BBC Proms - the collapse of the imperial order

Some interesting threads in next week’s Proms, and refreshingly not a single note of Mozart in any of the programmes. But that’s more than made up for by the Shostakovich. As well as two of his symphonies the week brings the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk with Valery Gergiev conducting the soloists, chorus and orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre (Kirov Opera) on Sunday (20 August 6.30pm) . This concert performance of the original unexpurgated 1932 version should hit all the media hot buttons with its anniversary composer, charismatic conductor and political subtexts.

It’s a good week for new music with James MacMillan’s The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie on Monday (August 21) and the UK premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s A Relic of Memory on Wednesday (August 23). Staying with modern music the late night Prom on Tuesday (August 22) is a feast of Weill (including his Berlin Requiem – ‘Zu Potsdam unter der Eichen’), Eisler and HK Gruber with the role of conductor/chansonnier being taken by HK Gruber himself. We also have the UK premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs on Thursday (August 24) - it wouldn’t be a BBC concert series without some Golijov would it?

Early music gets a welcome airing in the Chamber Music Prom in the Cadogan Hall at 1.00pm on Monday (21 August). This is the Proms debut of leading French early music ensemble La Simphonie du Marais, and they are marking the 350th anniversary of the birth of Marin Marais with a programme of music by him and his contemporaries. And before someone points out an unnoticed female composer in that programme I would remind them that, strange though it may seem, Anne Dalican Phildor, whose Recorder Sonata is being played, was in fact a man.

Finland has been a worthwhile thread running through this year’s Proms. The human dynamo Valery Gergiev ‘hot-swaps’ from the LSO on Friday to the Mariinsky Orchestra on Saturday (August 19, 6.30pm) for the Sibelius Violin Concerto played by Vadim Repin, while Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste gives us Sibelius 5 on Friday (August 25) in a concert that also contains more new music in the form of the UK premiere of fellow Finn Magnus Lindberg’s Sculpture.

Much attention will doubtless be given to the agonised introspection and political sub-text of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. The reign of Stalinist terror helped shape today’s political map, but that reshaping started with the collapse of the old imperial order. Elgar is too often pigeon-holed as a nationalist composer. But the ominous opening bars which launch, without introduction, straight into the theme marked Nobilmente of his Second Symphony of 1911 presage the collapse of the imperial orders that eventually reshaped the whole global political map. If subtexts are your thing there are plenty there for the asking in the Second Symphony in E flat major; if pure music is your thing this symphony is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. Sir Colin Davis conducts it with the LSO on Monday (August 21). It’s my Prom of the week, no contest.

Prom highlights:
Saturday 19 August 6.30pm – Sibelius Violin Concerto, Vadim Repin violin with Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre (Kirov Opera) conducted by Valery Gergiev
Sunday 20 August 6.30pm – Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre (Kirov Opera) conducted by Valery Gergiev
Monday 21 August 1.00pm (Cadogan Hall) – Marais, Anne Dalican Philidor, La Barre and Lully, La Symphonie du Marais, director Hugo Reyne.
Monday 21 August - Elgar Symphony No 2, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis
Tuesday 22 August – HK Gruber, Weill and Eisler, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by HK Gruber
Wednesday 23 August – Mark–Anthony Turnage A Relic of Memory, London Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Vladimor Jurowski
Friday 25 August – Magnus Lindberg Sculpture, Sibelius Symphony No 5, BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste

This personal selection from the next week's Proms appears every week On An Overgrown Path, a full listing of the concerts is available here. All the concerts are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and as web casts. All Proms should be available for seven days after broadcast on the BBC listen again service, but check BBC listings for confirmation. Concert start times are 07.30pm British Summer Time unless otherwise stated. Convert these timings to your local time zone using this link.

My photo shows the statue of Sir Edward Elgar in Great Malvern. Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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