The Last Of The Proms (Part 1)

Sunday 13 September 2009

I missed the Last Night of the Proms this year, not that I watch it anyway: I simply missed that it happened on the weekend. There wasn’t even the usual hand-wringing from the usual suspects about jingoism and cultural imperialism that usually presages the event. Perhaps getting David Attenborough to perform the floor polisher solo in Malcolm Arnold’s beloved Opus 57 put the night beyond criticism.

In fact I went to more Proms than usual this year: three of them. I think I’m acquiring a taste for them. Depsite the dreadful acoustics, the Royal Albert Hall is starting to endear itself to me. Getting arena tickets helps. You have to stand for the entire gig but it’s only £5 and it’s probably the best way to hear what’s happening on the stage, what with all the seats in the hall being either side-on or far, far away.

For the Xenakis prom I scored a seat in one of the loggia boxes from a friend (thanks!), which was just as well because the BBC Symphony Orchestra performed Nomos gamma from inside the arena itself, leaving room for only a few lucky punters to mill about in the company of the scattered groups of musicians, and Mrs Xenakis, who presumably was given a chair. It was one of those rare occasions where the Albert Hall becomes a suitable venue, with the sounds of disjointed groups of instruments rising up from the centre of the arena.

The playing seemed more passionate than at the Total Immersion concert earlier this year, particularly in a suitably brazen performance of Aïs. Are the British developing a taste for Xenakis? Perhaps they’re less reticent when safely behind an instrument, and they’ve always shown a greater tolerance for new music as long as it makes a suitably large noise.