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Proms 2009: Prom 10 – Mayumi Miyata \ Orchestre National de Lyon

July 24, 2009

Listen (to me during the first interval at Prom 10 – it was a little windy)

This evening’s Prom may not necessarily go down as the most memorable of this season – in the first week it does rather have to compete with the Poulenc Double at the First Night, Handel Partenope (if unlike me you’re so inclined) and Haitink and the LSO’s exquisite rendition of Mahler 9 the other night – but that’s not to say it wasn’t a refreshing education given it was the first time I’d clapped eyes on a sho.

The sight of soloist Mayumi Miyata playing the Japanese equivalent of a mouth organ was arresting. Petite Miyata was barefoot on the platform, a self-possessed vision of loveliness in a blustering white outfit. The 17 pipes of the equally petite instrument she held in her hands masked her face throughout the opening Autumn Ode by Toru Takemitsu and Toshio Hosokawa’s Cloud and Light in the third part of the concert.

The sound emanating from the instrument seemed fragile. There were moments when the sound was so quiet the only reminder Miyata was playing it was her holding it in front of her face – that and the sound of people shuffling from foot to foot in the arena. If she looked a little bemused at the end of both her performances this did little to detract from the magical effect the sound of the instrument and the accompanying orchestra offered the auditorium.

The rest of the programme was staple fayre. Ravel’s Spanish Rhapsody was brought alive by the Orchestra National de Lyon whose smiles at the prommers clearly showed they were enjoying their appearance at the BBC Proms. Violinst Akiko Suwanai rocked up in the second segment of the concert with Sarasate’s Concert Fantasy on Themes from ‘Carmen’ and Ravel’s concert piece for violin Tzigane.

Debussy’s La Mer was another work I hadn’t heard even though I’ve thought for a long time I ought to have done. It’s made frequent appearances at the Proms and is – I don’t think it’s incorrect to say – standard repertoire. Critic Pierre Lalo apparently “failed to ‘see or smell the sea’ “ (don’t think for a moment I knew that beforehand – I read it in the programme notes this evening) – frankly, the man was either mad or attending a concert of someone else’s music the night he commented on the work.

What seemed more poignant – possibly because I’m a romantic sap – was how La Mer had be completed whilst composer Claude Debussy was winding down his marriage with his first wife whilst continuing his affair with his soon to be mother of his child. (Again, I read this in Paul Griffith’s programme notes). How on earth does anyone do something as sickeningly creative as writing a series of symphonic sketches when your personal life is all change? Maybe I am – yet again – missing the point. Maybe that turmoil is just the inspirational kick he needed to get it completed.

Listen on BBC iPlayer to the first part, the second part and the third part here. It was also broadcast on TV; Charles Hazlewood was wearing purple this evening.

Adorable Tom Service (who frankly should be bottled up and sold with the Proms programme as your own personal commentator) speaks to one of the Radio 3 Interactive Social Media Elves about the sho. Definitely worth a listen.



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