Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fantastique ending to a great Proms season

This year's BBC Proms season will go down as the year of the 'pick-up' band. The established professional orchestras were challenged, and in several cases overshadowed, by performances from the National Youth Orchestra and Sinfonietta, European Union Youth Orchestra, West-Eastern Divan, and World Orchestra for Peace. They all showed us that spontaneous live music-making beats the music-like-water output of the established orchestras almost every time.

In the last week of the season Sir Colin Davis (right) conducts another starry 'pick-up' band, with students from New York's Julliard School and London's Royal Academy of Music playing a programme of Copland, Vaughan Williams and Berlioz. That's my Prom of the week, no contest.

Other riches for the final week include new music from Ades, Carter and Turnage, and a Rawsthorne piano concerto that is well worth investigating. The mainstream programming concludes with a German Requiem, Rite of Spring and Bruckner 8.

It has been a vintage Proms season, so kudos to the BBC. But I won't miss those BBC continuity announcers with their non-stop vowel movements. Stephanie Hughes linking Mariss Jansons' Lutoslawski and Brahms concert on Friday evening set a new high (or should that be low?) for syllable to content ratio. The same can also be said for the intrusive dribbles of applause between movements that broke the spell, and marred many of the great performances again this season. (Hi Mum, I'm at the concert. Can you hear me?) The promenaders may be the best music audience in the world, but they are not above criticism. As Alfred Brendel said: "Listen is an anagram of silent."

I'm afraid the traditional Last Night doesn't push any buttons for me either. (Aren't I grumpy?) But it is there on Saturday 10th September at 19.30h if it is your thing. Korngold's suite The Sea Hawk joins the more traditional fare, but I'm afraid it's still 'more Korn than Gold' as far as I'm concerned. If the Last Night is not your bag there are lots of goodies to listen to instead via BBC Radio 3's Listen Again feature.

Mainstream Highlights:
Vaughan Williams, Symphony No 6; Sir Colin Davis conducts combined forces of Juilliard Orchestra and Royal Academy of Music. Plus a Sir Colin signature work in the second half - Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Should be unmissable. . Saturday 3rd September, 19.00h
Brahms, A German Requiem; James Conlon conducts, plus some rare Zemlinsky. Sunday 4th September, 18.30h.
Stravinsky, Rite of Spring;
Vienna Philharmonic venture into (for them) unusual repertoire with Zubin Mehta. Wednesday 7th September, 19.30h
Bruckner, Symphony No 8; Vienna Philharmonic back on more familiar ground after quick baton switch to Christoph Eschenbach. Thursday 8th September, 19.30h
Last Night of the Proms; usual high jinks, but does include Korngold’s Sea Hawk Suite. Paul Daniels conducts for first time as BBC struggle to find someone to save the unsavable. Saturday 10th September, 19.30h


New Music:
Rawsthorne, Piano Concerto No 2;
1951 work well worth reviving. Monday 5th September, 19.00h
Ades, Violin Concerto;
Anthony Marwood plays with composer conducting. Tuesday 6th September, 19.00h
Carter and Tippett;
including Elliott Carter’s Mosaic, and London premiere of a recently discovered song setting. Nash Ensemble play under Martyn Brabbins. Tuesday 6th September, 22.00h
Turnage, From the Wreckage;
UK premiere with Helsinki Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen. Friday 9th September, 19.30h

All the concerts above are being broadcast live by BBC Radio 3, and are available as live web casts. Many of them are also available for seven days after broadcast on the BBC Listen Again service but some aren’t. Check BBC listings for which are available via ‘listen again’ but as a rule of thumb high profile orchestras and artists are usually too expensive for the BBC to buy repeat broadcast rights.

This is a personal, and fallible, selection of the week's concerts. The full weeks programmes are available through this link. Concerts start dates are given in British Summer Time using 24 hour clock (19.00h = 7.00pm) Convert these timings to your local time zone using this link

The Guardian are reviewing every Prom this season. Access their reviews via this link.

This preview of the following week's Proms appears every week on an overgrown path. If you want to share an upcoming concert with a friend email the post to them using the envelope icon at the foot of the post.

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