15 July 2013

Confessions of a reviewer #2

This Wednesday, July 17th, I will be going to my very first BBC Proms concert. I've listened to many on the radio, saw a few on TV and youtube but finally it is time for me to see the Royal Albert Hall on the inside. It's an insanely good program as well; Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto and a world premiere of a new Adès piece titled Totentanz, and dedicated to the memory of Lutoslawski. Adès himself conducts, The orchestra is the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Paul Watkins plays the solo in the Lutoslawski and two amazing vocalists will join Adès on stage for Totentanz: Christianne Stotijn (I like that I get to see a Dutch person on stage at my first Prom concert, seems fitting) and Simon Keenlyside (I've written reviews of concerts with the first two pieces before, Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto here on Bachtrack just a few months ago, and Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem last summer (I also wrote a blogpost about the piece)). 

I've had a bit of a break from concerts for the last month or so, partly for financial reasons but also because sometimes I need some time away from the concert halls to appreciate it again. There's something strange about going to concerts becoming routine, about being so spoilt by good music that things that would usually excite me no longer do. There's been a number of concerts this past year that have been so good that everything else just paled in comparison. The Shostakovich Orango concert by the Philharmonia was one that I had been looking forward to since September last year and it was every bit as amazing as I'd expected it to be (or even more so). But then it becomes difficult for any other piece of music to impress. Thankfully the next concert I saw was the Philharmonia's performance of Le Sacre du Printemps  and Amériques which was just so animalistic and probably one of the most energetic concerts I've ever seen. Again a concert so good that the come down is hard and you wish you could just relive it.

Sometimes these kind of concerts only make me want to see and hear more music, but sometimes they are mentally and physically exhausting because they are so intensely beautiful and encompassing that my mind, ears, and heart needs a bit of time to recuperate. Most concert programs since those concerts have seemed unappealing to me. At the same time I am well aware of the fact that if I would go I would probably enjoy it quite a bit. But would I love it, would it be worth going? 

In all honestly (and this won't surprise anyone), I often find myself at concerts thinking that I'd rather be hearing a Shostakovich symphony (unless it's a Shostakovich concert I'm going to, of course). I see a lot of music I enjoy but don't love with all my heart. At the same time there's a lot of music I do love that much that I've never been able to see live (my recent obsession with Martinu's symphonies is a particularly unsatisfying one - the only performance in Europe I can find the coming season is the Symphony No.3 in Vienna!). You just settle for what there is and usually that's more than good enough, as seeing a piece you like live is  usually just as satisfying as hearing a piece you love on record. And of course, I am extremely lucky to be close to London where there are a lot of different orchestras and different venues doing many different things. But what do you do when that doesn't seem good enough? 

Of course this post might read like a little spoilt brat complaining about getting the opportunity to see world-class orchestras play amazing music. And maybe that's precisely what it is. I'm not so sure though. I love music more than anything in my life, and the fact that I can go to as many concerts as I do (thanks to Bachtrack) has made my life seriously a million times better. But for me that's all the more reason to take a break from the concert hall when you feel that nothing will ever compare to that one concert, or that none of the concert programs have enough exciting things going on.

Because thanks to my short break I am now back to my usual hyper-excited mode for Wednesday's concert. Of course it's an extraordinary program that would probably excite most people, but I am honestly relieved that I am looking forward to it this much. Turns out that the Philharmonia's concerts haven't made me quite as blasé as I'd feared.   

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    I am jealous of your ability (financially/geographically) to hear so much top class music performed by world class musicians - and v jealous about the Ades prom as, if I could go to only one this season it would perhaps be that one (or one of the Ring/Barenboim) However, the blog reads as an honest assessment of the reality of concert going - too much can spoil a good thing. I have often not gone to concerts if my mood wasnt right; conversely I have made myself go (against my better judgement, I thought) and often these have turned out to be not only really enjoyable but have kick started that passion all over again.
    Keep enjoying and keep blogging