Music: Gergiev's grunting Shostakovich

Last night I caught part of the Shostakovich Symphony cycle, Symphony 1 and 14, that the LSO is performing with conductor Valery Gergiev. Gergiev becomes the LSO's chief conductor next year (when Sir Colin Davis becomes the President)

Anyway, Symphony No 1 is quite accessible and full of loud explosions and power and vigour so it is easy to like. The orchestra obviously had loads of fun playing it.

Given my location in the cheap seats (front row to the side) as the performance was a sellout, I not only had a curious view of the backs of the string section, but also I heard what sounded like strange grunting sounds. At first I thought it was the conductor but then surely not. But throughout the four movements of the First Symphony I could hear it. Was it the bowing of the strings? Well the acoustic from my seat was giving me an interesting flavour of the performance so that was a distinct possibility.

When it came to the second half with the much more subdued Symphony No 14 again I could hear the grunting. Combined with Soprano soloist Olga Sergeeva's dire dress that should have stayed in the alien costume collection from BBC's Dr Who series it was hard to appreciate the music.

The grunting was coming from Gergiev, and so there is a lesson there for seeing future performances with the LSO's next chief conductor: don't sit in the cheap seats unless you like a grunt with your classical music. Further back you might not hear it.  

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