A great Proms moment and the end of an era: Bernard Haitink applauds Emanuel Ax and the Vienna Philharmonic after playing Beethoven together for probably the last time at the Proms
I had to ask and look to check whether the piano tonight was the Albert Hall’s usual Steinway Grand because Emanuel Ax played the opening run so delicately it could have been a forte-piano. This was the tone of his performance throughout, ethereal, great delicacy, precision and charm. Hardly a hint of Sturm und Drang.
Maybe my mood was set by seeing the veteran conductor Bernard Haitink walk on stage to cheers from the audience, face beaming though walking with all the difficulty of a maestro now in his ninetieth year; tonight’s interpretation of the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto struck me as much with pathos as with beauty.
Emanuel Ax played softly and delicately, straining the concentration of the audience, seemingly pulling us in to the world of two musicians who have made great music together many many times but who both know this is coming to an end. We were privileged to hear piano playing at the other end of the experience spectrum to “Young Musician”: clarity of interpretation, depth, serenity and poise.
Olivier Latry, the star organist of Notre-Dame de Paris, woke up the mice in the organ of the Royal Albert Hall at the start of his recital with a fairly short version of Khachaturian’s noisy Sabre Dance but his performance showed clearly which direction the recital was heading. His performance style here could not be further from English cathedral organ playing. There was a touch of the swagger of a fairground organ, certainly the bells and whistles (and tremulants and celeste) of a cinema organ. He brought great emotion to the restricted palette of Beethoven’s Adagio for mechanical clock. And blockbuster performances of the two major pieces at the centre of his recital, JS Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on BACH.
The bridge across Floral Street between the opera house and the support building, its tortured architecture a metaphor for the role of Boris Godunov in Modest Musorgsky's operatic workout on Russian history.
This was one of the really memorable night’s promenading, a privilege to hear Dvořák’s and Smetana’s music close up to an inspired orchestra and conductor. This is Prom 2 but my first this year. The very British queues for promenading as good-humoured as ever along with an equally strong and British sense of turn and order, aided by the redoubtable staffers from the Albert Hall.
Glorious evening of Miami Sound Machine’s crossover Cuban beats that enthralled us in the Eighties. Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine had to fight racial discrimination back then to get heard, but they were and had a successful world tour as a result. That was the era of classic music divas and the emergence from the ghettos of High Energy, Chicago House, Hip hop and many others. So many forgotten songs and beats.