qatsi (qatsi) wrote,
qatsi
qatsi

Nothing we can't hum there, then ...

The final prom of the season for me was on Monday evening. Usually I pick proms because they have artists you wouldn't get the chance to see anywhere else, or works that aren't often performed, but on this occasion it was simply favourite pieces with an orchestra I hadn't previously heard of - the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich.

Starting with the overture from Wagner's The Flying Dutchman I realised how surprised I was that I hadn't heard of the orchestra; they were excellent, perhaps in an understated, of-course-we-are, Swiss way. Of course, that did mean that they didn't always seem to grasp the idiosyncratic humour of certain Proms conventions, such as the cry of "Heave [in the arena] - HO! [in the gallery]" when the piano lid is raised, or the applause when the leader strikes the A, for the orchestra to tune. For Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 3 they were joined by Emanuel Ax. This is probably my favourite of the Beethoven concertos - in real C minor mood; yes, I know people describe it as Mozartian, but it's so much better than Mozart. Technically, Ax was spot on; in the slow movement I felt he over-pedalled - it's Beethoven, not Schubert or Debussy, but in the outer movements it was just right.

In the interval I overheard someone a couple of rows away saying "Oh, was it?" when it was explained that the opening of Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra was used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now I know everyone has to begin somewhere, but even so, the slightest of pre-concert research would have revealed this fact. With the orchestra joined by the organ, the Royal Albert Hall took off in the second half as the surprisingly diminutive David Zinman steered the orchestra skilfully through the half-hour work written around 1896 and dedicated to "the twentieth century".

We had Walton's Crown Imperial as an encore before the orchestra made it's escape, ending the season for me on a high note. I've been to rather more concerts than I expected this year; somehow the long-list was never whittled down further, but there haven't been any disappointments. Roll on next July!
Tags: music
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