My wife is due to give birth to our first child in two months so we are trying to fit in a few dates before Life Changes and our social calendar is based upon finding a babysitter who is a) cheap and b) unlikely to let our sprog meet with catastrophe. (Strangely, my wife and I differ on whether a or b is more important).
To the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, then, and a magnificent double bill of Mahler on Thursday with his fourth and fifth symphonies performed by the World Orchestra for Peace, a sort of all-stars team of musicians from 47 different countries (a Travelling Wilburys of the classical world, perhaps) conducted this week by the LSO's Valery Gergiev, one of the scruffy greats of our time (filling the Bob Dylan role, to carry on the Wilburys connection).
The Fourth was nice enough, if a little too meandering and light for my taste, but the Fifth was majestic, from the opening funeral trumpet solo to the powerful rondo finale (again, heavy on the brasswork), for which your appetite is whetted by a stirring stringy-harpy adagietto, and a fabulously noisy percussion section.
If time was spent during the Fourth letting the mind wander (I find the Proms an ideal backdrop for general musing on life), the Fifth, at 15 minutes longer, was edge of the seat stuff. Early in the piece, my wife suddenly grasped my hand and placed it on her bump, where I could feel the future impediment to nights out kicking and moving around quite enthusiastically.
I take this as a good sign. My first child is clearly a Mahler fan. Either that or it really can't stand him.
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