BBC Prom evokes memories of 'Glorious John'
Here are Pliable's personal picks for the coming week's BBC Proms, plus a wonderfully meandering path which leads eventually to Sir John Barbirolli (photo above) and the topical New York Philharmonic. All Proms are available for seven days online, detailed programmes and broadcast times for every concert are available from the BBC web site.
* July 25, 7.00pm - Marin Alsop and Bournemouth Symphony in a programme of Beethoven's Leonore No. 3, Barber's Violin Concerto, Copland's Symphony No. 3. Worth a listen. But if you had a top conductor, top orchestra, and top concert hall for the evening, not to mention a few million radio, TV and internet listeners, would you really give them that programme?
* July 25, 10.00pm - Hummel's Alma virgo and Schubert's Mass D950 with Richard Hickox and Collegium Musicum 90. Shouldn't have been bumped into the late night slot by that Fanfare for the Common Man.
* July 26, 7.30pm - a classic British music Prom including Tippet's neglected Triple Concerto, and Vaughan William's luminous Fifth Symphony, which for my money is one of the great twentieth century symphonies. Exactly the kind of programme the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony should be performing. Only problem is he isn't. Jiří Bĕlohlávek will be pursuing his operatic career fifty miles away in Glyndebourne, and rehearsing the London Philharmonic in Tristan. Which means Andrew Davis conducts. Which is probably not such a bad thing.
* July 27, 7.30pm - yet another bizarre "find me three works that together last for 90 minutes" programme from Nicholas Kenyon - R. Strauss Macbeth, Britten Our Hunting Fathers and Nielsen's Symphony No. 4. The justification for the programme is a 'Shakespeare and Auden theme', which leaves me struggling to find the connection with Nielsen 4. Suggestions for suitably bizarre encores on a postcard to On An Overgrown Path please. Anyway, the performance should blaze with Marc Elder conducting the Hallé Orchestra, and the Nielsen is the second truly great twentieth century symphony in the week.
At least we should get to hear these works complete. Which is more than happened with the BBC Proms commission Substratum from Sam Hayden on Tuesday this week. Immediately before the first performance it was announced the BBC Symphony under David Robertson would only play the last three of the new works seven movements. The official reason given by the BBC was inadequate preparation time. But I wonder if the real reason was some audience participation in the unperformed part of the score?
Writing about Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5 in D prompted me to play the CD of Sir John Barbirolli's classic account (EMI CDM 5651102) of that masterpiece. What a wonderful convergence of paths. Barbirolli's is one of the great readings of VW5, and 'Glorious John' was permanent conductor and music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1936 to 1941. Barbirolli was 37 when he took up the post, and the New York Philharmonic this week announced the appointment of the currently 40 year old Alan Gilbert to lead the orchestra from 2009. Sounds like a great decision, and a great antidote to the current round of complacent jet set maestros. But it won't all be plain sailing in New York, as Glorious John found out.
More on Barbirolli, Vaughan Williams and Bax's Tintagel (which is the coupling on the VW5 CD) on this overgrown path.
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