All 2008 Prom Reviews

Nick Breckenfield’s Proms Round Up
Sunday, September 14, 2008 |  Well there it is. Another musical summer at an end! From that vantage of hindsight, I look back on a supremely successful BBC Proms season. 
The Last Night
Saturday, September 13, 2008 |  The last night of a season of 164 events spanning an eight-week period, or the Last Night, a concert in celebration of the 2008 series of BBC Proms concerts that ended on Friday? That is the question... ... Bryn Terfel, after announcing in the press recently that he was “slowing down” did anything but on this occasion. ... With the evening, and season, drawing to a close, Terfel returned for the tradition final three: “Rule, Britannia!” “Land of Hope and Glory” (Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.1) and “Jerusalem”. 
Parsifal … For the Victims of Hiroshima … Choral Symphony
Friday, September 12, 2008 |  Finding music that complements and enhances our understanding of the ‘traditional’ Proms performance of Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony is never easy. In choosing works that take us on a spiritual journey leading to the ultimate quest for joy that lies within the Beethoven symphony, Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic hit upon an original and stimulating programme that promised much, albeit with variable results. ... It’s hard to find music that takes us further on that spiritual journey than “Parsifal”. ... Penderecki’s Threnody ‘For the Victims of Hiroshima’ (1960) is a disturbing and frankly disquieting memorial to the victims of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the close of World War Two. 
Sinfonia antartica … Pléïdes … The Planets
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 |  British music in general, and that by Vaughan Williams in particular, has been a prominent feature of this years Proms. Neither has the European avant-garde been absent and it was a provocative, if not wholly successful, move to make Xenakis's Pléïdes (Pleiades, 1979) the centrepiece of this three-part concert. ... As to those surrounding works (in a concert dedicated to Vernon Handley, who had died in the morning), Vaughan Williams's Sinfonia antartica (1952) was given a distinctly uneven account... ... The performance of The Planets (1917) was a good deal more convincing. Perhaps mindful of Holst's two recordings, Martyn Brabbins powered through 'Mars'... 
Orchestre de Paris
Thursday, September 11, 2008 |  A setting for soprano and orchestra of Mallarmé’s late-19th-century monologue for Herodias, the decadent 1st-century Judean royal, the 22-minute work is gritty, intense and thrilling. Eschenbach and his Parisian players gave a committed, compelling performance that made the most of Pintscher’s highly imaginative (but never gimmicky) soundworld. ... Despite some admirably quiet and controlled playing, there were too many orchestral blemishes in the opening to Mahler’s First Symphony to successfully evoke the required sense of hushed tranquillity (although the shameful barrage of insensitive coughing from the audience did not help). 
Saint François d'Assise
Sunday, September 07, 2008 |  Since its Paris premiere 25 years ago, Messiaen's “Saint François d'Assise” has gradually established a singular place in the operatic repertoire – its potency as a stage-work stemming almost entirely from those non-theatrical qualities that ought to have been its undoing. ... Ingo Metzmacher directed it towards the end of his three-season tenure at Netherlands Opera, and here took the podium for what was the opera's first hearing – whole or in part – at the Proms.  
Chicago Symphony/Haitink – 2 … Mozart & Shostakovich
Tuesday, September 09, 2008 |  This second Chicago Symphony Orchestra Prom felt like a long evening, which may have been due to Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto and Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony both being of unremitting intensity – and this degree of intensity can create the illusion of time extended (or even time suspended). However, there was a static feel to the music-making, as if both works were being closely observed rather than fully experienced. ... Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto began promisingly with an orchestral tutti that caught the music's barely suppressed tensions. However, Murray Perahia who, who recorded an outstanding Mozart concerto cycle, now offers a distinctly mannered take on music which used to be second nature to him... 
Chicago Symphony/Haitink – 1 … Chicago Remains & Mahler 6
Monday, September 08, 2008 |  In his laid-back talk with Andrew McGregor, Mark-Anthony Turnage spoke of his influences being Stockhausen, Xenakis and Henze and the encouragement given him by Oliver Knussen. Turnage stated that the Second Viennese School also influenced him and this was evident in the chamber works played here; indeed Schoenberg (as well as Schubert) seemed to be the key influences. ... Following the pre-concert talk and performances, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra returned to the Proms, this time under its Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink and began with more Turnage, Chicago Remains (2007). ... I have heard Bernard Haitink conduct Gustav Mahler’s Sixth Symphony many times over the last 30 years, which has had a regimented consistency of being analytical and clinical and lacking drama and emotion. What is new is Haitink’s slowing of tempos... 
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Saturday, September 06, 2008 |  The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Stéphane Denève's annual excursion South of the Border produced an enterprising programme which, for the most part, played to this combination's considerable strengths. ... Ironic therefore that the one weak link should have been the Rachmaninov, normally an indestructible sure-fire success. Stephen Hough has made something of a speciality of Rachmaninov... 
