Mehta's players have audience on their side
I was going to deny the protesters who attempted to hijack this evening's concert the oxygen of publicity by simply reviewing the concert and adding a dismissive sentence about them at the end. That would have shown them the respect their tactics deserved, but since they unfortunately succeeded in having the Prom broadcast taken off the air (the works that can be salvaged, which includes the whole of the second half, will I believe be rescheduled for a later date) I should devote more than a passing blow.
But let me confine my comments to saying that staging a demonstration outside of a concert in an orderly manner is fine and perfectly acceptable in a healthy democracy – there were lobbyists for both sides of this particular dispute in front of the Royal Albert Hall. Shouting during the performance is pure thuggishness. And so (I would estimate) 20 or 30 people decided that their voices were more important than the wills of the rest of a full auditorium, who had paid good money to hear the Israel Philharmonic under their music director Zubin Mehta. The audience for their part booed the protestors and chanted "Out, out, out" at them, then cheered and stamped their feet for the players.
Mehta remained dignified throughout, while violinist Gil Shaham led from the front, smilingly exhorting the musicians ever onward during the Bruch violin concerto. He was on dazzling yet delicate form. The orchestra were at their impressive best in a multi-coloured reading of Albéniz's Iberia (the singing string section especially impressive) and in an inexorably winding "The Death of Tybalt" from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
By the close, the IPO had smiles on their faces. As well they might. A major orchestra had given a fine account of themselves and had, to boot, given the best response to a small number of uncultured morons.
James Inverne is former editor of Gramophone. He now runs a music management + PR company, Inverne Price Music Consultancy, writes a culture column for the Jewish Chronicle newspaper and his byline can still be found from time to time in other places about subjects that get him exercised.