Friday, 16 August 2013

Prom 41 - A Very Russian Affair

On Tuesday 13th August 2013, we were lucky enough to have stalls seats to the evening’s BBC Prom 41 at London’s acoustically epic Royal Albert Hall.

Photo Credit: BBC Proms Team
The Prom was a fantastic Russian affair played by the fantastically talented London Symphony Orchestra. Native Russian, Valery Gergiev was the conductor of choice for the evening and what a perfect choice he was. Never have we witnessed a conductor with such amazing freeness and fluidity, especially in his hand movements. With hands that at times seemed to literally ripple like water, Gergiev’s gift worked perfectly in extracting the exact sounds that he desired from the orchestra. Coupled with his tuned in relationship with the orchestra, it was refreshing to experience how effectively this unique conducting style worked, and even more delightful to hear.

Fitting with the superb choice of orchestra and conductor was a programme to match, with the finest selection of Russian composition on show. Here are just a few of our highlights from the concert:

Piano Concerto no. 2 - Alexander Glazunov
We will eternally be jealous of the piano soloist of this piece, Daniil Trifonov who, at just 22, faultlessly transported us through the concerto with skill and maturity way more advanced than his age. A perfect fit with the Gergiev, between them and the orchestra, they presented an interpretation of the work with the highest emotional and expressive strength. After endless rounds of applause, Trifonov treated the audience with a ‘little’ impromptu that literally blew our minds!

The Rider on the White Horse – Sofia Gubaidulina
This piece was such a delight to hear with its full and unconventional ensemble making it just as enjoyable to watch. The percussion was a fresh and fantastic sound which, when combined with the beautiful Royal Albert Hall organ, played in such a fantastically ugly way with apocalyptic note clusters, was an experience to be treasured. The allusions to the end of the world could definitely be heard in the antithetical deathly rumbles and heavenly bells. An truly excellent piece, which served as an exciting contrast to the more traditional pieces of the programme.

Pictures at an Exhibition­ – Modest Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel)
Every picture of the exhibition was totally definable to perfection. My Proms Plus Family guide with brief descriptions of each movement was made redundant as the LSO aurally painted each image with intense vivacity for the audience. Having spent most of the day at the Royal College of Music’s Igniting Sparks workshop for kids based on the piece, the excitement and anticipation had been building up throughout the day. Being the last piece in the concert was worth the wait, and I'm sure that none of the workshop children who made it to the performance were disappointed - we certainly weren't! Exhilarating to the extreme, when the momentous conclusion of the piece arrived, depicting the gates of Kiev, and the regal possession came to an end, we (and probably most of the audience) were ready to hear it all over again. Horns blaring and cymbals clashing, the Royal Albert Hall was the perfect location to host such a fantastic ending to the night!

Have you been to the Proms this year? Or maybe you’ve been listening or watching it at home? Tell us your highlights by comment in the box below!

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