Saturday, 16 August 2008
Boulez conducts Janacek
Boulez is a popular figure at the Proms, just look at the Arena queue. He filled the RAH with an all-Janacek programme, quite an achievement. Apparently Boulez is new to this repertoire, but you’d never guess that from these performances, which thrive on his trademark combination of expressive intensity and detailed precision.
The Glagolitic Mass is an ideal work for the Proms, especially with this line-up (Simon Preston’s organ solos are worth showing up for alone), but I couldn’t help the feeling that the timing was unfortunate. The work is an unapologetic endorsement of pan-Slavism, a political philosophy that has motivated expansionist policies in Russia since the Tsars. The reviews of this concert will, no doubt, be broadly positive, but will appear in newspapers with stories of Russian aggression in Georgia on the front pages.
Or perhaps I’m taking the music’s history too seriously. The Sinfonietta, which opened the concert, was originally conceived as music for a gymnastics tournament, so maybe Boulez is looking instead to the back pages and programming a celebration of the indoor events at the Olympics.