclat for 15 musicians. It's quite a virtuosic piece for some performers, particularly the pianist; and it was also good to see a cimbalom in the ensemble; but it wasn't really an engaging work, and was received politely.

We moved on without an interval (though with quite a pause for stage re-arrangement) to Mahler's Symphony No. 7. I've seen this piece performed before at the Proms, in 2012. Obviously, this was a more crowded occasion. Right from the first bars, I could hear the special string sound of the Berlin Phil; it's difficult to describe - full-bodied with a lightness of touch, perhaps. To be fair, though, it's not just the strings: all sections seemed to have an extra energy. The horn solo wobbled a little at the start of the first Nachtmusik, but that's the risk of live performance. This time round, I particularly enjoyed the guitars and mandolins in the second Nachtmusik; also I hadn't noticed cowbells in the seventh symphony before, although it's a typical Mahlerian touch. Predictably, the emphatic finale brought the house down, but these seasoned professionals knew how much applause to take, and when it was time to leave the stage.

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