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Romeo and Juliet/Prom


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The Proms are all broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (you can listen online too www.bbc.co.uk/radio3) The second part tonight is exerpts from Prokofiev's R&J. In the interval the radio presenters have a discussion about the music, and tonight it is called "A Moving Inheritance" - the newspaper says "Ballets, like jewels, are left to people in wills. Critic and historian Alastair Macauley considers the consequences of some distinctive legacies." It is 20 minutes long - the discussion starts at 8.15pm and R&J is after it.

I thought it sounded like an interesting topic - I will be at the Prom so I won't be able to listen to it though! (I thought I better go to the concert as I won't see the ballet for ages and it is my favourite! It is a shame they don't have the discussions on stage.):)

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The concert was great! I had been kind of worried about hearing the music without the dancing, but I wasn't disappointed! I think because I know the ballet so well I could imagine the dancing as I listened and could take the best bits from all the performances I have seen to fantasise along with the music! The sound was HUGE (especially the Dance of the Knights and Tybalt's death) and quite different to the ballet, somehow the emphasis was different, I heard different parts than I do at the ballet - I don't know how that happened as I know the music really well! I also fell in love with the conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen... I was sure he was going to start dancing Tybalt's role - in Tybalt's death scene he was so physical! I kept smiling to myself as I thought about what the dancers would be doing - especially the Masks - the pas de trois for Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio. But the excerpts were sometimes in the wrong order - it was very strange as the programme said they had been structured to follow the story of the ballet! But it flowed quite well nonetheless. I wonder how it sounded to people who didn't know the ballet? Very different I bet.

In the interval we went to the entrance foyer where we were told we could listen to the discussion. There was a speaker inside a glass cabinet broadcasting it. Well soon the foyer filled up so we had to press our ears to the cabinet to hear! (No one else was interested). There was already a lady listening when we got there. However, the sound was so distorted it was impossible to make out what was being said! (caught snatches of "Somes" "Ellis" "MacMillan" etc) The lady asked why we were so keen to hear it so we told her it was because it was about ballet, then she asked why were so interested in ballet and we told her where we go to ballet school etc, and you will never guess who she was! The examiner I had for Grade 6 last month! I didn't recognise her at all, I felt really bad... Another coincidence was that she had been at a conference with my teacher today! I was amazed that out of the 6000 people who were in the RAH, only 3 huddled around the radio to hear the discussion, one was my friend and one my examiner... freaky. She guessed why we had gone to that particular Prom anyway!

I found it very hard not to applaud after each part of R&J... after being able to applaud at the ballet whenever I like something, I felt very restricted at the concert - why is it not done to clap between movements? I had to clasp my hands together to stop myself... it felt so wrong not to!

You can listen to the concert again on the Radio 3 website (I am not sure when though as there is a Shostakovic one up there at the moment, there must be a backlog! But it is repeated on R3 next week (sadly minus the discussion) I will find out what time, just in case anyone wants to hear the concert! I forgot to say it was the Los Angeles Philharmonic)

So did anyone hear the discussion?;)

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Thanks for the description of the concert, Lolly. I wish I could have been there. The Proms have such a special atmosphere. When is the Last Night, by the way? If you could find out when the repeat broadcast is scheduled, I would appreciate it if you could let me know. I hope it will be at a time when I can listen in.:)

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The repeat on BBC Radio 3 is on Wednesday at 2pm-4pm. Debussy's Iberia and Bartok's Piano Concerto No 1 are first but they aren't that long - I expect R&J will be on about 2.45 pm. I hope you manage to listen!

I watched tonight's Prom on TV earlier with the same orchestra and conductor, and the BBC symphony chorus (200 strong!) performing Shostakovic's 2nd symphony and Beethoven's 9th symphony, it was great! In the interval there was an interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen from his summer house in Finland - an inspiring place!:)

The Last Night is September 14th - you can read about all the Proms at www.bbc.co.uk/proms There are "programme notes" on there too so you can find out about all the works/arrangements/composers. It is back to the traditional stuff for this year's Last Night - although I thought the Barber Adagio last year was incredibly moving.

