BBC PROMS SEASON 2016 ~ PROM 41 – 4*’S

Last night really was tremendous; I went to two proms including my most anticipated prom of the 2016 season-the 16 singing Bach motets and Arvo Part, which I’ll talk about in my next blog. Prom 41 however included the incredible Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, and with the Hallé conducted by Sir Mark Elder I couldn’t resist going to the prom before Bach!

The concert started with Berlioz’s Overture ‘King Lear’ which I thought was a fantastic piece. There were some ultimate lush harmonies and it was written much earlier than I thought (1831) which defiantly increases my respect for Berlioz. There was some very punchy brass playing with an equally impressive bass trombonist doing his duty  to God and the Bone. It’s a shame that I noticed this really, but I thought I’d publicly admire the lady timpanist who managed the whole row of percussion alone-wish we’d see this more often!

Mark Elder was on top form throughout and used his clear but simplistic movements to keep the music together which he did with the utter perfection you would expect from a world-renowned musician such as him. There were some beautiful woodwind solos, but my only criticism could be that it would have been nice to have some more shaping in places, especially taking into account that Elder conducted the entire piece from memory.

Continuing the showcase of the Cello at this year’s proms, the Colin Matthews’ Berceuse for Dresden made it’s London premiere with the cellist Leonard Elschenbroich. Leonard did his very best with the music, covering some weird bits with lots of vibrato and huffing and puffing. If you’re wondering what it sounded like, it was the sort of piece that I could imagine sounding quite unpleasant on Sibelius and then the composer being pleasantly surprised at how the skilled musicians pulled it off! (sorry Luke cough cough…)

The piece didn’t drive me crazy but I loved some of the colours created and the offstage bells added another dimension to the piece. I particularly disliked Colin Matthews use of the strange ‘one dynamic, one string’ technique for the cellist which lasted most of the piece. What was even stranger was that the majority of the audience began a rapturous applause-Maybe I missed something?

After the interval was the Mahler Masterpiece, which created the most amazing 64 minutes of music, despite my legs really hurting.. The orchestra were near flawless with such intricate passages placed with perfection and the louder sections never overbearing. However, the stars of the show were the two solo singers who took it in turn to sing their songs.

The tenor soloist, Gregory Kunde was incredible and despite not looking like a tenor had sufficient vibrato to make up for it. He had less of that specialness about him that I look for in a singer, a great singer carries us in the story and never lets the expression leave their performance. However, where he may have lacked subtlessness he more than made up for in power and high notes, and I loved his performance.

The soprano soloist was from another dimension though, who from the first note was utterly spell-bounding and had complete control over everything she did. Alice Coote the mezzo was an expert in musical theater, being completely mesmerizing throughout whether it be quiet and completely still or dancing; she was always in character.

The energy Coote created was extraordinary. Quite rightly, the hall erupted and many people were in tears including the leader. Both Mark Elder and the soloists took a good few seconds to gather what they had just produced-amazing!

A well deserved 4*’s, and most of them awarded to Alice Coote.

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