Sunday, August 19, 2007

From the Sublime to the Sublime

What a wonderful weekend. I spent yesterday at Lord's watching cricket's equivalent of the F.A. Cup final or the Superbowl where Hampshire took on Durham. It was a privilege to see Shane Warne, arguably the best spin bowler the game has ever seen, and yet he ended up on the losing side. Durham played brilliantly. Disciplined batting and a quickfire 78 from the irrepressible Shivnarine Chanderpaul set Hampshire a daunting 312 for victory. Two wickets from the first two balls of Hampshire's reply pretty much did for their chances and they never looked even close to making the runs. Even Kevin Pietersen failed to fire. It's good to see a young county (in cricketing terms anyway) doing so well. Congratulations to Durham on a thoroughly deserved victory.

Youth and vigour were much in evidence today also. After a leisurely day, Tinseltroos and I walked over to The Royal Albert Hall for this evening's Prom Concert. Gustavo Dudamel conducted the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela playing Shostakovich's 10th symphony (a personal favourite), followed by excerpts from West Side Story (always good fun) and finished with a selection of pieces by south American composers of whom I'd not previously heard, to whit Revueltas and Ginastera.

This group of teenagers were the best orchestra it has ever been my good fortune to see. They put many of the more famous names in classical music to shame. I have been to many classical concerts and have become used to orchestras who only seem to half know the piece they are performing. They don't hit the notes exactly together and thus end up sounding muddy and lacklustre. Their reliance on sight-reading also means they look less at the conductor who is therefore unable to get them to coalesce into a seamless whole and craft a whole sound from the mass of individuals. Not so tonight. Listening to this big orchestra was the aural equivalent of watching a flock birds change direction, as one, in flight. They were so light on their toes that the music felt as though it were coming from one giant living thing, one delightfully monstrous creature entirely at the beck and call of the effusive Dudamel.


The Shostakovich piece shifts from joy to melancholy to menace to anger throughout and they carried off these twists and turns with such dexterity and such soul and passion that I was left lost for words. They were so musical, an odd thing to say perhaps but one so often gets the impression that many professional orchestras really see what they do as just a job and if all the notes are there and in the right order that will do. Tonight's performers gave it their all. The packed hall responded in kind roaring and applauding them back for 4 encores. They were more than worth every one.

Have a look on the BBC's web-page for the listen again option for the show and see what I mean.

Update: Apparently I am not alone in thinking this.

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