Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Queuing for Heaven

To Prom is to wait in a bus queue knowing several world-class orchestras will come along in quick succession. Hop on the right one and your journey will be more thrilling than a trip along the Bayswater Road.
This summer I hitched rides with the Eastern-West Divan orchestra playing Fidelio; The Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment with a semi-staged Glyndbourne production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen; London Symphony Orchestra playing Debussy and Mozart and the Budapest Festival Orchestra performing Prokoviev and Bartok.
Each journey cost a mere £5 for which you may be standing but within a baton-length of the action. Proming has the intimacy of a sauna with music straight from of heaven.
The stand-out concert was the Eastern-West Divan orchestra formed by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said who created a cynic-defying band of young Palestinian and Israeli musicians. For Barenboim (Said died several years ago) the orchestra stands against 'ignorance' rather than 'for peace'.
His from-the-heart speech on the history and meaning of the orchestra while noting the bravery that many players had shown in order to be in the orchestra at all - defying family and community resistance to their joining. The concert programme: Beethoven's sole opera, Fidelio. This was the last performance for the orchestra this year (resulting in awkward, tearful, hugs and farewells among the players on the Albert Hall's stage) and an apt billing - love conquers oppressive brutality. Indeed, art as the clarion blast of hope.