Prom 32: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra with Renée Fleming - Royal Albert Hall, 6 August 2007
Although the orchestral pieces which bookended the performance came across clearly live, Renée Fleming's vocal on the central Berg and Korngold songs was pretty much lost from where I was sitting (a box at the side), swamped by the orchestra. It's not her fault and not entirely theirs. Subtlety is not a currency the Royal Albert Hall deals in. Its stadium acoustics favour a bold voice with 'push', and can make a softer, rounded voice like hers disappear for anyone not directly in front of the singer. The mysteries of acoustics.
Fortunately there's been some cunning rebalancing on the radio broadcast. Although this has translated her huge dynamic range into an all-purpose 'loud', at least the whole thing's audible.
What I could hear in person sounded exquisitely lush and thoughtful, with a pervasive poised sensuality - the shrill quality of the broadcast version wasn't there in reality. At least from where I was sitting.
And of course I mustn't forget the frock. Renée went for a spectacular mermaidy sequinned aqua number, with a mint taffeta wrap. My photos (below) didn't come out that well but the drawing is accurate. About as accurate as the radio broadcast anyway.
I went mostly to hear Renée sing, but in fact the greater part of the evening was taken up by the two orchestral sections.
The opener, Beethoven's 8th Symphony, was cobbled together by Gianandrea Noseda without any sense of direction, purpose or shape, despite his podium aerobics.
The closer, Schumann's 2nd, was considerably more impressive, showcasing a thundering first movement and a titanic climax, with some delicate and outstanding solo work in the graceful adagio. There was a well-schooled poise and balance throughout, marvellous intonation, and not a rough edge in sight.
Anyway, another gripe before I knock off. There weren't any errant mobile phones tonight, or any real disturbance from the audience. But a BBC cameramen, stationed with the presenter a couple of boxes to my right, kept treading on a creaky floorboard - a really loud one - despite filthy looks from people on both sides. It's clearly not just audiences who need some lessons in concert etiquette.