I went to the Prom last week with Joshua Bell and Sir Roger Norrington and Camerata Salzburg too - that was fabulous. (But then I do LOVE Joshua Bell!) It was also the first concert I have been to!:eek: Momentous occasion!

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Very momentous :) I had a similar experience when I was in my mid-twenties. A friend and I subscribed to the Kennedy Center's theater season, and at the end of the summer, decided to go for broke and go the symphony (Rostropovich was cello soloist and conductor) and Nureyev and Friends. Branching out can change your life :) It's also fun to follow where ballet leads. We only played classical music in my house, but my family's collection started with Beethoven and ended with Sibelius. I discovered at least half of the composers whose music I now love through ballet.

Thanks for these reports, Lolly. If you didn't write about the classes and concerts you were seeing, most of us wouldn't know they were happening. More, please :)

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Lolly wrote

I felt very restricted at the concert - why is it not done to clap between movements? I had to clasp my hands together to stop myself... it felt so wrong not to!

It is odd and, I believe, a relatively recent part of concert going behavior.

And holding applause until after the entire work has been played through is almost perverse in some cases. A single Bruckner or Mahler symphony can fill most of a program. Beethoven's Ninth symphony runs well over an hour. It seems very strange for the ending of the third movement (Adagio) of the Ninth to be greeted with nothing more than throat clearing, foot shuffling and leg stretching. It is one of the most sublime extended pieces of pure music ever written--you almost have to remind yourself to breathe while listening to it.

It has also led to sloppy performance practice for some works. Conductors tend to overplay the last few pages of the last movement of some (for example) Mozart or Haydn symphonies, with whipcrack chords, driving rhythms and anything not marked pianissimo played forte (at least) in order to bring off the bravura close that the audience has been waiting for.

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I'd never thought the prohibition against clapping between movements was recent -- I was taught it as a child, by people considerably older than me, who'd been taught it in THEIR childhood. And remembering Fokine, who hated people clapping at the ballet after each "number" -- because he wanted his ballets to be treated as wholes, and not parts -- I think it's been part of concertgoing for a long time. I think it's an issue with musicians. I lived in a small city when I was growing up, and Leonard Bernstein was guest conductor at our symphony when I was about 15. I remember reading an interview with him in the local newspaper, and the reporter asked him how he felt about playing in smaller cities. He loved the enthusiastic audiences, but never could get used to the fact that they clapped between movements, he said.

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Well, the no clapping between movements 'protocol' is at least 110 years old. I was a late-life "accident": my father, if he were alive today, would be 111 years old. (Yes, my mother was considerably younger.) He was a violinist - trained at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. He told me that the no-applause convention was considered the correct thing when HE was a child. I know that when I go to concerts I find applause between movements disturbing to the flow. If people applauded between movements of, say, the Beethoven 9th, it would break up the performance, and then one couldn't appreciate the relationship between the movements.

As a choral singer, I have performed in a number of 9ths. I can tell you, we are thinking: "please, please, we want to get to our part - so we can sing and go home!" I am also going to participate in a performance of the Mahler 8th at Carnegie Hall in November - and that's one of the "all-nighters". That one is different, because there is usually an intermission between the 2 halves (the first part is sung in Latin and the second in German). ;)

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I am sure that the convention of not clapping between movements is because a symphony or concerto is not a series of several short pieces, but one whole, and therefore has only one end.

Felursus, I have also been a choral singer, and have done Mahler 8 at least ten times, and in no performance was there an intermission (or interval, as I would say!), though we could have done with one. It's an exciting piece to perform, but hard work, and very difficult to keep together! (That's the conductor's problem mostly.)

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I thought the coughing en-masse which happened between movements was considerably more distracting than it would have been had there been applause! It got funny after a while, it sounded like people were too embarrassed to clap! Maybe the audience had been holding their breath so had to let it out very quickly at the end of each movement?;)

I remember when I first saw the Kirov Ballet a couple of years ago I couldn't believe how much they took advantage of applause and came downstage to receive it automatically after doing anything! That definitely broke the spell as coming out of character and acknowledging the audience's presence made you realise they were dancers and not princesses ot whatever.

