Sokhiev conducts Berlioz | Opium, dresses and other adventures

Do I actually understand classical music? Definitely not in the way that I understand dance. After all, I used to do ballet but my experience with a musical instrument is limited. Naturally, that cannot stop me being moved by certain concerts (orchestras would be out of work if that was the case).

I went to my first Philharmonia concert of the season yesterday, titled Sokhiev conducts Berlioz – which included some other pieces too and a sufficiently famous soloist – as these things do.

The programme had:

  • Beethoven – Overture: Coriolan
  • Liszt – Piano Concerto No.2
  • Berlioz – Symphonie fantastique

Khatia Buniatishvili joined the orchestra for Liszt’s piano concerto. I love watching the soloists in concerts. I may not have an ear for their individual musical style, but I do have an eye for performance. Buniatishvilli was impressive and passionate. I especially appreciated the way she seemed to be communicating with the cello player – during a lovely little musical ‘discussion’ the two instruments had.

I should mention – cause I’m all about the gossip – that the gentleman beside me *loved* her dress and was glued to his binoculars whenever she came on stage (four curtain calls, not bad).

Sokhiev is unlike any of the other conductors I have seen at the Royal Festival Hall so far. There were times when he was extremely restrained and then it was as if his whole body woke up to move the orchestra along with him. I was fascinated by his facial expressions to the orchestra, I think he was genuinely enjoying the whole process. Whereas in the past I have felt the sheer magnitude of presence of some maestros and their iron grip (Michail Jurowski springs to mind), Sokhiev felt different. Like he was taking everyone along for a lovely journey (especially for the first two parts of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique).

By the way, do read up on the Symphonie fantastique – as the narrative is very moving. Desperate artists, objects of love, opium filled nightmares and all the rest. These composers were rock ‘n roll (and in the 1830s no less).

I went to the concert thinking that this will be a bit boring but this just shows you that I have a lot left to learn when it comes to classical music. Apart from the excellent narrative structure and the tour de force of the last two parts, Sokhiev led the orchestra through changes in volume which somehow added a lot of depth to the symphonie. No idea how this happens, but I was left with the impression that I had just watched a film. Which much be some kind of magic.

Philharmonia Orchestra
Sokhiev conducts Berlioz – concert page
Royal Festival Hall

Disclosure: Went to this concert on 30 October 2014 and paid for my ticket. No prior discussion with the venue or orchestra took place.
Main photo: Quincena Musical by Orquesta Nacional del Capitolio de Toulouse y Orfeón Donostiarra

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