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Prom 58: New York Philharmonic / Lorin Maazel

August 29, 2008

It was a big night at the Royal Albert Hall tonight. At least it felt that way as I sat in the bar beforehand chatting to a handful of familiar looking people.

I knew I’d wanted to go to tonight’s concert when I was traveling back down to London the night before, listening to the New York Phil give the first of their two Proms on Radio 3. It’s the New York Phil, I thought. I want to be there tomorrow night. I’ve heard people mutter about the New York Phil. I definitely want to go.

The first half certainly didn’t dissapoint. The excitement partly came from this being a visiting orchestra. We want to show the visitors a good time. We want them to feel as though we appreciate them coming all this way. Give ’em a good show and they’ll give us a good show.

They certainly seemed like a different crowd on stage. Calm and collected. Focussed. They had stamina. They were cool. They looked good on the platform. And stylish conductor Lorin Maazel came with his own special, rather tasteful looking podium.

I must be a sucker for the popular stuff, because Ravel’s Mother Goose essentially seduced me from the start.

I’ve heard more orchestral music over the past few weeks (both at the Proms and on Radio 3) than I dare calculate. Maybe it’s that which fine-tunes the senses. Many more regular concert-goers I know comment on how individual orchestras have an individual sound.

Outside the stage door post-concert

To be honest, I’d not really appreciated exactly what they meant. Maybe I’d looked on them cynically. Surely, orchestras all sound the same?

This year, however, I’ve come to trust my judgement. I realise now that it doesn’t take long to hear how different individual orchestras can sound and it was really refreshing to hear the New York Phil’s individual sound. Just don’t ask me to describe it. This blog entry could go on for ever. And none of us want that.

It was the Tchaikowsky symphony I was really looking forward to. After the thrill of hearing the RPO play the 5th symphony last week, I wanted a similar style of transportation with what I thought was going to be an unfamiliar work.

I was wrong. So very wrong. I knew the work well. I’d played it in Suffolk Youth years back. The initial opening chords were an unexpected surprise as a result. But to then hear what Maazel did with the rest of the work was an even bigger thrill.

I’ve not seen the man conduct before, but it was apparent soon after he raised his rather long baton that this man was a real showman. Knowing the work myself probably helped a great deal, but there is something the man does with speeds which leaves me breathless and clearly kept the adept orchestra on it’s toes as well. The audience didn’t disappoint either with their appreciation. Maazel repaid them with a good three encores.

Prom 58 (Part One – Ravel / Bartok) on the BBC iPLayer
Prom 58 (Part Two – Tchaikowsky – Symphony 5) on the BBC iPlayer

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