Review: Welsh Proms - Romantic Prom @ SDH
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Saint David’s Hall
Thursday 25th July 2013
Love was in the air for the next Welsh Prom. The choices here were a lush, heart-throbbing event that could only be heard live, to be truly appreciated.
Our first half of the concert was all Russian. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol is a tour of Spain in all its blazing heat, sultry dances and good cheer (with no long queues to get into Gibraltar in sight!). It featured towards the end that most famous of Spanish percussion, the castanets. You can hold them in your hand and create terrific shrill woody noise, perfect for dancing.
The next two works contained music famously used in two completely different films. Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, famously featured in the British classic Brief Encounter, is an event in itself. This sweeping work brings flocks of people to hear it. Our guest on the piano was Peter Donohoe. His powerhouse playing is famous and at his age, he shows no signs of slowing down. He is a rocket of ivory astonishment.
Here, the music is very moody and indeed also very soppy at times. Like with his Second Symphony, which I had heard live for the third time at the London Proms just the week before, you have to go alone with old Rach. His musical journey is very much a lone one in the last century, with most composers yielding to atonality and other musical ventures. He also had very long fingers and played all the piano parts in his canon. This can be at times, very tricky for players of today.
For those of you who have watched Babe (or Sheep Pig as it’s known in a few countries), you would recognise some music in the final piece of the programme. It’s certainly one of the best children’s films ever made and a marvel to come back to over time. The music picked for the film is taken from Saint-Saens' Third Symphony. Known as the Organ Symphony, it is by far his most performed symphony, if not his most performed work. He achieved such success with statues in his honour being unveiled in his own lifetime. His work is a joy and The Carnival Of Animals is another highlight.
The sounds here are some of the best heard from the 19th century. The slow movement when the organ first comes in is solemn and meditative. It is the organ, which adds to the work so many colours. We don’t hear the Saint David’s Hall organ as much as we should. It towers over the players and is struck with the reflection of either red or blue spotlights depending on the performance. Here for the finale, which is music used for Babe, we hear some joyous and delightful music. When the piano (played by two) comes in and the strings play so quietly, it is a moment of sheer impressionistic wonder (Debussy would love that moment, no doubt). It was hard to not sing in my head "If I had the way to your heart", the lyrics written for the theme for Babe. What an end to a great work of music.
I must get the symphony on CD and you must listen also.
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