Monday, 14 September 2009


Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beatiful spark of Gods!

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It's a bit like Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's Ninth; people who know that sort of thing tend to know it very well, with a sense of ownership and the performance at the Proms was unexceptional, it varied little from the benchmark recording by von Karajan and the Berlin Philarmonic; it gave no offence and ventured little by way of fresh interpretation.

Even so, it is a motherfucker of a tune and the virtuosity of the Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the choir of the CBSO were embellished by some adventurous direction from the BBC crew. It is always surprising how the director reads the score, knows it so well that one of his cameras is here for a visually dramatic cello flourish, just there for one note on a triangle or full-screen for an orchestral and choral crescendo but in addition to all that this broadcast was lit and shot adventurously, almost like a promo by the Elecric Light Orchestra or a chilly, hypnotic piece of Pink Floyd's fretful melancholia.

Brothers!, above the starry canopy
A loving father must dwell.

It may be available on the i-thing, still, and is well worth a look. Not like being there but in our digi-age maybe the BBC played unselfconsciously to the very remoteness of its audience, giving it, in some ways a fuller experience than those standing stiff or sitting cramped, not better, different; few of those promenading saw the shots featured on this page. Health and safety warning: Avoid if possible the repulsive interjections of the BBC Proms' twittering arsehole, Clive Anderson, his dire witticisms make irate Bee Gees of us all. Now, there's a thing.


PT Barnum said...

Thanks for the head's-up on this, Mr Ishmael. I'm so allergic to the Talking Wits that are deemed necessary by the BBC to make the medicine of culture go down that I tend to avoid the whole televised shebang these days.

To be able to see things you couldn't if you were actually there is, I suppose, the purpose of putting pictures to music. Though I do find myself distracted by the panoply of facial expressions when what their hands and fingers are doing should be the focus.

Your judgement on the orthodoxy of the performance is, I think, quite correct. But what struck me above all was the combined effect of the soloists, making, to my ear, an ugly, undigested sound. Individually they were perfectly adequate, although I found the soprano unpleasant overall (my own personal preference), but together they made something that hurt my ears. A late substitution amongst their numbers perhaps?

But that couldn't spoil what was otherwise a solid and enjoyable performance.

call me ishmael said...

Thanks, Mr PTB, that's good stuff, puts my analysis to shame, I fear.