Author Topic: Proms 2011  (Read 10392 times)

Offline David Underdown

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #90 on: July 18, 2011, 05:25:29 pm »
The major limitation on Arena capacity was I suspect, not available space, but the fact the two front exits were covered by the extended stage, thereby reducing the available evacuation routes. That said, the stage was back to where the fountain would be so I think more space probably was lost than would be taken up by the fountain. I understand though that these days it's largely evacuation rate that determines arena and gallery capacity, which have both been reduced from days past

Offline Thompson1780

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #91 on: July 18, 2011, 11:10:21 pm »
It was certainly an experience being there.  But I don't really think it was a good musical experience.

I think Ambrotia hits it on the head with the word turgid.  I agree with what most of Davetubaking and NotoBombo say too, but to differing degrees.  It was a marvellous evening, but not for the right reasons!  I think it is a flawed piece, and wouldn't give it the distinction of masterpiece.  It has wonderful moments, but they are just too infrequent.  There were two occasions when I had to catch my breath - the organ at the end of the first movement, and the full chorus letting rip alone toward the end of the last movt.

Performance wise, I thought the violins were pathetic.  How often do you get to play that work?  Once in a lifetime....  So why just sit there and go through the motions?  After desk 2, I didn't see any gumption or verve in how they played, no pressure, tension at all.  There was no definition in their sound and we just ended up with blancmange on top of a firm and defined celli base.

Whilst the brass and percussion (esp, lead Xylophone) were great., the wind playing just seemed standard - nothing exciting, poised, mysterious.....

But I imagine a lot is down to Havergal Brian himself.  I just had the impression all the way along that he was composing and thinking "oh, what can I throw in next".  2 hours and where was the structure discernible to the ear?  What was he trying to say?  Sorry - didn't get it.  I witnessed it but wasn't part of it / changed by it.

Still, some positives:  Despite being 2 hours long, it was the only piece in a concert which started at 7.00.  So it was still light when we left the hall, and i could walk across Hyde Park to Paddington.  Caught train and was home in time for the Star Wars ROTJ episode of Family Guy.

As you were

Tommo

SimonH

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #92 on: July 19, 2011, 06:54:57 am »
I tried to listen to the 'Gothic' on the iPlayer yesterday, which obviously isn't satisfactory (& is very unsatisfactory in a work of such large forces). Ambrotia's word "turgid" seems right to me, I'm afraid. There's quite an attractive clarinet riff about 80 minutes in ... I wanted to like it, given Havergal Brian's biography; & there's something splendid I suppose about going through with writing it. But my impression was of stuff thrown together with nothing actually distinctive or other, indeed, than mediocre about the stuff.

For me the proximity in terms of concert scheduling of Janáček's Glagolská mše was cruelly revealing: an idiosyncratic composer with a genuinely original method & intent, & the ability to realise it overwhelmingly. I found the Brian dispiriting :(.

Offline Bryn

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #93 on: July 19, 2011, 07:41:06 am »
I concur with the content of message #122.

Offline Don Basilio

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #94 on: July 19, 2011, 04:10:57 pm »
A Facebook exchange:

Eruanto:  is sticking his neck out in support of the gothic symphony. hugely entertaining.

Don B:  I'm looking forward to you playing the piano transcription.

Eru: Don B, thank you for that chuckle.
We can exercise compassion, compassion born of empathy.  Both words are synonyms for love, by which I don’t mean a romantic feeling but the readiness to give proper attention to whoever or whatever is before our eyes.  Michael Mayne

Offline Don Basilio

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #95 on: July 19, 2011, 04:14:05 pm »
Are we not doing separate threads for each Prom this year, then?  Oh well.

It would be more convenient if we did.  All that needs to happen is the first person who posts on the subject of a prom to start a new thread.
We can exercise compassion, compassion born of empathy.  Both words are synonyms for love, by which I don’t mean a romantic feeling but the readiness to give proper attention to whoever or whatever is before our eyes.  Michael Mayne

Offline Lion-of-Vienna

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #96 on: July 19, 2011, 05:29:01 pm »

The other thing which was annoying was the number of empty seats. We know it was sold out within 3 hours but there were dozens/hundreds of the best stall and box seats empty. Grrrr!

I was in a box where one of the seats was unoccupied.  A lady in front of me spent the entire concert alternately flicking aimlessly through her programme and playing solitaire on her phone.  Meanwhile by the start of the third movement another person in front of me was fast asleep!  As you say - Grrrr!

