qatsi (qatsi) wrote,
qatsi
qatsi

Encores

Apparently Prom 39 was the first to sell out this year, in four days, so it was not a great surprise to find that the queue already extended onto Prince Consort Road when kharin and I arrived, before 5pm. The plus side of this was that we did not have to queue by the exit vents from the air conditioning system, but the down side was that we did have to put up with some more irritating prommers than normal.

There aren't many rules to Proms etiquette: however, you must recognise that for £4 you have bought the right to stand in the arena (or gallery), and though sitting is permitted, it is not reasonable to consume many times more floor space by sitting in an extended fashion, and bringing your own portable seating is most definitely verboten. In most of the more popular concerts, there will be a cry from the stewards: "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Arena, would you please stand and move forward". This is to be interpreted in the same way as an invitation from Sergeant Wilson to "kindly step this way" - i.e. it is, in fact, an order. So sitting down on arrival and unpacking into a substantial space is not an appropriate behaviour, even if you have brought your copy of the Daily Mail.

The music began with Berlioz's energetic overture Le Corsaire, and did, as I alluded to here, pass the time before some other patrons were admitted (though on this occasion their tardiness was probably due more to the Circle Line than their financial status).

The major work in the programme was Saint-Saën's Symphony No 3 (Organ). Dame Gillian Weir sat patiently through the first movement, taking up the music during the slow second movement. I hadn't realised the organ was used in this part of the symphony previously, as it generally provides background colour here and is not conspicuously different on a recording from subdued strings or horns. Of course, when the organ returns in the final movement, there is no doubting it, and there was an ample demonstration that it outpowers a full symphony orchestra playing fortissimo. Following the symphony, she gave an encore which I presume to be Messiaen, but has not (at the time of writing) been published on the Proms Encores listings.

The second half was, in essence, a Viennese evening, and began with a demonstration of two things: one, that a decent orchestra can more-or-less play without a conductor, and two, that the BBC Concert Orchestra is prone to outbreaks of comedy, as Barry Wordsworth ran onto the platform with the orchestra already having begun the Radetzky March. Whilst an orchestra may not need a conductor, the audience certainly benefitted from, and responded to, his direction in clapping along.

For several arias from what might broadly be defined as the Austro-Hungarian operetta school (Emmerich Kálmán, Carl Zeller, Franz Lehár and Robert Stolz), the orchestra was joined by soprano Yvonne Kenny, whose attire made her look rather like Madame Edith from Café René. Fortunately she did not sing like Madame Edith, though she did feel the need to engage in rather risqué dancing and clapping once or twice. The music was light and enjoyable, with the frequent appearance of "gypsy" tunes, and in one or two places sounding not vastly removed from some of Kurt Weill's cabaret songs. Yvonne Kenny also provided us with an encore.

Rounding off the evening with the Blue Danube Waltz, I thought two encores was more than enough. But no, there was more: the BBC Concert Orchestra, and in particular the percussion department (of St Trinian's fame last year), gave us the Bicycle Polka, with bicycle bells, cycle helments, and xylophone for eight hands, and finally a march from the Gypsy Baron. If there is such a phenomenon as too much of a good thing, this was it, but the audience certainly had value for money this evening.
Tags: music
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