Monday, 17 September 2012

Prom: Haydn & Richard Strauss

Bit late with this post, but that just goes to show that the experience it describes has been lingering pleasantly. We were invited by a good friend to a Prom on 7th Sept: Haydn Symphony 104 and Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony.

The Haydn was of course gleeful.  Appropriately for the Great Wen's magnificent year, 104 is known as the London symphony.  Haydn wrote it while in London, and it premiered here.  Haydn was delighted with the response: "The whole company was thoroughly pleased and so was I. I made 4000 gulden on this evening: such a thing is possible only in England."

I was especially delighted with the third movement which has a lovely swirling minuet that reminded me of Smetana's much later Ma Vlast - all continuous sound, rare in anything before Beethoven (he says not knowing a damn thing about this).

HOWEVER - my knee being not what it was or indeed ought to be, I was rather uncomfortable, and as the second half, the Strauss, was almost an hour long, I decided I'd be better off in the gods at the very top of the Albert Hall.  The Gallery is something all classical music venues ought to have. In the Gallery you can take off your jacket, fold it up as a cushion and lie down.  Some sorts of music really are better with the eyes closed.  And anyway, I couldn't get near the rail, and rather than spend an hour on tiptoe with a view of two and a half cellos and the occasional flourish of a baton, it was altogther more sensible to get prone.

The Alpine Symphony is a gigantic German work about going up a mountain, getting lost, being stuck in a storm and finally coming home.  All very Caspar David Friedrich and almost too grand to be sublime.  It is a cracker, commencing with Night turning to Day (darkness to light, don't you know), a tiny sound becoming an enormous one.  The piece requires a gigantic orchestra, including quite unnecessary pieces of equipment I read about in the programme, but the names of which escape me for the moment.  There is also an offstage brass band.

Lying on one's back, surrounded by Japanese students and people who really know their stuff (ie musicians who can't afford the posher seats), is a great way of taking the journey up and down the Alp.  At home it is easy to be distracted, and anyway live music is just so much more energetic.  It fills the space around you.  The whole thing was splendid, and I am most grateful to KF for the chance to have experienced it.