Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wonderful Gerontius at the Proms

To the Proms last night to hear our friend Toby Spence sing Gerontius.This was a completely phenomenal performance! In addition to Toby they had The Vienna Philharmonic and Simon Rattle (I think may have been the first time the Vienna Phil had performed this work in public) and a superb massed choir called the "BBC Proms Youth Choir" which is about 600 young singers drawn from the CBSO Youth Chorus, the Halle Youth Choir, Quay Voices, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Ulster Youth Choir and the University of Birmingham Voices. The other two soloists were Magdalena Kozena and Roderick Williams.

Tickets were sold out ages ago so we Prommed it, arriving 2h15m before the concert to be reasonably sure of a seat. I feared it might be 50:50 whether we got in but in the end people who arrived an hour later got in as well.

Rattle began amazingly slowly, really milking the astonishing sound of the Vienna Phil. This is of course mainly due to the players, but it helps that they have 4 Strads for the Violins and 1 for the Cellos, and they also have some distinctive instruments including the Vienna Horn.

Toby was wonderfully convincing as the dying - and then dead - Gerontius. His brush with mortality when he nearly lost his voice due to cancer, and would very probably have died if he hadn't been a singer and thus noticed tiny changes in his larynx. The choir, as noted, was simply superb - responding wonderfully to Rattles direction so that their pianissimos allowed the soloists to be heard clearly. Roderick Williams was also enormously impressive. 

I was in floods of tears several times.  We went to see Toby afterwards and he asked "did you enjoy it?" "No!" I replied firmly, "I did not 'enjoy' it. I found it overwhelming. Congratulations, it was wonderful!"

I really doubt whether there has ever been a finer performance - though if only the great Catherine Wyn-Rogers had been the Angel!  Do catch it on i-Player.

Meanwhile Toby has a recital at the Barbican on Oct 26th and then is starring in Fledermaus at the Met with Levine. Well worth getting to!

Fittingly and very encouragingly, it was also the day the Commons decisively rejected the "Assisted Dying" Bill. Hopefully the large majority will convince these people not to keep trying to turn doctors into accomplices to murder.

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