Tuesday, 8 September 2009

My prom date with Mahler and Mendelssohn

Got a good heads-up on some musical cultivation from the esteemed Floating Points in an interview he did hyping the composer Messaien..and realised that here lies a gaping hole in mine and many of my generation's musical education.

Classical music shouldn't be for the elite but with ticketing prices as it is it can be a real challenge getting your fix (actually scrap that...£50 a ticket to see Jay-Z playing at the Roundhouse wah?!!)..and at school it was taught in full dryness. Apart from a tasty slice of Arvo Part last year from the all-knowing-all-hearing Miss A, i feel like PMOI should show some love to the classical world, so when the good ticket fairy gave me some freebies to the BBC Proms last night I jumped at the chance.

Entering the hallowed Royal Albert Hall is a bit like going to church...but without the guilt and not nearly as posh as I was expecting...lots of funny little rituals between the conductor (lovely excitable Italian with big chops) and solo players via handshakes, nods, winks...brought the audience to a reverent hush and once the orchestra had filed in and tuned up. Bows were raised in unison and they got to it with Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor Op.25. Pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar's incredible lightning fingers had conversations with beautiful romantic sweeping strings on whats considered one of the first concertos of the Romantic age, which he wrote in 3 days(?!) at 22 (??!)

Second part was an explosive 80mins and 5 movements of massive orchestral lushness (he didn't do things by halves.. i counted about 30 violins, 9 double basses, 12 cellos, umpteen brass and wind and the fattest timpanis, tam tam, gongs..) with incredibly emotional highs and lows in texture, dissonance and harmony from Austrian rebel-man Mahler and his final and unfinished 10th symphony, written under ailing health and an equally failing marriage. Always pushing boundaries and wanting to encompass many genres and styles, he was never accepted by conservative critics during his lifetime.

It was really a special experience being able to see orchestral music come alive...and a refreshing holiday from your 3 minute banger to just float in the music and let it take you through its movements. I'm not rocking the pipe-n-slippers and Classic FM look just yet but it was good to step out of the old comfort zone and get why the old greats got their name.


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