qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Prom, Prom, Prom

Both of Saturday's concerts looked interesting, but perhaps not interesting enough individually to justify the trip to London. But combining them, without any extra cost for transport, was a more attractive prospect. We were lucky to get gallery seats for The Academy of Ancient Music; they were selling like hot cakes when we got to the Cadogan Hall Box Office at about 11:30. The venue is an interesting former church, with a tower rather resembling a minaret. The atmosphere was at once more formal than the arena of the Albert Hall, yet also more intimate as a chamber music venue.

The concert itself consisted of two Mozart works (the Divertimento K136, and the Adagio and Fugue K546) framed by two Bach works (Brandenburg Concertos 4 and 5). The Divertimento contained a selection of well-known tunes, popular and undemanding; the Adagio and Fugue is a darker, more interesting work. I can never remember which Brandenburg Concerto is which; consequently, I recognised some parts of these works while other bits seemed quite new.

I wouldn't have picked out the National Youth Orchestra deliberately: this Prom somehow emerged because Janáček is one of kharin's favourite composers, and Sibelius is one of mine. Never mind Wives and Girlfriends; the problem here is Mums and Dads: "If Hermione is no good at gymkhanas, my dear, then she will simply have to take up the viola". Whilst this probably applies to a minority of the orchestra, there were a few members of the audience who felt the need to engage in conversation through Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements. It was a work that was new to me: I'm not all that keen on Stravinsky (I like The Firebird; I'm less keen on The Rite of Spring) but it held some interest. There were a couple of moments when I wasn't sure whether the timpani and the bass drum were out of time with each other, but I don't know the music, and in any case, this is far closer to a professional orchestra than a school band. With Janáček's Taras Bulba, Sir Colin Davis had again chosen a challenging piece for the orchestra, but they managed well. The percussion department in particular seemed to have revolving doors, with performers swapping instruments for each piece. The second half was two Sibelius works, Pohjola's Daughter, and Symphony No 7. I must have heard the first of these before, but it's not one I really know; the symphony I do know, and it was played well, though there were a couple of places where I thought the brass and woodwind were a little under-power (or equivalently, perhaps, over-powered by the string sections).

With the largest organ in the UK (titter ye not), I identified an Organ Recital at the Proms as a must-see. The queue was quiet and the hall certainly wasn't full, but I didn't expect it to be a major crowd-puller. David Goode began with Mozart's Fantasia in F Minor for mechanical organ K608 - or rather, a transcription, as the original, designed for an instrument rather more like a barrel-organ or pianola, may not be playable by a single artist. It was an interesting work with fugual elements, and despite my general disdain for Mozart, I rather enjoyed it. (It's not that Mozart is bad; it's that he is often over-rated, in my opinion). The recital continued with Russian rarities by Shostakovich, Glière and Glazunov, then proceeded into the baroque, with Böhm and Bach. For the final half-hour, we had Liszt's Fantasia and Fugue on 'Ad nos, ad salutarem undam', a rather long work with a mixture of textures: loud in some places, but soporific in others. Indeed, at one stage, we heard the sound of snoring, coming from one of the older Prommers in the arena! Unfortunately, the near-silence was also broken more irritatingly by a mobile phone, but the work wound towards its climax anyway. Goode also gave an encore - I'm not sure what it was, it could well have been more Bach. I dare say a fair few of the 9,999 pipes had certainly been exercised during the recital.

Despite going to the Box Office with my six arena ticket stubs, no Last Night ticket. Yet. Ho hum. Watch this space.
Tags: music
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