With the caveat that it’s acknowledged that lists are stylistically passé, here’s a list of five reasons why the First Night of the Proms was a bit of a corker.
My assumption was that from our seat way back in the stalls I wasn’t going to hear much detail. I was wrong. I heard dry strings with distinct articulation. I heard rasping brass. I heard uniform beginnings and endings to phrases too. There was from beginning to end close attention to detail. And that was very very pleasing.
Also. How do two choruses stand and sit as one without making a noise?
Part of what made this a captivating performance was how the internal space added not only to the theatre of the Requiem but also gave the sound a three-dimensional depth. There were moments when it felt like we were in a massive cave. Then there were other moments when – say in the heart-stopping Agnus Dei led by Jennifer Johnston – when we were collectively experiencing something intensely personal. Commanding the space so that you can hold the space (with 6000 other people) is no mean feat.
Seeing Verdi’s Requiem fill the cavernous space of the Royal Albert Hall did much to trigger past memories of similarly special potent memories. To experience this as the first night after a two year hiatus was uplifting.
Years ago I worked with an orchestra that participated in a commemoration of the Dresden bombings. Menuhin was conducting. My memory of this epic trip was of warmth, self-reflection and reconciliation. Last night there was a sense we were remembering those who weren’t present, those who hadn’t survived. And that seemed right and proper in the way that classical music events do best. Like Menuhin did in Dresden in 1995.
I left the Albert Hall feeling hopeful that things might improve. Don’t confuse this with me hoping for things turning out perfect, only that they might be better. That sense came about by experiencing a live performance in a special place with A Great Many Other People.