Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Best of the Proms?

Yes, tonight it's Prom 69 (out of 74). It has to be the finest classical music festival of all, and this year I seem to have heard most of its offerings, thanks to Listen Again. Of many special moments, there is one that stands out: that's the Mahler symphony no. 1, performed in Prom 63 - I don't have a photograph of that number!

It came at the end of the first of two concerts last Friday given by the Budapest Festival Orchestra. I reckon I know this symphony pretty well, but I have never heard it sound as beautiful as in the performance conducted by Iván Fischer. The thunderous brass of the opening bars of the last movement was matched by a glorious, shimmering pianissimo at the work's opening.

The orchestra would have been exhausted by the evening's end: it went on to give the late-night crowd 90 minutes of encores, played without rehearsal: pieces were selected by audience ballot from a list of some 250, printed in the programme which each ticket-holder was given. A risky but wonderfully innovative approach to music-making!

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