Review – BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 15th August, LPO, Musorgsky, Shostakovich, Scriabin, Prokofiev

BBC PromsFirst and likely to be only visit to the Proms this year for a concert of Russian music, with which I was mostly unfamiliar.

It always feels like such a special occasion to go to a Prom and share a musical experience with such a large audience, in charmingly grand surroundings, with good friends. Even if the bar prices at the RAH are stonkingly heavy, and why do they not let you take drinks inside the hall, even in plastic glasses, like virtually every other theatre in the land? It means you have to down your Pinot ultra rapidly, as you spend at least a quarter of the interval merely making your way from your seat to the bar and back. Vladmir JurowskiAnyway. Don’t let me be grumpy about such a pleasant evening.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski started with Musorgsky’s Night on Bare Mountain a la Rimsky-Get your corsets off, and it was a very pacey and exciting rendition. Full of attack and sinisterness, but ending all mellifluous and relaxed.

Then we had Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1, with Julia Fischer on the violin. Now I’m not overfamiliar with Shostakovich. I think I had the day off school when we did him. His surname always sounds so intellectual to me that I think there is an impenetrable boundary in my brain and appreciation of Shosta is just one league too far me to contemplate. I’m sure I’m wrong though. Julia FischerThis Violin Concerto starts languidly but builds through lots of musical angst and violence to end up a most satisfying piece. And what about Ms Fischer? What a star turn she was! Extraordinary playing, and incredible energy. To say she went down a storm was an understatement. Probably the most enthusiastic reaction to a Prom performance I have ever seen. (And I have seen – oh – at least six Proms!!)

After the gulped interval wine, we had Scriabin’s Reverie. Very nice. Very short. You can’t help but wonder why he didn’t work it up into a proper piece. Still it was a nice aperitif before Prokofiev’s 3rd Symphony, which is full of the industrial clashes and crashes of that type of early Soviet music, representing the cacophony of the noble operation of machinery. Jurowski had the LPO pounding away twenty to the dozen and it was a violently stirring sound.

All that and an evening rounded off with a nice meal in old Polish Kitchen style, to continue the Eastern Bloc theme. Triffic!