So. In London, there has been a long-standing venue called The Proms, musical performances in a variety of genres. Haven’t made it to that, but we went to a performance last night of The Oxford Proms.
It was held in the historic Sheldonian Theatre, a Christofer Wren listed building.
Entering the space my first impression was, “Where’s the body?” Could have been the scene of one of the paintings of an anatomy lesson presented to students (all male, of course!) in a semi-circle looking down. The room was lovely. High windows provided loads of light in the large room, paneling, lovely frescoed ceiling, throne-like seating cordoned off for muckety-mucks. Sounds great and it was–all except for the seating which was crunched together benches designed for people of less ample derrières. With no backs to the seats. Sigh.
Well, our neighbors on the bench turned out to be Bob Price, the Head of the city of Oxford Council and his wife. (I think he normally occupies one of the muckety-muck seats at meetings which are held there.) A little probing and we turned up two people we knew in common since Bob was also a Cantabrigian Labour stalwart! (John Hills and Chris Smith, if anyone is keeping track.)
But, on to the music.
The small orchestra seemed appropriate to the space. The program was all Concertoes. Vivaldi to start, with two trumpeters. One was a bit rocky at first but overall okay. Next came a World Premiere by the composer in residence who was also in the orchestra – and he didn’t even play the solo! Perkins’ Dithrylamb for Viola Clarinet and Strings.
The first half closer was strong: Mozart Concerto for Clarinet in A Maj K622. (I knew it as a flute transcription from my college days.) Soloist was very smooth and musically lyrical.
The second half began with a violin soloist doing William’s music from “Schindler’s List”. I think it was the weak spot but the music itself is moving. To close, we were treated to Mami Shikimori on piano with Beethoven’s beloved Emperor Concerto. A small woman, she came out, sat at the piano, fussed her position for a few moments then came over completely still, head down, eyes closed. I was worried about a potential lack of confidence? But she looked up to the conductor, Catherine Underwood, they began and it was a powerhouse performance!
I think the flute may have been an actual historically correct wooden one, but I couldn’t see that clearly. Possibly the most interesting bit was that each of the soloists was also in the ensemble for every other piece. Never seen that before that I could remember.
Four and a half stars! (Half star reduction for the seating, mostly)