miércoles, 9 de septiembre de 2015

An English man at the BBC Proms

Ante la imposibilidad de introducir -a causa de su extensión- como simple comentario a mi entrada anterior (Un paseo por la música) las siguientes anotaciones que tan amablemente me ha hecho llegar un corresponsal inglés, MARTIN LOUIS SELBY, las reproduzco a partir de la foto inferior a modo de nuevo post.
Como veréis, el testimonio de Martin es doblemente interesante, no sólo por provenir de otro gran apasionado de la música clásica, sino sobre todo porque -a diferencia de mí- él sí ha conocido el placer de asistir a los Proms personalmente y en no pocas ocasiones, al parecer.
No quiero terminar mi introducción sin agradecerle como es debido el testimonio que ha querido compartir conmigo y con mis lectores: "Thanks a lot, Martin, and... God save the BBC Proms!".

+Ana Gomila Domènech very kindly asked me if I would contribute to her excellent blog and I am very happy to do so with regard to the annual BBC Proms season. She wished for my view as an Englishman. I think most who have attended would take much the same view wherever they come from or their nationality.

I thought I might reproduce what, I hope, she will find acceptable and post on my behalf to her blog 'Reflexions d'una (ex) secretària desesperada'.

I wrote this.

'God save the BBC Proms!
A sentiment I would agree with although, I suspect, divine intervention may not be necessary.
The Proms, that run between late July and early September at the Royal Albert Hall (and beyond) is a force that rejuvenates itself year after year.
The world's finest orchestras, soloists and conductors are always in attendance because they want to be and not because they are being offered super money. They are there because they know this is the world's foremost musical event where the expenditure always is greater than the income, not least of all because the tickets are sensibly priced. On some evenings you can stand in the pit for £5.
I have spent many years attending the Promenade Concerts and I have many experiences.

My initial interest was sparked by an extraordinary concert from the BBC Proms that I heard on the radio when I was thirteen years old . The main piece was Bruckner 8 and I'd never heard it before but that performance and that audience reaction at the conclusion was something that stayed with me. This is the link to what I heard that evening that so turned me, not only in to a Bruckner fan, but, moreover, a devoted fan of the Proms.


It has often been written and said that classical music and concerts are the preserve of the older person, that there is somehow something selectively rather elitist about the genre and the concert hall.
That is entirely untrue and the Proms is one of the best examples of this.
Even without the Last Night fun and games where the average age is, I would estimate around 25 years then the rest of the season I would say averages at around the 30ish level. The cross section is remarkable if only by the diversity of those attending. There is no pomp, no formal attire. If you want to go in your swimming costume then I don't imagine that's too much of a problem! I have seen some very outlandish outfits. People are there to enjoy the music,the atmosphere and the camaraderie.
Let us turn to another misconception which is that the Proms are full of British pomp, patriotic, bombast music. The series of concerts is not because the amount of British music is actually quite small. The Proms also is not always reliant on the mainstream repertoire and there are a number of new works and equally a number of 20th century works by composers who certainly would not be in the 'classical' tradition. What seems to convince some of this excessive Britishness is that the second half of the Last Night is always given over to tradition so it is always more or less the same format of British music and a lot of joviality and games but always with just enough reverence to know where one is and just how extraordinary the event is.

So to my personal experiences. There have been so many it would take a very long time to mention and explain all of them.
However I would mention two. Both relate to performances of the two Elgar symphonies although I would reiterate that the fact that Elgar was an Englishman is not relevant except that I suppose Elgar has a resonance with us Brits, although I have seen plenty of non-Brits absolutely enthralled at performances of Elgar's music.

I'll start with Elgar 1 because this involved myself and a young, teenage girl perhaps around 14 years of age.
She was sat next to me in the upper circle seats. I hadn't  noticed her because I had been busy reading the programme before the commencement of the performance and I am sometimes oblivious to what's going on due to my being too excited and then engrossed in what's going on in front of me with the orchestra and conductor.

Here is the conclusion of Elgar 1 on that evening.

On this video at roughly around the 07:00 mark I was conscious of the girl shaking next to me. By about 07:30 when the tone becomes so ominous as if the music is imploding in on itself I looked at her, she was crying. So was I, but I often do when I listen to Elgar at his most introspective and melancholy. He has the ability to touch even the hardest heart.
At the end, as the cheers went up, I offered her a tissue which she accepted and a short conversation ensued. It seemed she had never been to the Royal Albert Hall and never a concert of this type but she was absolutely overawed. In her urban jargon she said it was all too wonderful and she was touched by the music. I suggested she should come again some time and she smiled and nodded still blowing her nose. I glanced away at the orchestra and, after a few moments, when I turned back she had gone. I felt somehow that I wished she had still been there and I could have spoken further with her. However she was not. A passing acquaintance in an extraordinarily emotional moment. The point was, in retrospect, that a forty year age difference had dissipated, not only because of Elgar and our mutual emotions, but because of the BBC Proms and how it brings people together from a such a diverse and disparate spectrum.

So finally to Elgar 2 and its finale.
This time there was no other party.
This is Elgar at his most reflective, an age lost in history for him, a man getting old and seeing his known world falling apart.
Unquestionably always a weepy session for me.
At this concert I never saw so many people who were simply mesmorised by the intensity of the piece and the performance.
At the end, as the music dies away, there was absolute silence until Petrenko's baton finally fell. Even then I could see through my own tears that the audience were genuinely moved.
This is not exclusively a Proms phenomenon but what is very special about the Proms is the extraordinary perception of those that attend and the respect they show and how they understand the music. From the first timer to the experienced 'Prommer' the whole atmosphere gives those present an experience that they never forget.

It, and of course the music, is extraordinary'.

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