Monday, August 27, 2007

Proms 53 & 54 (RAH)

"I could tell everyone thought it was great, but I just didn't get it."

Well, Bruckner's like that, and it took me years to get him. Once I've got something, though, I tend to forget how much work it took to find my way in, so it was a salutary reminder when my companion at Prom 54, at which Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performed his Eighth Symphony, came out with this conclusion. Bruckner is hard work, especially when you're stuck in a hall for an hour and a half, and it's a credit to him that although she was left bemused, she was also surprised that it had been that long. My first impressions of Bruckner as a lad were that nothing happened, and it didn't happen for a very long time. My mature impressions are actually pretty much the same, only now I think that this is a Good thing. It seems superfluous to say that the performance was superb, but I shall say so nonetheless, because it was.

It's not often I have the luxury of going to a late-night Prom, so it was especially fortunate that one of the few occasions when circumstances allowed me to stay for the late shift that we should be treated to the wonderful Pierre-Laurent Aimard performing some of Ligeti's wonderful Piano Studies. These works are real gems, mind-bending in their complexity, yet also generous in their approachability, and I can never tire of hearing them, especially in the hands of such a wonderful player as Aimard. Before this, he took on the role of conductor for a romp through Haydn's 102nd Symphony with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. This juxtaposition emphasised the generosity and humanity of both composers. Next to these, Beethoven, whose 2nd Piano Concerto finished the concert, seemed overbearing, though this may have been down to the fact that we were tiring rapidly by this point. They played it beautifully though, and those parts where Beethoven wasn't intent on showing off were beautiful. These two concerts constituted a marathon, and we struggled to stay awake on the train home, though our exhaustion was tempered with a sense of worlds traversed.

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