Offline Bryn

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #97 on: July 19, 2011, 09:00:47 pm »
Those who listened via the radio, or online, were robbed of much of the dynamic range and impact of the score. Very heavy dynamic limiting was applied to FM, DAB, and even the iPlayer HS Sound stream, and by "very heavy" I refer to the peak level being at around -12dB below saturation (clipping) level, and when viewed in an audio editor, most of the peaks for and effective flat-top. A strange aspect of this is that the presentation introduction and closing commentary were not dynamically limited to anything like the same extent. It was as if a pop music producer was at the mixing desk.

Over at the Radio 3 Forum, johnb has posted screen grabs of the 'fingerprint' of the HD Sound version, (see message #25 in this thread). I get exactly the same result, and the DAB fingerprint is very similar indeed. All in all, a right mess was made by the audio engineering team hired by the BBC. A similar mess was made of the First Night's audio. Fortunately, Proms 2, 3 and 5 appear to have largely escaped this inept meddling with the dynamics. I will check tonight's offering later.

Offline HtoHe

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #98 on: July 19, 2011, 09:05:19 pm »

The other thing which was annoying was the number of empty seats. We know it was sold out within 3 hours but there were dozens/hundreds of the best stall and box seats empty. Grrrr!

I was in a box where one of the seats was unoccupied.  A lady in front of me spent the entire concert alternately flicking aimlessly through her programme and playing solitaire on her phone.  Meanwhile by the start of the third movement another person in front of me was fast asleep!  As you say - Grrrr!

I must say I was a bit surprised at the easy availability of returns.  I had planned to queue for the Arena while my friend, who was dashing from Gatwick on the afternoon of the Prom actually booked a weekend Gallery pass – which was the only pre-booking available the day after booking opened – against the very strong probability that he would arrive too late to secure a day ticket.  When the stewards handed out the warning slips to day prommers on the Friday I figured that I would just have to start queuing especially early but then I met someone I’ve chatted with a few times in the arena queue over the years and he said he had bought a ticket and that the box office had plenty of returns.  This turned out to be quite true so I made a decision on behalf of my friend and bought two stalls tickets at £28 each.  They seemed to have returns at all prices from £20-£32, though none of the cheaper seats (not that I’d have wanted to chance the Circle for this event).
It does seem rather strange that such an instantly attractive Prom which (unlike last night’s) hadn’t undergone any significant changes of personnel should suddenly have lots of spare capacity.  I speculated on this and my favourite explanations were:
Lots of people liked the idea as a bit of a novelty but their enthusiasm waned as the time neared, they thought of other things they’d prefer to do and sent their tickets back for resale.or;
Very few debenture holders were interested and their seats became available after the ‘sold out’ was announced or (my favourite):
Lots of touts found themselves with handfuls of tickets for which there was less demand than they anticipated.  This would also explain why the online booking facility was showing ‘no tickets available’ on Sunday morning and yet there were quite a few empty seats.
As for the behaviour of people in boxes: I have often noticed them eating, drinking, talking and moving around (though not, as yet, sleeping) during the performance.  I suppose it’s the behaviour of people for whom the performance is not of primary interest   That said, though, the last time I was actually in a box I found the people there extremely decent.  It was for the Proms Walküre with Domingo, Meier, Terfel etc (another instant sell-out for which I got a ‘return’ with surprising ease) and the seat I was sold was at the back of the box, almost in the cloakroom area (the boz office don’t tell you this, nor is that seat any cheaper than the others) and the other people in the box actually rearranged their chairs so I could get a better position.

Offline Bryn

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #99 on: July 19, 2011, 10:14:17 pm »
I was in the bell of the clarinet.

autoharp

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #100 on: July 24, 2011, 12:49:40 pm »
Having just returned from holiday, I've read no reviews and the only reaction has been what I've read on this thread. I'm surprised that nobody seems to have compared it with other performances/recordings or indeed really commented on the quality of the performance. I did hear it on the radio and was rather perturbed by a number of the musical decisions. In the old Boult recording, the orchestra just about make it whereas the choirs don't really: some of the conductor's musical decisions, however, really hit the spot. Times have moved on but there probably hasn't been a performance where the choirs haven't struggled (they certainly seemed to on this occasion) and it's always tiresome to be made aware of competition at times when a few solo voices are operating simultaneously. There was some pretty good performance happening, but it didn't seem to be sustained: and there were numerous musical opportunities missed. So I'm wondering about the effectiveness of the conductor, not so much in his marshalling of the forces but in regard to his musical vision. I'd previously thought Brabbins was (often but by no means always) pretty able . . .
Could someone provide a link to a useful newspaper (?) review?

autoharp

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #101 on: July 27, 2011, 09:58:55 am »
Could someone provide a link to a useful newspaper (?) review?

Oh . . . right. There isn't one.
Nobody seemed to have done their homework. Concert reviewers, eh?
Tut tut.

