Friday, August 24, 2012

So I went to the Proms at the Albert Hall

I went to the Proms on Tuesday night, to hear the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra play Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony. It's the first time in my life I'd been to a classical concert. I've been to the opera and the ballet quite a few times but this is the first time I've seen and heard a full-blown 100-piece orchestra playing in front of devotees.

The quality of the silence is different. During the quiet passages - which achieve a quietness which would be impossible at even the most sympathetic acoustic rock show - the only noises that six thousand people make are the involuntary ones: a cough, a shifting buttock, a stomach gurgling.

There are almost a hundred players on the stage but only rarely are they all playing, even in a piece as kitchen sink-inclusive as the Shostakovich. The idea that whole sections of a band can be held in reserve for such long periods of time would be anathema to the average rock outfit, which uses all its instruments all the time for fear of upsetting anyone who's left out.

And finally, the audience is so motley it would be impossible to not fit in.


  1. If you're craving more, may I suggest I Fagiolini doing Striggio's Mass in 40 Parts at Kilburn in September. I would equate this type of choral concert with seeing Sigur Rós. Very gentle, calm and quiet, but a real sensory experience.

  2. You remind me of Brian Eno's definition of an arrangement: someone stops playing.