I rarely look at programmes during a concert – they’ve long since turned into souvenir of special concerts. Programmes are history. Nowadays I find I feel adrift if I haven’t got a notebook on my lap when the conductor walks onto stage. It’s a ritual.
I thought I’d be writing notes as conscientiously as I sipped on the budget wine I had squirrelled away in my bag. I did neither tonight. There was no need.
The Berlin Philharmonic are the hot ticket. They’ve always been the hot ticket. They always will be. There are few guarantees in life; the Berlin Philharmonic is one of them. When they set foot in London, I get a hint of what the capital might have felt like – or was perceived as – during the black and white Sixties. The Berlin Phil are adept, cool, suave, and knowing. They leave their egos at the stage door and deliver on their promise.
The orchestra is one thing, the conductor who joined them tonight is the icing on the cake. Sir Simon Rattle is the real deal. He’s the guy you’re proud to know at the same time as knowing that you’re not in the slightest bit jealous of him. You don’t want to be him in any way. You just want him to carry on being him for as long as he possibly can.
There’s a picture of Rattle on the arena level at the Royal Albert Hall – twenty-something, long tight curls, and full of intensity, promise and steely intent. Seeing him on stage now – white-haired but still leading with an irresistible childlike enthusiasm – it’s difficult to account for the time that has passed.
It’s not that his rise was meteoric, or that we’re wondering where he goes next. It’s that as his time with the Berlin Phil is coming to an end, so his return to the UK feels more urgent. There’s a sense of expectation that we’ll be getting our boy back soon. I cannot wait for that.
Boulez’s Eclat was an unexpectedly accessible creation from the great composer who I’ve always feared. WHen people use the word iconoclast, I normally run a mile. The weight of expectation is immense, made worse as I get older – shouldn’t I have got this before now? What I heard was a man who seemed fascinated by the sounds that were created after the sounds the musicians created themselves.
Mahler’s 7th was the draw. His music is something I understand more and more. He somehow manages depicts life and makes sense of it at the same time. At some point I’ll probably end up examining how he does it. But for now, I’m revelling in the effect he creates. I can’t the recall the detail. I couldn’t point to a particular moment that had to be listened back to in particular, for example. But I know how I felt when I listened to it in the moment. And now I come to reflect on that experience I can’t comprehend why anyone wouldn’t want to experience that themselves.