Yesterday, I told someone at work that I was going to a Prom and the first thing he thought was that this was a high school prom involving big dresses, limousines and layers and layers of fake tan. And, while I was flattered he thought I was the Dougie Howser of the workplace and merely masquerading as a 34-year-old woman who was actually still at school, I was relieved that I was actually off to a musical Prom.
I'd chosen this Prom because I thought that FJM might like it. It had a guaranteed easy-listening hit of a Mozart Piano Concerto (No 27 in B flat major) smack bang in the middle of Messiaen's Hymne and Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E major. And he did like it.
I did, too. Thanks mostly to the seats I chose.
If there's one thing I've learnt from going to the Albert Hall it's that I sometimes 'lose' the sound. But with seats in the choir – facing the rest of the audience and, most crucially, overlooking the orchestra, I was able to read the conductor, which helped me work out who was playing when and of course what tempo, and most importantly during the piano piece, 'hand read' the pianist – a very wonderful and enthusiastic Igor Levit, who did an encore, before the interval. Brilliant eh?
After my previous experience with Messiaen I was pretty sure that Hymne would be 12 minutes of largely unintelligible sound, and it kind of was. The high strings were totally out of my frequency. But this meant I was able to play around with my hearing aids and see which settings helped, and which didn't.
My Phonax Naxos hearing aids have Sound Recover, which moves the frequencies I cannot hear into a frequency I can. In the Sound Recover setting, I could hear quite a bit more, but it sounded even more discordant that I think perhaps Messiaen himself intended. Without Sound Recover, I lost the entire string section save for the cellos and bass. And then I decided to take my hearing aids out. After all, until three years ago, I attended all classical music concerts without my hearing aids.
I will never do this again. Without my hearing aids, it was almost entirely silent. The difference was so marked, I frantically searched the orchestra and watched the conductor in the vain hope there was just a really long rest in the music. But they were all moving.
'Do not cry,' I told my frustrated (and a little bit devastated) self. And so I, totally didn't, hold it together until the Mozart.
And if the Messiaen had me crying tears of frustration, the Mozart had me weeping tears of joy – yep, I was the crying blonde girl in the choir yesterday if you were there. As the strings started and the piano began, although I knew there were lots of notes quite simply not reaching my ears, there was enough that I could imagine the complete score. I could recognise the comforting phrasing and lilting melodies I grew up listening to before I got really deaf.
And I could follow Igor Levit's hands on the piano and see what he was playing.
I was happy again.
And then came the Bruckner with its low bass notes and emotional second movement. And I absolutely didn't weep my way through this either. Nope. That was definitely not me snivelling between FJM and the rather bemused old chat next to me.
Standing up to cheer my head off – probably a bit louder and 'Pretty Woman'-like that FJM would have preferred – I realised that I just have to focus on the positives with music. That I can still hear enough to make it enjoyable. That it is still enjoyable. Provided I choose my pieces well. And that means that Messiaen is out...
And Mozart and Bruckner are most definitely in.
Happy Thursday peeps
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