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Prom 71: Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Haitink / Mahler 6

September 9, 2008



Prom 71, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

I callously shunned the arena and its occupants last night in favour of a hard to resist invitation to join a friend in the stalls. Quite apart from the obvious advantage of being able to sit down and thus save my back from the inevitable agony resulting from listening to 85 minutes of Mahler’s 6th symphony, I hadn’t seen my friend for a long time. It was a nice way to catch up.

Quite unexpectedly, the evening also provided me with an opportunity to hang around backstage at the Royal Albert Hall. The last time I’d done that was during the shoot for the first video. It was weird descending the steps to the basement and seeing the surroundings again after a couple of months. Just as I’d thought, the corridors were teeming with musicians. There was a buzz about the place. It was one very special moment.

I explained to my friend what an odd effect coming to the Royal Albert Hall for repeat visits over a short amount of time had. There comes a point when the grandeur of the place doesn’t so much become less, more that everywhere up there feels like’s home. It’s like the feeling you get when you’ve worked in the same office for a significant amount of time. Without even realising it, those repeat visits make the place you’re visiting nothing more than an extension of your bedroom or kitchen or front room.

It’s a lovely feeling. I feel part of the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Albert Hall feels a part of me. Weird, given that I’m just a member of the audience who, from time to time, gets the chance to swan around in places in and around the hall at times when most wouldn’t.

To sum up Mahler’s sixth symphony in a blog posting is, frankly, impossible. His orchestrations would make for an entire blog given that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra occupied most of the stage itself.

It’s a massive work and one which, if I was completely honest, I wished I’d known thoroughly before I set foot in the hall. That said, there was one moment in the closing bars of the final movement which took me completely by surprise. Not the seemingly loud thwack from the band in itself, more the distance the people in the row in front of me jumped when they heard it.

I didn’t, of course. I’m far too cool for that, even if I didn’t know the work that well.

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