Friday, July 27, 2007

BBC Proms - a refreshingly adventurous week


Here are Pliable's personal picks for the coming week's BBC Proms. All Proms are available for seven days online, detailed programmes and broadcast times for every concert are available from the BBC web site.

* July 30, 7.30pm - a refreshingly adventurous week starts with the European premiere of Esa-Peka Salonen's Piano Concerto, the pianist is Yefim Bronfman with the composer conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The BBC Symphony has two guest conductors in two concerts this week while chief conductor Jiri Behlolavek picnics at Glyndebourne.

* July 31, 7.00pm - regular readers will know I am a big fan of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and their young chief conductor Ilan Volkov. These days their music making often overshadows the flagship BBC Symphony, which probably has something to do with the fact that the Scottish band lives and works four hundred miles away from the London BBC Radio 3 offices. The BBC Scottish gives two Proms this week, and what concerts! Tonight's includes Britten's too rarely heard Piano Concerto with Scottish pianist Steven Osborne, and Varèse's Ecuatorial.

* July 31, 10.00pm - we could almost be back in the heyday of William Glock, with a late-night Prom of path man-of-the-moment Pierre Boulez's Dérive 2 (UK premiere in the revised version), and Birtwistle's Neruda Madrigales (London premiere). Susanna Mälkki conducts the London Sinfonietta and BBC Singers.

* August 1, 7.30pm - and it gets even better. Tonight's BBC Scottish Prom is an almost perfectly balanced programme of Kurtág's Stele and Mahler's Ninth Symphony conducted by Ivan Volkov. (For another interesting Mahler 9 pairing follow this link.) Not only is this concert my pick of the 2007 Proms, it also takes the Overgrown Path award for the shortest first half ever - 14 minutes.

* August 2, 7.00pm - the premiere of David Matthews' Symphony No. 6 is well worth catching. Matthews has a refreshingly low profile, but writes some fine music - catch it if you can. Jac van Steen conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. I think I am right in saying Jac is the brother of the pianist Jeroen van Steen who also featured here recently.

* August 4, 3.00pm - a fine programme of excellent 20th century music at a silly time in a silly place. Elizabeth Maconchy's Music for Strings and Gerald Finzi's Clarinet Concerto (plus Elgar and Grieg) are marginalised to an afternoon concert in the Cadogan Hall, to make way for what in the Albert Hall in the evening? - yet another Shostakovich symphony.

* August 4, 6.30pm - As well as that Shostakovich Leningrad symphony Mark Elder conducts the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in Aaron Jay Kernis' New Era Dance. Kernis, who worked with John Adams, became known in the UK in the 1990s when Argo recorded several of his works, I have his Grammy nominated Second Symphony (Argo 4489002) which has the interesting coupling of his Musica Celestis for string orchestra; the composer cites Hildegard of Bingen as an influence on this work, but to my ears early Arvo Pärt also got into the mix. Aaron Jay Kernis' New Era Dance is very much in step with the new era proms, it lasts for just six minutes.

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