Saturday, 30 August 2008

The Mother of all shows . . .

There are times when I wonder what on earth comes over Prommers, why they will applaud and stamp over a performance I think was barely worth a polite tapping of fingers against palms.

Tonight's Prom 58 (New York Philharmonic/Maazel) was one of those. My colleague on this blog suggested I ought to warn you in advance that I could not share their enthusiasm for Mother Goose, The Miraculous Mandarin or Tchaikovsky's 4th.

I left before the encores (all three pre-arranged: the Albert Hall stewards knew there were going to be three, and the timings, by the way) and, if I could have done so inconspicuously, would have before the start of the second movement of the Tchaikovsky.

All three performances were pieces of showmanship, and in my view (obviously not shared by a rather large proportion of the audience) were travesties of the music they are supposed to be. The Mother Goose, was simply flat-footed, splayed out in a soft glow of self-congratulatory playing that simply washed over the Albert Hall like Pears coal-tar soap; the Miraculous Mandarin a jagged unkempt mess that sounded as though it was some mash-up of three different SUV's  being run off a Detroit car production line without any quality controllers, and the best  that I would want to say of the Tchaikovsky was that it was often VERY LOUD. It ended like a high-speed train wreck.

When I see three-quarters of the orchestra on stage more than twenty minutes before the performance is due to start, and I realise that they are not tuning, but apparently rehearsing whole stretches of the programme to come (and as separate sections, at that) cynical journo that I am, I wonder why? It's not something I recall ever having witnessed before, and a horrible noise it was too.

I think I found the answer in the performances, because, assuming all three were Maazel's conception, then the members had to play in a manner that could hardly be called natural. Unless, of course, they had had too little rehearsal time in the morning.

It's incumbent on me, I suppose, to explain more precisely why I thought the Ravel was pitiful, the Bartok grotesque and the Tchaikovsky, well, 'gross'. In other words, the very tricks, shallow showmanship and idiosyncracies that so amused me the night before in the Gershwin, applied to tonight's programme, particularly in the  Bartok, I loathed

I'll fill you in, I suppose. Just give me a little  time to cool down. And hire a bodyguard . . .

RAH Live

Prom 58: Ravel (Mother Goose); Bartok (The Miraculous Mandarin); Tchaikovsky (Symphony No 4); Lorin Maazel, New York Philharmonic.

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