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Prom 53: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Gatti

August 25, 2008

My journey to the Royal Albert Hall this evening didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped it might. Police dog “Diesel” reckoned he’d smelt drugs on my person when I strolled into Lewisham train station with my bike. The place was swarming with representatives from the British Transport Police. They were looking for law-breakers with a vengance.

Naturally, I protested my innocence. My face must have said it all. What on earth was the dog thinking when he rubbed his nose up and down my leg? When the lovely policewoman failed to find anything but my cheese and tomato ciabattas, I was certain I could tell the animal was embarrassed.

Events at Lewisham train station only added to the excitement of today’s Prom. I’d wanted to go all weekend, especially seeing as I hadn’t been able to get to there last week. By the time I’d cycled from Charing Cross to Prince Consort Road, I’d reckoned I’d be a ridiculously long way down the season ticket queue.

As it was, the rest of the season ticket holders had, apparently, made a value judgement on tonight’s conductor. Consequently, whilst the day ticket queue stretched way down the steps and quite possibly down Prince Consort Road, I skipped to the end of my queue little knowing quite how close to the front I’d be when I got in to the arena.

I was in the second row, directly opposite the leader of the orchestra and within spitting distance of the conductor. For those of us who used to work in orchestral management, this was the perfect spot. I could assess the first violins and have line of site of the first desk of the cellos and pretty much most of the violas too. Those of us who enjoy judging like this kind of position.

There were two works in what felt like a short, intense gig. The first half’s Romeo and Juliet ballet music by Prokofiev is bound to be recognisable to all. The “big tune” – the Montagues and Capulets – is at the top and pales into insignificance in comparison to the rest of the suite which did at times leave me breathless.

It was Tchaikowsky’s Fifth Symphony I was really looking forward to, something a pal who was on the front row during the first half didn’t know when he offered to swap with me after the interval. It was my first time on the front row in a long, long time and the Royal Philharmonic’s stunning performance made it perfect, no mistake.

Prom 53 on the BBC iPlayer

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