July 18, 2007
Proms: Sound of an era long gone
Last night's concert was... on a grand scale, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France coming together to celebrate the conductor Kurt Masur's 80th birthday with a performance of Bruckner's epic Seventh Symphony.
Before it, the prospects for Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings" looked a bit plump, with no fewer than 12 double basses ranged across the back of the platform, and a combined string section of corpulent-looking proportions.
But Masur had the measure of the music's refinement, charm and delicacy. The Bruckner performance was one of magisterial stature, its soaring lines ardent, its potentially discursive themes organic, or at least nurtured from the same soil.
There was radiance to the playing here, a structural inevitability, strength and suppleness from Masur, and a burnished quality to the symphony's blazing climaxes. There are few things in music as overwhelming and exciting as a brass band in full flood.
But that rich sound, as warm as a crowded pub, is definitely an acquired taste. For classical music lovers, it veers towards the sentimental; for younger people, it's the sound of an era that's long gone.