If there is a triumphant ending to a movement, or a soloist part or something, it feels natural to applaud... I obviously need more practise as at the moment I just feel rude not clapping! It felt strange too that the house lights didn't go down when the conductor came on - so it was light in the auditorium! Very strange after being used to ballet!

I have learned a huge amount about music just by going to those two concerts, it has been great fun. My problem now is fitting in the ones I want to go to this autumn when the ballet season starts! Previously I only missed a class if I absolutely had to see a particular ballet casting, my teacher didn't mind as I would learn about ballet just watching it. But what do I do now if there is a concert I just have to see? I want to learn an instument too! Aarghh it gets complicated! My dad called me a "culture vulture" yesterday - I am not sure what that means but it sounded derogatory.:(

Also, those nice people at BBC are broadcasting highlights of the R&J Prom on the World Service (MW)! It is on Wednesday, at 7.05pm-8pm. On the world service website http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/schedule...radio_wed.shtml it says 6.05pm, it must be a time zone thing, I hope you can work it out for wherever you all are! (Just realised the world service times are GMT, so the full broadcast on R3 will be at 1pm GMT, but 2pm here in England (BST)- how complicated do they want this to be?!) The schedule says it is R&J so hopefully it wll be most of it as they don't mention the Debussy and Bartok. You can listen online there too. Two chances to listen on that day now!:)

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Lolly, the term "culture vulture" can cut two ways. It can mean somebody who pursues art even to the point of being in some pretty unappealing environments, or it can mean just a simple dilettante. The former strikes me as a pretty good thing, as it demonstrates a willingness to go the extra distance, or take a risk to find something beautiful, while the latter is just, well, what it says. I first heard the term used in its complimentary sense, as a more desirable thing to be when a partner dismissed a venue we performed in with, "Ahhh they think they're culture vultures just because they like the "Nutcracker Suite"!"

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My problem now is fitting in the ones I want to go to this autumn when the ballet season starts! Previously I only missed a class if I absolutely had to see a particular ballet casting, my teacher didn't mind as I would learn about ballet just watching it. But what do I do now if there is a concert I just have to see?
Lolly, I suggest you tell your teacher that learning about classical music is an essential part of your training as a dancer. If she's a good teacher, she'll understand. :(
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Lolly, I was very interested in your comments about concerts. Those triumphant endings to movements, where you want to applaud, are often called clap-traps by musicians! When my children as young adults first went to ballet performances, they were thrilled that they could clap in the middle - they were more used to concerts, where they couldn't.

About the house lights - the current conductor of my local orchestra in England, who is an American, wants to dim the lights during concerts, but then you wouldn't be able to read the words of choral works in the programme.

I'm going to watch Simon Rattle conducting Mahler 8 at the Proms on television now.

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My husband, a member of the New York Choral Society, performed the Mahler 8th at Avery Fisher Hall a couple of years ago. AFH is the normal venue for the NY Philharmonic, which frequently performs choral works. The lights in the hall are usually dimmed - but not so much that one cannot follow the words in a programme. The same holds true of Carnegie Hall, which is frequently the venue for recitals by singers as well as for choral groups. I imagine, however, that people who need a lot of light in order to be able to read do have a problem with the lighting levels, but I think that if the lights are kept fully up, it would be very distracting.

Helena, I hope you enjoyed tonight's performance. I need to listen to it more, as I'm struggling with the score, and rehearsals start in a week's time. (What's more, I'm also re-learning the Mozart & Brahms Requiems, both of which I will be singing on Sept. 11th as part of the anniversary commemorations of the terror attacks. So I'm getting quite a contrast in musical styles all in one week!)

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Apologies in advance for being off-topic. Felursus, the Mahler is very tricky - I found it very hard, too. I found listening to recordings and fitting my part (first alto) in with them the easiest way of getting the difficult harmonies into my brain! It all fell into place in the end.

In Britain it is standard to keep the lights up, as you probably know since you've lived in Britain.

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