Sep 03 2017

London with the PSO and Highclere Downton Abbey Fans

Published by at 7:13 pm under PSO 2017 European Tour

Moving from Krems Austria to London  was a little wacky for some. I was on the bus with the driver who took a wrong turn right away and wound up using GPS into the Wienerwald following  a switchback of the narrowest steepest kind up and then down into the west side of Vienna. We were late but wound up waiting for the flight at the Vienna airport. British Air offered drink service where one must pay for anything but water. Everyone uses a credit card, some are refused so it is painfully slow but the sun was shining and the turbulence low.

Arrival at Heathrow

Arrival at passport control at Heathrow airport happened to be at peak time with more than an hour wait but someone in our tour party worked magic and the Pittsburgh Symphony jumped the line with a quick manipulation of the black stretchy tape line markers.

Today I had the great fortune of going along on a patrons side trip today to Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed.  

Co Principal Bassoon David Sogg reading “Goodbye Vitamin” by Rachel Khong. Lisa reading “something light”

The patrons


Outside the Royal Albert Hall

Bar at the Royal Albert Hall

The promenaders who stand through the evening

Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra

There was a large Sunday afternoon crowd even with English rain. Lady Carnavarn was in one of the rooms of her castle but she does not announce herself. She answers questions like any tour guide. The tea room and the gift shop were packed. No photography was allowed. A big disappointment. Deb Ackland, Our CEO at WQED , has a family tie to Highclere with the Thomas Hudson painting over the fireplace of Sir John Acland painted as a young child.

This evening I walked to the Royal Albert Hall to hear Valery Gergiev conduct his Mariinsky Orchestra in a most unusual program marking the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution with a Cantata written by Prokofiev to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the events of 1917. It featured a large chorus, two bass drums, two snare drums, a band, an accordion and a member of the choir who declaimed the words of Lenin stepping out of the choir with a bullhorn. It made an enormous roar of exultation form the stage and the prommers in a packed house with over 1000 standing for the entire program. Denis Matsuev played the Tchaikovsky Third Concerto which is almost never recorded or performed live. He then played Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations as an encore with the orchestra and a solo encore of the Musical Snuff box by Liadov.  The Shostakovitch Fifth Symphony was on the second half. It was also fantastic. The Mariinsky musicians from the Kirov Theater in St Petersburg played more encore  Liadov it was  his  Baba-Yaga, and Gergiev disappeared with a wave.  The prommers were great fun. Someone had a cowbell to ring vigorously when the flutist took her solo bow.  The audience in the standing room section shouts “Heave Ho!” when the stagehands lift the lid of the piano.

I had a strawberry ice cream sold from an usher for 4 pounds fifty. A terrific food operation offers snacks and drinks. It was packed.  There are several dining options. A huge crowd lines up to get the standing room tickets. The atmosphere is incredibly cheerful. I thought the BBC did a terrific job of putting together history of the broadcasts which began in 1927 for billboards around the perimeter of the first of the seven levels of seating.   Historic photographs are displayed throughout. The Beatles sang  in 1964 on one of only two shows they ever did as a double bill with the Rolling Stones.  There was Eric Clapton with  guitar in one of his seven sold out shows in a row from 2015. He had first played the hall in 1963 with the Yardbirds. There will be 25 live TV broadcasts this year. There are  17 new pieces commissioned by the BBC.  There are special concerts designed to reach young people, late night events, chamber music in Cadogan Hall, outdoor concerts in parks. Often there are two live broadcasts a day and “Every Prom is Live on BBC Radio 3”. Last night the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Daniele Gatti played. Monday night it’s the Pittsburgh Symphony with Manfred Honeck and Anne Sophie Mutter.