A couple more proms (41 and 42)…

Last week there were two more prom outings, though again lots has intervened to delay writing about them – hence, just a few words on each…

On Sunday 14th it was (almost) all about Benjamin Britten. Britten I find to be like aural fudge – often quite delicious but you can find yourself having overindulged and feeling queasily sick all of a sudden. Not much danger of that here though, as this was a programme of intriguing works. We missed the Jody Talbot through tardiness but were safely in our seats for the Cantata Misericordium and Sinfonia da Requiem which made up the first half. Neither was as stately or stuffy as the subject matter would imply; Britten’s characteristic playfulness extends into the realms of holiness and death. The Sinfonia da Requiem was particularly good – the highlight of the evening for me – and all the more impressive having been woven together at the tender age of twenty-six.

The Spring Symphony was, by and large, great. Many of the settings are just perfect, marrying pastoralism with modernist orchestration in a way which avoids the lurking parochialist danger. It’s something of a patchwork though, and of its many short sections some did misfire. I said there were no sickly moments but then I recalled the massed ranks of screechy schoolboys rasping their way through George Peele’s hackneyed images of ‘strawberries swimming in cream’ and ‘schoolboys playing in a stream’ (or was it on a green?). The aseasonality of the fruit was noted by my companions. Aside from that, though, a fine evening of music. The BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus and Symphony Orchestra provided their usual rich sound, tightly marshalled by Mark Wigglesworth who was standing in at short notice.

Back the following night for Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, sans ballet dancers. I had set myself up to be underwhelmed, having seen this danced wonderfully at Covent Garden a few months ago, and I wondered just how much the lack of visuals would hinder the performance. In the event, I was pleasantly surprised; it was daft to worry, in fact – I listen to the score often and Tchaikovsky is among my favourite handful of composers. All the twists and turns of the story are conveyed there musically. By the end, I had a tear in my eye – the major variation of the main theme giving way to those broken, dying strings is heartbreaking – and Gergiev and the Marinovsky Theatre Orchestra were given a resounding ovation.

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Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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