They didn't bill it that way, but it was:
Carl Maria Von Weber: Overture, Oberon
Robert Schumann: Symphony No.3 in E flat (Rhenish), Op.97
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5 (Emperor)
Christoph von Dohnányi conductor
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet piano
Yup, well spotted, not a singer in sight, or, more relevantly, in earshot.
It struck me I hadn't been to an orchestral concert on ages. I'd got a bit stuck in a rut of not going out - thank you, the opera houses of London for offering on the one hand a direly unexciting season and the other one with such promise delivering so little.
Also there's the money thing. Very simply. Wages are frozen, prices are going up. No more living on easy credit - even though it's still cheap! And generalised non-specific anxieties about job security. Nothing more complex than that. Sorry...
And it struck me, a cheapish ticket for a routine non-starry concert at the RFH is dirt-cheap. So I booked, and I went.
Shame about the coughing, which served to all but mar the piano concerto. I have a threefold theory as to why it happens:
1. The RFH is particularly dry: my throat dried out rapidly even before the overture finished, despite me having a bottle of water - which none of the coughers ever seem to do, at any venue. Each portion of the concert was 40 minutes so weak bladders not really an excuse
2. The fools don't understand the difference between muffling and amplifying a cough. A balled up fist may muffle it, a loosely balled fist, creating a tube, will amplify it. A handkerchief, or sleeve or scarf, are even better at muffling it
3. Fear of tranquillity, or boredom. It happened more in the quiet bits. I adjusted for the fact that loud bits would be better at muffling coughs, but, still, it was quite clear the most persistent yet unproductive coughing occurred during the quiet bits.
I was also led to wonder why we have any need to import third rate French pianists when we have so many of our own second rate pianists. I'm sorry but he more or less killed the Beethoven. The odd wrong note I can tolerate: it reminds me that it's live and not a recording. But our pianist presented us with an unimpressive array of duff notes in a piece which surely must be bread-and-butter to any concert pianist.
I wonder what it is that gives Beethoven's 5th its distinctive characteristic. Not being technically savvy I can't pin it down. It seems ever so slightly sharp: whether that's due to the tuning of modern orchestras or actually the way Beethoven wrote the harmonies - sometimes it sounds almost as if there are split notes in the brass and/or low wind.
Lovely piece of music, shame about the too many duff notes from the keyboard.
Schumann's Rhenish Symphony has been almost a guilty pleasure for me for a long time. I got very indignant a while back, reading that Schumann was a bit rubbish at orchestration. Judging by this performance, actually he was. Lovely melodies throughout, but no depth to the orchestra. (This was written the same year as Wagner wrote Lohengrin). I could have sworn at one point the low strings were just playing 'oom pah pa, oom pah pa'
Unfortunately it wasn't a great or even particularly good interpretation. The first movement was so turgid it painted a picture of the Rhine having silted up, and during the fourth movement I had to do a sneaky check on Wikipedia as to whether the twin spires of Cologne Cathedral hadn't in fact been flattened in Allied bombing raids.
Overall it was an enjoyable relaxing evening, listening to pieces of music well within my comfort zone. And not to sniff at for £14. But if I was regular loyal attendee, I would have been disappointed by the indifferent performances - 'didn't rehearse enough', I overheard at the interval. And any relaxation I gained was soon ruined by the long wait for and the painful standing on the hellish Northern Line on the way home (yesterday was not the finest in London Underground's history, even within 2011).