Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Brummies Lose their Head

Discretion played its part when Andris Nelsons conducted the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Strauss' Dance of the Seven Veils on Saturday at the Proms. There were young people in the audience. There was one with me. Why does Salome want to snog a severed head, dad? The twelve-minute seduction is unbalanced: it wants a return of the slinky tune at the end. Nelsons didn't mimic the lascivious moves like he did the other piece of Strauss on the bill, Don Juan. He was quite the swashbuckler on the podium, cutting and thrusting with his rapier baton.

Midori played Walton's Violin Concerto with a feeling for the jazz and a sadness in her bowing for a lost world of optimism, but was too often swamped by the orchestra in the hall as if they knew better. Prokofiev's film music for Alexander Nevsky was more accurately precognitive with its rousing warlike passions and massively incorrect text sung with hungry enthusiasm by the CBSO Chorus. They enjoyed reminding the Swedes how they hacked them to pieces and turned their ships into matchwood. The Battle on the Ice produced bitter, frozen tone in the strings and chattering chorus words that warmed by repetition.

Mezzo Nadezhda Serdiuk sang The Field of the Dead with deep, motherly patriotism. 'I'll not marry a man who is handsome,' she concluded, earthly beauty being temporal and conducive to narcissism. Good advice, I nudged to the young person next to me.