Sep 07 2011
Hundreds of promenaders stood in complete silence throughout the seventy-minute Mahler Symphony No. 5. Last night, a crowd of nearly 6,000 at the Royal Albert Hall heard the second of the two concerts at the BBC Proms with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Manfred Honeck. There were two encores, including Die Libelle (The Dragonfly) by Johann Strauss, which Honeck explained was “one of Mahler’s favorites.” The Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, who is also Controller of the BBC’s Radio 3 classical music service, was backstage beaming. Also delighted to hear the concert was former PSO principal guest conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, who will be back at Heinz Hall this season.
The Chairman of the Board of the Pittsburgh Symphony said “Wow!,” when I asked him what the thought of the evening. There’s a wonderful atmosphere in the gallery, where Prommers spread out on the floor and bring their dinner to share like tailgaters at a Steelers game. Like the peanut vendor, ushers walk around to sell Häagen-Dazs ice cream cups. Many inspect the hundreds of great events at the hall preserved in photos posted around all the curved hallways. Here there’s a photo of a 1952 exhibit of new Fords, as well as performers Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Pavarotti, and countless others.
Earlier in the day, I joined the patrons group to take a look at Sir John Soane’s house museum with a personal tour from Stephen Astley, the Curator of Drawings, who guided us through the amazing collection. Sir John was an influential architect and a classic English eccentric. He has arranged thousands of paintings and great examples of architectural brilliance in a mind-blowing, but relatively small space.
The English are still the English, with their red phone booths hanging on in this age of smart phones; and their boxy London taxis and squat red post boxes in the age of email. The news is good from Merry Olde England – now it’s on to the Salle Pleyel in Paris.