Yes, its the Proms again. Season 107 has 73 evening and late-evening concerts between 20 July and 15 September. Concerts are not produced overnight; therefore this years Pastoral theme wasnt planned to reflect the current foot-and-mouth and farming crisis but theres no harm in it doing so. This seasons offerings are not lambs for slaughter though and theres no lack of overseas ensembles, or, hopefully, visitors to hear them.
This years guests include Orchestre de Paris with Christoph Eschenbach a Beethoven/Berlioz evening and one combining Schumanns great Second Symphony and Stravinskys The Rite of Spring not sure why but Eschenbachs an interesting musician who will have something to say. The Chicago Symphony brings plenty of Mahler Symphonies 1 & 7 with Barenboim, who also conducts Elliott Carters Partita and introduces Augusta Read Thomass Aurora, which Barenboim directs from the piano. Other American guests include the Boston Symphony with Bernard Haitink. Martinus Sixth Symphony from this team is keenly anticipated in music written, like Stravinskys Symphony of Psalms, for the BSO Haitink did the latter at last years Proms, so what a shame Smetanas From Bohemias Wood and Fields isnt being aired this time pastorally ideal especially as its on their tour schedule and gets into one of the Bostons Edinburgh Festival concerts! Otherwise its Daphnis et Chloe complete and Brahms 2, sometimes referred to as being pastoral.
The real Pastorals Vaughan Williamss and Beethovens - come from Roger Norrington and Colin Davis respectively, the former, a First World War-inspired masterwork, is played by a German orchestra, South German Radios from Stuttgart; Davis includes Beethovens Sixth in superbly planned LSO programme, which begins with Sibeliuss The Oceanides followed by Tippetts wonderful farewell to composition, The Rose Lake. Colin Davis also conducts a Prom with the European Union Youth Orchestra a satisfyingly substantial programme of Tchaikovksy 4 and Elgar 1. The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain plays Messiaens Turangalila Symphony under Andrew Davis, who with the BBCSO places Schoenbergs Variations (Op.31) with Rachmaninovs First Piano Concerto. A bit of a contrast!
The Czech Philharmonic has an all-French Prom with Ashkenazy. Their only home-grown piece will be Dvorak 7, which is tied with the novelty if indeed it proves to be of Glieres Concerto for Coloratura Soprano arranged for Sergei Nakariakovs trumpet. The Finnish Radio SO include Sibeliuss last two symphonies under Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
Not sure what the NHK Symphony and Dutoit will make of Shostakovich 5, but their concert will be one of the first to sell out Martha Argerich plays Prokofievs Third Concerto. Gergiev includes Schoenbergs Pelleas und Melisande in the Kirov Orchestras Prom hopefully, unlike their shambolic The Rite of Spring in London last year, the Schoenberg will at least be co-ordinated!
Altogether different values will inform the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestras two concerts with Herbert Blomstedt (a Proms debutante!) Mendelssohns music for A Midsummer Nights Dream stands out, while Dvoraks New World and Mahler 4 should enjoy refined and long-viewed advocacy. Similarly Gunter Wands visit, with North German Radios Hamburg forces, for two unfinished symphonies Schuberts and Bruckner 9 will be an evening of deeply considered and (potentially) long-remembered music-making.
Londons Orchestras make their traditional single appearances. The LSO is on twice in fact its other programme, which juxtaposes Brittens Sinfonia da Requiem with Verdis Four Sacred Pieces, is under Antonio Pappano, Covent Gardens incumbent. The LPO and Kurt Masur include Enescus First Suite, the Philharmonia with Eschenbach should sell out as Renee Fleming is around for Mozart and Strauss, while the RPO and Daniele Gatti offer a Verdi Requiem on the penultimate night.
Verdi, of course, is one this seasons Anniversary Composers. He has another night to himself Mark Elder brings his Halle Orchestra down for scenes from Il Trovatore and Don Carlos, and Aidas Act 2. Other composers dead either fifty or one hundred years, or born in 1901, are Schoenberg, Finzi, Rodrigo, Rubbra and Constant Lambert.
As always the Proms has commissioned a number of new pieces. Sally Beamishs Knotgrass Elegy is the topical commission - very country - saxophone and counter-tenor to the fore. James MacMillan receives another BBC commission. Will John Taveners 50-minute Song of the Cosmos be one minutes worth repeated 49 times?
Composers on the cusp of recognition have premieres Stuart MacRae, Ian Wilson and Julian Philips. Seniors with something new include Harrison Birtwistle and Alexander Goehr.
Theres an evening of film music Hollywoods Golden Age conducted by Elmer Bernstein and Klezmer and Gypsy music makes it to the Proms for the first time.
The BBC Orchestras will be heard in 27 concerts, the Symphony in 13 of them. Hopefully not an unlucky number! Leonard Slatkin, the SOs new Chief Conductor, and a contributor to The Classical Source (I hope Leonard will preview his Prom concerts in due course), has six Proms including the First and Last Nights. The former looks to youth for its soloists, 16 singers in Vaughan Williamss wonderful Serenade to Music, and Guy Johnston the BBCs Young Musician of the Year - plays Elgars Cello Concerto. The European premiere of Christopher Rouses Seeing is keenly anticipated, a dark, disturbing concerto for Emanuel Ax, which should dovetail nicely with the opening funereal tread of Mahler 5. Slatkin leads the premiere of Alexander Goehrs second musical offering (GFH 2001) Im really looking forward to that (GFH is Handel) - and he also includes Leonard Bernsteins Jeremiah Symphony and Michel Camilos Piano Concerto with Camilo as soloist. Im delighted that Slatkin conducts Stravinskys Symphony in Three Movements, a masterpiece. The Last Night has Sousas Liberty Bell (the Monty Python theme tune!) and Frederica von Stade (who is also new to the Proms).
The BBCSO also play Pierre Boulezs latest Notations orchestration VII in a programme that includes Ives, Tobias Picker (the world premiere of his Cello Concerto) and Janacek under David Robertson. It also welcomes John Adams for Ravel, Debussy and Adamss own Naïve and Sentimental Music, a 50-minute piece that I loved when I first heard it.
Handels Acis and Galatea and Haydns The Creation are yet more examples of Pastoralism, and with artists like Alfred Brendel, Pierre Boulez who conducts his rapturously beautiful Le visage nuptial and Bartoks Bluebeards Castle Heinrich Schiff, Simon Rattle Fidelio Yuri Bashmet, Joshua Bell (lets hope that West Side Story arranged for violin and orchestra is better than I imagine!), Thibaudet and Tasmin Little, this should be a feast of music on BBC Radio 3 and Television and in the Royal Albert Hall itself. Nothing beats live music.
And theres so much more PCM Proms Chamber Music Composer Portraits pre-concert talks. For booking details the purchase of a Season Ticket means each concert costs just £1.95! - the BBC Proms 2001 Guide is a must; its available from this Monday, 30 April, from most good bookshops. You can also hook-up to the Proms website - www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/proms happy surfing and listening. The Classical Source will be publishing Proms-related material and reviews.