BBC Proms Diary 2018: Prom 12 – Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 & Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances

Years ago I recall posting pictures of what I was doing in the kitchen whilst I was listening to the Proms on the radio. That was around about the same time work-pal David used to ‘tease’ me about how I had to actually attend a Prom if I was to call myself a ‘Proms Fan’. 

Listening to the Prom slowed me down, extending the meal preparation phase of the day, making the both experiences a good deal more meaningful and the finished product – a meal – all the more appreciated by me and the OH. 

It’s where I experience the most intimate connection with the Albert Hall during a concert, listening to a concert through the smallest of speakers – the stereo kitchen radio. The sound is focused; the listening hard-fought. Binaural sound is one thing, but I’d advocate trying to create our own present-day kind of ‘listening-in’ for a more highly-charged live broadcast experience.


It’s in these instances that the electricity of the event still sparks from the radio. It did during the second movement of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1. The first movement careered ahead, one or two moments where it sounded like the ensemble might just fall apart; the second movement was blistering in its intensity, perfect for the cloying heat of the day that lingered in the kitchen. I was entirely bought in come the second movement, and gripped by the relentless third-movement cadenza. But my jaw-dropped during the maniacal fourth movement. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein provided a fresh perspective on a perennial favourite.

When the Thai Fish Cakes were finally served, I insisted me and the OH listened to Rachmaninov’s raucous Symphonic Dances. I adore his second symphony (I’m a clarinettist – I’m bound to love the second symphony), but more and more I’m coming around to the idea that the symphonic dances are perhaps a more satisfying on account of them being less emotionally brutal than the second. The woodwind sequence during the first movement is to die for. 

Some residual shame post-Swiss Festival Growling. Hardly surprising. Spent most of the day setting up a database of music competition alumni. Repetitive tasks only promote rumination. The festival had partially offered to pay my travel and expenses (on the basis that I could stay in a studio apartment instead of a hotel) – so as far as I could had basically gone back on their original intransigence. Twenty-four hours has passed and nothing has transpired. So, I suspect that I’ve pissed and moaned a lot to no great effect. Sod them. It probably would have rained anyway.

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