Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Boulez at the Proms: part I (Berlin Phil./Prom 64)

Prom 64: Boulez, Éclat, and Mahler, Symphony no 7 (Simon Rattle cond. Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Albert Hall)
Simon Rattle insisted on all taking bows. Own picture.
Simon Rattle came to the Proms for the last time this year as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. The first night was 2nd September. Boulez, Éclat, needed only a  dozen members, say, on the stage, Rattle cued each burst of music with up to four fingers (see note here for more on this). Even if not the easiest piece in terms of listening, in terms of watching it was quite magical, as clearly both conductor and orchestra were exploring these new sounds.
Mahler’s 7th, on the other hand, mustered monumental forces. Orchestrally, it was apparent why the Berlin Phil are considered the world’s best band. A fine orchestra is shown by its violins; a poorer one by its brass. All were astonishing here. An unutterably perfect clarinet solo from Andreas Ottensamer at the end of the IVth movement is worthy of particular mention.
This certainly set the tone for a serious weekend of music at the Proms. The gentleman at the front of the arena shouting at the bewildered orchestra Shake, Sir Simon Rattle and Roll as much of the audience groaned in disbelief was not. But then it wouldn’t be the Proms without the prommers.

Full programme:
Pierre Boulez: Éclat
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No 7 in E minor  
Simon Rattle cond. Berlin Philharmonic

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