Saturday, 4 September 2010

"Perhaps a piece of Mahler's..."

We went to a "proper grown-up Prom" last night - the first in several years. Our gang always arranges our grand annual picnic at Proms in the Park (for the Last Night), yet the whole of the rest of the season generally passes us by. But, Madam Arcati was determined this year to get tickets for one of the rare visits by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, and by being up and ready when the online box office opened, managed to grab seats for Hils, History Boy, Alistair and I.

If we were to pick only one Prom out of a season, this had to be it. And what a magnificent, emotionally draining sensory delight it turned out to be! With an opening half featuring Beethoven's Symphony number 4 - a delightful entrée, beautifully done - it was nevertheless the feast of the second half that the audience had come to hear!

Mahler's Symphony number 1 ("The Titan") is a beautiful Romantic (in the artistic sense) fantasy, loosely themed around four Lieder he had previously composed for a lost love. It is meant to evoke the windy forests of Mahler's native Moravia, the sunshine and the darkness, the folk songs and the forces of nature.

Sir Simon had the orchestra (and the audience) perfectly controlled (as only a musical genius can) and they played all four movements beautifully and brilliantly - there were periods when I (and I guess thousands of others at the Royal Albert Hall) were literally holding our breath.

Mere words cannot begin to describe the experience, but it has been a long time since a single evening's entertainment has so moved me...

Here is a fine recording of the First Movement:

And here Sir Simon's predecessor Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic perform the marvellous Third Movement:

The Proms season continues until the Last Night on Saturday 11th September...

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