I went to the Proms this evening. It’s not that I know a great deal about classical music, but seeing Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring is a genuine rite of passage, something no man can seriously avoid going through life without tackling and still claim to be a man, much like getting a tattoo, spending money on a prostitute, or starting a weblog. Conducting the affair was the legendary Russian Valery Gergiev, general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater/Kirov Opera in St. Petersburg. Now Val, as I shall call him, is a bit of an oddball. Aside from the stereotypical conductors hair, which he sweeps spectacularly from his line of vision throughout the performance, he waves a baton not much larger than a toothpick. And then there’s the grunting. During more excitable moments, as the music leaps from one towering crescendo to the next, he lurches from side to side, making a noise like a tomcat attempting to cough up a particularly defiant hairball. Most unusual – I’d look out for it when the show is broadcast later this Summer on BBC1.
Gratuitous, name-dropping aside: my mother was briefly Stravinsky’s secretary in the late 1950s. So there.