Monday, July 29, 2013

Silence at Götterdämerung

This has been quite a Wagner week at the Proms in London, the first time that the complete Ring cycle was performed there, to celebrate the bi-centenary of Wagner’s birth.

I am sure that many much more qualified than me will write about this historic occasion. All I need to say is that I enjoyed it tremendously, in spite of the oppressive heat in the hall. As one critic wrote somewhere, “it can’t get much better than this”.

My purpose here is really only to record one extraordinary moment where nothing happened…at the end of Götterdämmerung. Maestro Daniel Barenboim held his baton up for a good 18 seconds after the last note, and everyone held their breath, leaving the gigantic hall, filled to capacity, completely hushed. There was a great deal left to the imagination in those few moments, much longer imaginatively than the real time of 18 seconds suggests. 

You can listen to the silence here at 1:21:13 onwards (for the next six days only).

I say nothing happened, but of course a great deal must have gone through the minds of the thousands attending the performance and the millions listening at home.

This was a perfect ending, for there was nothing left to say but much to think about silently in those few moments.

Indeed, one of the more remarkable features about this Ring cycle was the complete silence from the audience at those silent or subdued moments during the performance, a fact that Barenboim commented on, and thanked the audience for, in his speech at the end of the performance of Götterdämmerung.

I have written many times here about the value of the unstated in art and the silence in music. Yesterday, Daniel Barenboim demonstrated it to powerful effect.