Has anybody ever commented on Havergal Brian's ability to modulate to ever-sharpening keys?

I've attended the last two night's proms (Mahler 9/Norrington and Liszt Faust Symphony/Jurowski) both of which were terrific. I do hope somebody else had a good time too.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 10:03:29 am by autoharp »

Offline ahinton

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #102 on: July 27, 2011, 10:23:48 am »
Could someone provide a link to a useful newspaper (?) review?

Oh . . . right. There isn't one.
Nobody seemed to have done their homework. Concert reviewers, eh?
Tut tut.
Oh, yes there are!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jul/18/prom-4-gothic-symphony-review
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalconcertreviews/8644874/BBC-Proms-2011-Prom-4-Havergal-Brians-Gothic-Symphony-Albert-Hall-review.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/prom-4-brian-gothic-symphony-royal-albert-hall-2315646.html
http://www.theartsdesk.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=4137:havergal-brians-gothic-symphony-bbc-concert-orchestra-bbcnow-brabbins-royal-albert-hall&Itemid=27

Then there's Geoff Brown in The Times' 19 July edition:
As the Albert Hall burst its sides with two merged orchestras, 17 percussionists, four auxiliary bands and more than 800 voices climbing up toward the dome, it was hard to decide which was the more extraordinary: the effort that Havergal Brian first put into composing his monster Gothic Symphony in the 1920s, or the BBC’s effort in reviving this legendary creation.

In both cases there’s no doubt that the effort was worth it. You can debate whether Brian, the isolated, awkward cuss of 20th-century British music, should have spread his ambition over 110 minutes — minutes that are often disjointed or thick with polyphonic uproar. But those nocturnal labours through the 1920s, writing under a green-shaded table-lamp, still gave us something vital and unique.

For this is a British work of such swirling fantasy, singular textures and heaving emotions that by the end you feel as if the top of your head has been blown apart. That was certainly the impression left on Sunday by the logistically immaculate and resonant account fearlessly conducted by Martyn Brabbins.

This was the sixth complete mounting of the score since its belated premiere in 1961 and must have been Britain’s best-prepared performance, certainly its most vigorously sung. Phil Spector’s wall of sound had nothing on Brabbins’s as choir upon choir pitched into jaunty jubilation or joined in reflective multipart tapestries, sometimes suggesting mock-Palestrina.

In moments of dramatic uproar Verdi and Berlioz were invoked; brass and timpanists sprayed us with bullets; a xylophone went haywire; harps and solo violin went folksy. In the midst, Susan Gritton’s soprano and Peter Auty’s tenor led the way through Brian’s floridly expressive solo lines in the epic setting of the Te Deum, an extraordinary 75-minute kaleidoscope of exultation and despair.

Where did this work come from? What does it mean? It can only be understood, I think, as a tortured response to the Great War, as a vast edifice constructed in memory of civilisation’s past and in outrage and fear over its future. Brabbins, backed by his batallions, made Brian’s shock and awe triumphantly tangible. I still wish that the symphony were shorter, but this was definitely a night to remember.

(pity about the oddly spelt battalions, but one can't have everything, I suppose)...

And then there's
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/239f8298-b1f7-11e0-a06c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1T9rB63Op
http://www.operatoday.com/content/2011/07/havergal_brian_.php
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/newsandevents?id=8852

Not that I'm vouching for any of the content, mind...

Offline Bryn

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #103 on: July 27, 2011, 10:54:45 am »
I've attended the last two night's proms (Mahler 9/Norrington and Liszt Faust Symphony/Jurowski) both of which were terrific. I do hope somebody else had a good time too.

I didn't see you at the Mahler, which I too thought terrific (though the usual suspects elsewhere (plus some less suspicious posters) certainly did not). I was unable to get to last night's but will be there this evening.

Offline perfect wagnerite

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Re: Proms 2011
« Reply #104 on: July 27, 2011, 11:03:50 am »
Wasn't able to get to the Mahler as I had hoped, and moreover wasn't able to listen to the live relay uninterrupted ... however I've now caught up via iPlayer (which seems to be my default Proms mode this year) and I thought it was terrific too.

The vibrato issue is turning into a real red herring - the R3 announcer also fell into the trap of saying there would be no string vibrato when that has never been the point.  What makes Norrington's Ninth so compelling for me is the fact that it is (to my ears anyway) so structurally coherent, and the way he opens out the textures - which may have quite a lot to do with the orchestral layout.  I've seen that some of the comments at the other place suggest that the tempo for the fourth movement was too slow, but to my ears - coming after what went before and growing out of it - it seemed absolutely right.
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