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Prom 25: Wagenaar, Dvorak and Brahms

August 5, 2008

I almost didn’t get to Prom 25. Last minute developments at work and my tendency to cram as much in as I possibly can prevented from me shutting down my laptop as promptly as I had originally planned.

Despite that I did succeed in getting my spot at the back of the arena just in time to see conductor Yakov Kreizberg take to the stage and whip the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra into a small frenzy.

If the Stockhausen gigs were an unexpected pleasure then so too was tonight’s rendition of Dvorak’s 6th symphony. I’d not heard it before but I knew it would be repertoire I’d feel comfortable with. Would I end up not really concentrating? Would it all wash over me? Would any old romantic mush leave me feeling sated? Well. Yes. Possibly, but not necessarily.

The strings were lush, the woodwind warm and precise. The brass did what all brass sections should do, keeping quiet when they had to and struck fear into the audience when directed to do so. Everyone did very well indeed. This bunch were very good. And, most important of all, they all smiled when we clapped. It’s so nice when they smile. We like it when they smile.

It was the Brahms Violin Concerto which truly blew me away. Soloist Julia Fischer was a distant figure from where I was stood at the back of the arena ,and yet it was obvious to even the most short-sighted of prommers that she was totally in control of her performance. From what I could see, she knew exactly what she wanted. Hers was a spirited performance with a sweet tone, gripping right from the start. If you happen to see me with my headphones on tomorrow, you’ll know what I’m listening to.

There were many moments which made me gasp, but the finest was undoubtedly at the end of the candenza in the first movement when the orchestra signalled the end of the soloists phrase with the quietest, most together, most agonisingly tightest placing of a chord I’ve heard in ages. Incredible. Loved it. Do it again. Please. Do it again.

In case you haven’t realised, it’s these evenings which make the hairs on the back of my neck (there are sufficient for me to be able to notice, but I’m no bear) stand up on end. Can’t wait for the next one.

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