Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Holst’s ‘The Planets’ (Royal Albert Hall, 07/10/18)

I won’t bother reviewing this experience as I normally would with concerts, because I’m not entirely convinced that my knowledge of live classical music is up to scratch. In fact, this was the very first time I had been to a classical music event. Where better to start than with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall?

This was not to say that I wasn’t clued up on classical music as a whole. I had long had my heart set on seeing Gustav Holst’s The Planets performed at the BBC Proms, having listened to the 2009 performance time and time again. Unfortunately, I missed it at the next two Proms that it was performed at (2016 and 2018. The latter sold out instantly because it was assigned to The First Night of the Proms). I ranted about this on Facebook, to which an equally enthusiastic friend recommended this event (which I would never had noticed had she not sent it). I had to go, but as she couldn’t go who could I possibly go with? It was a long shot, but I had to ask my mother. Perhaps the fact that we could make a day out of it (as she had incorrectly envisioned when she took me to see Nine Inch Nails in Birmingham – she was understandably ashamed when saw me dressed for a show more than I was to be seen having a meal out with my Mum in a Harvester) might be the clincher. This was also how I convinced my brother to assist me to a music festival in Iceland, so it was worth a try.

Mum said yes. OH. MY. GOD. This time we made much more of an effort to have a good day, and the uncharacteristically beautiful weather lead to a nice wander by Buckingham Palace and visited the National Gallery.

The first half of the show featured a performance of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny Overture and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Neither myself of Mum knew anything about the latter, and Mum said she almost fell asleep. Subsequently, I felt a little bit worried about how she would react to ‘Saturn’ during The Planets.

As for The Planets, it was great. There was an awkward moment where nobody applauded ‘Venus’, having applauded ‘Mars’ before it. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t as loud as I had imagined (proving that I played that recording too loudly), so ‘Mars’ wasn’t quite as brutal, and I wasn’t shedding any tears during ‘Jupiter’ (referred to by Dad as “the rugby song”). On the subject of mood, my mother and I were very tired from an early morning, so I was worried that she might nod off during the brooding ‘Saturn’. Luckily, she held it together.

Percussionists are often laughed at for not doing much, but I couldn’t help but sympathise for the organist, who throughout the whole suite, was required to play just two chords in ‘Mars’ and one glissando in ‘Uranus’. He just sat still for thirty minutes. I resisted telling Mum about the hidden choir during ‘Neptune’, if only to see her reaction. She was quite confused, especially considering how they weren’t even brought out to bow at the end of the show. I had to explain to her what had happened, and having witnessed it for herself, it was nice that she ‘got it’. I imagine if I were to tell her that a weird act like Sigur Ros did the same thing, that she’d have turned her nose up a bit.

Our day out was a rousing success, and well worth the effort.

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