qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Shostakovich Weekend

A busy day yesterday, heading first to the Cadogan Hall for a ticket for the Saturday matinee concert, then to the Tate for the Constable exhibition. The Tate can be a bit pricey, at £10 entry, but it was clear that the market is prepared to pay this rate, as the queue stalled at the exhibition entrance. I find it's often the case that the first room in an exhibition is really busy, but then the crowds somehow dissipate; however on this occasion, the masses really were there end-to-end. It was interesting to see small and full-size sketches alongside the final works. Sometimes the sketches had more exciting and experimental lighting effects, perhaps showing Constable's conservatism in the final paintings. A numer of Constable's works apparently failed to sell at exhibition in London, but were greatly admired in Paris: somehow I suspect the appreciation is greater at home these days.
The afternoon prom was a concert titled Shostakovich's Music for Film and Stage. Curiously then, it started with Jazz Suite No. 1, which is neither; but it is great light music. In particular, the final movement, Foxtrot (Blues), which is in fact more of a March, always conjures to my mind Poirot - it's almost as if Christopher Gunning had this piece in mind when he wrote the TV theme music. I was amazed to read that this was a Proms premiere; I suppose, though, that it is written for a rather curious ensemble, light on strings, heavy on saxophones, banjo and Hawaiian guitar. The rest of the concert was new music to me, and some numbers, such as New Babylon and The Bedbug were accompanied by silent films or stills projected in the Cadogan Hall. The final work, The Tale of the Silly Little Mouse, was a fairy-tale combination of The Cunning Little Vixen and Old MacDonald: a colour animation with soloists singing roles such as Mrs Mouse, Dog, Pig and Cat.
The main evening Prom was the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and Chorus. Joining the queue late did not lessen the anthropological experience: as we approached the security check, one person suggested "profiling" the audience. I retorted that this could lead to strange results indeed! The concert began with only the second Proms performance of Lyadov's From the Apocalypse, the first being in 1914. It's an odd work, especially in its quiescent timpani ending, and though it wasn't unpleasant I can see why it's not particularly popular. Vadim Repin was excellent as the soloist in Sibelius' Violin Concerto. Some tourists (by which I mean visitors to classical music, rather than visitors to London) applauded at the end of the first movement. When they applauded again at the end of the second - which is meant to flow straight into the third without pause - the music-lovers had had enough, and a cry of "shh!" echoed round the Hall. Their behaviour was moderated for the second half, Shostakovich's dark Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar). It's not a piece I am especially familiar with, but it seemed to work well enough. Despite an early finish, the Circle Line was playing up as I arrived at South Kensington which somewhat delayed my return home, tired but satisfied at a full day.
Tags: exhibitions, music
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