qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen

Judging the queues at this year's Proms has been very difficult. According to the stewards, the queues have been short early on, suddenly building at the last minute. A couple of weeks ago, one of them told me that no-one had been turned away this year - not even for Die Walküre.

Nevertheless, for last year's Beethoven 9, with Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, apparently the queue stretched round the corner onto Prince Consort Road by 9am on a Sunday morning, and with this year's performance on a Saturday, and with Kurt Masur and the London Philharmonic, it was sure to be popular.

In the end, kharin and I arrived at lunch time to find ourselves in the first ten. The queue built slowly but surely. Miss Marple (and here I am thinking Margaret Rutherford, rather than Joan Hickson) joined next to us, though she spent much of the time chatting to her friends in the season ticket queue. Next, a retired teacher from Oxford. Some tourists were amazed to see people queueing for several hours; later on, some tourists were equally amazed when told by the stewards that their chances were slim, as some people had been queueing for several hours.

The first half was a UK premiere: The Light of the End by Sofia Gubaidulina. The work varied in mood, mainly dark and austere, with the use of natural harmonics (rather than the standard tonic scale) giving a curiously ancient air to some of the sounds. Yet in other sections the percussion effects (particularly xylophone and tubular bells) were energetically exciting. I will make an effort to use Radio 3's Listen Again this week for the piece - my initial reaction was positive, but most music benefits from some degree of familiarity.

The second half was Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Along with Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Jerusalem, this is the only piece guaranteed to feature in every Proms season (though apparently it has been omitted from time to time). Masur worked the orchestra hard, and to great effect. In the final movement, the massed choirs were glorious, filling the hall with sound. I'm not intending to make this a regular pilgrimage, but it was definitely worth experiencing.
Tags: music
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