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Prom 37: Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique

August 13, 2008

I loathe Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique. The composer’s triumph of orchestration has been eclipsed by the work’s ubiquity. Everyone loves it. I hate that. 

In fact, I really wouldn’t be surprised if one fine day I trotted down to our nearby mini-mart to buy some milk only to discover it being pumped over the public address system in the foolish belief it will encourage people to spend more money.

It won’t. It would only make me run out of the door throwing what I had originally considered purchasing down on the floor before I leave.

I missed the first half of tonight’s prom. I swore out loud when I discovered the clock on the kitchen wall didn’t read half past seven. It wasn’t that I’d missed half a prom, more I’d missed the clarinet concerto. I did feel terribly dirty, like I’d callously snubbed a friend. I play the clarinet, you see. I’m always interested to hear clarinet stuff. Mind you, clarinet soloist Martin Frost got a massive cheer for his perky sounding encore. On that basis alone I will listen to the first half on iPlayer to catch up.

As much as I didn’t want to listen to the Berlioz in the second half, I reckoned I ought to. The Symphonie Fantastique would have to be today’s fix.

It’s a good symphony. I’ve played it and enjoyed it. But there’s something inherent in it’s accessibility and it’s resulting popularity which has resulted it in almost acquiring the same status as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

I was an idiot to think that, however. Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra did what was necessary to challenge the assumptions I had in my head. Not only that, I was reminded just how much more satisfying a live ambient broadcast of a symphony is over a dry, soulless studio recording.

The crowd went wild – so much so that I wish I’d been there. And to repay the appreciative audience, Gustav and his merry band provided us with not one, but two encores. We feel so special when there are encores.

Prom 37 on iPlayer

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