Some barely-enjoyed proms (32 and 34)

Neither the music nor the performances were off-key, but with parts of London in flames and the press and public baying for blood, I couldn’t relax enough to enjoy them…

On Sunday night, as we were trying to understand the previous night’s events in Tottenham (and with confrontations in Enfield beginning), I went in to watch Christian Tetzlaff perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D. This has always been one of my favourite pieces, brimming with joy and levity. Tetzlaff was spritely and enthusiastic – he ran away from the orchestra a little bit at the beginning of the third movement, but that’s a common feature of this work – and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner were the perfect backdrop for the solo skitterings. I was unsettled, though, worrying that our neighbourhood – so far removed from Kensington – might be aflame once more. I left at the interval, missing Mahler’s Das klagende Lied.

On Tuesday, processing the explosion of riots in the meantime, I didn’t really want to go at all. For a long time I thought it would somehow be inappropriate or irresponsible, a light pastime distracting me from serious events. As it was I dithered and missed the first half – pieces by Bridge and Holt. The second half opened with an energetic performance of Dupré’s Cortège et litanie, a piece which was entirely new to me and which I enjoyed a lot. What I had really come for though, was the Saint-Saens Third Symphony – last time I’d seen it I’d been sitting very close to the organ pipes and it had blown my socks off. I had forgotten to book a seat somewhere more central and yet again I was tucked in near the big pipes. I could have moved seat; sadly the hall was barely half full, the daft pseudo-curfew which people had imposed (or self-imposed) sucking the life out of the city. As with my previous experience, once the organ kicked in it was all I could hear, but it’s such a wonderful part that didn’t really matter. It is almost transcendental in its power. The only downside was missing out (mostly) on that lush four-handed piano at the beginning of the third movement, but I was cowed by the organ barrage. Somehow the viscerality and force were just right.

Cycling home, via the City, everything was dead. The Strand and Fleet Street were empty, boarded up, in a badly-misjudged prognosis of metropolitan violence. I hoped that by the time of my next appointment at the RAH the city would be vibrant once again.

Published in: on August 13, 2011 at 5:43 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. I hope so too!

    I know what you mean about feeling an establishment musical event to be somehow inappropriate at this time. I was at bloody Glyndebourne on Thursday, which was absolutely surreal in its dogged immutability. I did hear somebody in a crushed velvet suit muttering about hoodies, but just tried to concentrate on The Turn of the Screw (which moved me to tears, so it was certainly worth going).

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