Fill the Vienna Phil!

Go. Stand not upon excuses, but go:
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Monaco, 12th January

The Vienna Philharmonic. Yes, the VPO. Wiener Philharmoniker. Vienna Phil. This is the completely legendary orchestra with a tradition nearly two hundred years old, a style of perfection all its own, and the rarity value hereabouts of a yellow Bugatti.

And they’re here next week.

The conductor is the young Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel and the programme, the adagio from Mahler’s tenth symphony and Berlioz, the Symphonie fantastique. They play at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, on Friday 12th, at 8pm. Climb in the roof, swim through the floor, but go.

Still, if you want to be sniffy you can pretend that it really bothers you that people still insist on playing only the first, completed movement of Mahler’s not quite finished tenth symphony, rather than the endlessly glorious and convincing transcription of the sketches by Deryck Cook; oh, on you go, mumph on. Or you can be sniffy and say that Berlioz was French. On you go. Because, if you have thereby freed up seats for one of the most colossal movements in the classical repertoire, whose grim chiaroscuro makes the shafts of light all the more life-enhancing, seats for the fleetest dance of apt picture-painting and orchestration and melody in the classical repertoire, by a Frenchman to whom Wagner paid the compliment of pretending to dismiss (while learning & shifting loads), do so! You are a philanthropist, we shall not say philistine…

As for the band, though the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler – one of only a very few to have held the post of Chief Conductor that has been held by the likes of Mahler himself and Karajan of course – did manage to dent and bash the perfect sheen that the orchestra was/is renowned for, and to give us unprecedentedly raw textures, the underlying style of the orchestra is for a warm burnish guaranteed in part by a near-unique choice of instruments. The Berlioz will be an amazing opportunity to hear these less usual timbres across all sections of the orchestra. Even the drums aren’t like other orchestras’ drums. To the nay-sayers – and this is also a controversial organisation – this burnish and avoidance of vibrato can be a distraction. Well, it makes me think of Cézanne, who said of Monet, “He is only an eye—,” adding, “—but what an eye.”

This is not just another visiting orchestra. This is a tsunami of history. Go. Dither on, mumph, salivate, beg, borrow or steal, but go.