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Prom 46: Sleeping Beauty / LSO

August 21, 2008

Not for the first time this season I’m feeling guilty as hell. Friday – the last time I was at the Royal Albert Hall – feels like months ago. I’ve lost track of what’s going on in the Proms brochure.

In fairness, I have had other things on my mind. Work has taken up a lot of my time for one reason or another. Energy levels sag. A process of prioritisation kicks in as a result.

The alternative initially felt dirty in comparison. I haven’t had the chance to listen live. I’ve resorted to catching up on iPlayer or via the PVR. Nifty planning has allowed me to listen on the way to work. I’m getting used to the alternative.

Today’s catch-up was last night’s Sleeping Beauty performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. Here was a chance to hear a full performance of a ballet score without the usual interruption from dancers thumping around on stage. Normally the band would be in the orchestra pit. Now they get their chance to shine. It isn’t the dancers gig, it’s the band’s.

The most surprising thing was appreciating just how accessible the likes of a ballet score really was. Each movement or episode or what ever you want to call it is pragmatically short. Dancers can’t dance forever. As a result listeners are getting a steady stream of varied material, all of it chocolate-box in it’s sound and short and manageable. Tchaikowsky’s ballet scores are the equivalent of the short-form video content we see on YouTube and the like today.

I’ve only got through the first half of the concert. My glum mood prevented me from following up on my way home. But one thing is clear from listening to last night’s gig: orchestras playing ballet scores have a tough job. The band is always playing. The strings are always scurrying, the wind articulating, the brass punctuating. It’s a massive job. It’s an exhausting job.

Listen to Act 1 of Tchaikowsky’s Sleeping Beauty via the BBC iPlayer
Listen to Act 2 of Tchaikowsky’s Sleeping Beauty via the BBC iPlayer

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