Kaschey the Immortal … The Firebird
Friday, September 05, 2008 |  This Prom had a ‘compare and contrast’ feel about it in that the programme comprised two very different compositional takes on essentially the same Russian folk legend – one operatic (from the early 1900s) and one balletic (first staged in 1910). ... Rimsky’s opera lasts just over an hour and contains many moments where the composer’s highly original and colourful orchestration makes for very dramatic and enjoyable listening. ... Stravinsky’s The Firebird is far better known, although one does not often encounter the complete score in the concert hall that often. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle – 2 … Brahms & Shostakovich
Wednesday, September 03, 2008 |  The news that Sir Simon Rattle will be staying with the Berlin Philharmonic until at least 2020 may have come as a surprise given the oft-reported disaffection between conductor and members within the orchestra, and (more to the point) a string of often indifferent recordings in the past few years. 
Sea Sketches … Sea Pictures … Pathétique Symphony
Thursday, September 04, 2008 |  Like Frank Bridge, the sea Grace Williams (1906-1977) evokes is one she had lived beside (and was to again), on the coast of Barry in Wales. ... Elgar’s “Sea Pictures” brought a fascinating companion and contrast, being richer, more robust and more highly coloured... ... Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony was the evening’s high spot. Its opening set the tone for the sober lament that follows. Otaka, rightly, did not hurry... 
Quartet for the End of Time
Thursday, September 04, 2008 |  “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension”. Messiaen’s comment on the first performance of the Quartet for the End of Time, given in the German prisoner-of-war camp at Görlitz, Poland in 1941. 
Nishat Khan & BBC Singers
Monday, September 01, 2008 |  This late-night Prom began with the BBC Singers performing plainsong and music from the French Renaissance with improvisations by Nishat Khan on his sitar. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle – 1 … Tristan & Turangalîla
Tuesday, September 02, 2008 |  This concert proved to be a highlight of this Proms season. Intelligent programming too: bringing 19th- and 20th-century responses to the Tristan and Isolde legend, both epics of the repertoire, although Wagner’s was given in the version which encompasses what has been termed “the greatest cut” in operatic history – just the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’. ... Joining Rattle for Turangalîla were Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Rattle’s long-time ondes martenot partner, Tristan Murail... 
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester – Nikolaj Znaider & Colin Davis
Monday, September 01, 2008 |  Just over 20 years old (it was founded in 1986 at the initiative of Claudio Abbado) the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester draws its players from as far afield as Russia and Armenia in the East to Colombia and Venezuela in the West. In between, virtually every country in the much-expanded European Community is represented. ... Sir Colin Davis has a long-proven ability to get the very best out of student and youth orchestras. 
Verdi Requiem
Sunday, August 31, 2008 |  With pieces as popular as Verdi’s “Requiem” expectations of a performance are often unrealistically high and can lead to disappointment. With this piece in particular, the need for a vocally well-matched and cohesive group of soloists is of great importance, and also that the chorus needs to be well rehearsed in order to bring out Verdi’s subtle writing. ... Jiří Bĕlohlávek’s interpretation seemed to try and avoid operatic excess and veered more towards the devotional. ... The soloists were a fine quartet, although not perfectly matched. Best were Violeta Urmana and Joseph Calleja. 
Lang Lang & Marc Yu
Sunday, August 31, 2008 |  Chinese pianist Lang Lang at age 26 remains something of a musical prodigy. Hearing at age two Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 on the soundtrack of the Tom & Jerry cartoon “The Cat Concerto”, he instantly developed an interest in Western music, began piano lessons at age three and was playing his first public recital two years later. ... The centrepiece of the recital was Lang Lang’s duet with another prodigy, Marc Yu. He is only nine years old. 
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Saturday, August 30, 2008 |  Magnus Lindberg’s reputation as one of the leading composers of his generation and the most influential since Sibelius in his native Finland probably wasn’t the main reason most people turned out for this Proms on a glorious late summer’s evening – but they may have left the Royal Albert Hall thinking that Seht die Sonne was the highlight in a decidedly mixed bag from the Oslo Philharmonic and Jukka-Pekka Saraste. ... Nikolai Lugansky is a stylish and brilliant technician, well equipped to deal with this Everest of piano concertos. This performance of Rachmaninov 3 had so many good things. 
New York Philharmonic/Maazel – 2
Friday, August 29, 2008 |  On this evidence Maazel has been an expert curator of the New York Philharmonic tradition. Time now for a rejuvenating hand to bring more than professionalism and decibels. 
Seven … The Lark Ascending … Daphnis et Chloé
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 |  Whether through unforeseen illness or merely fatigue (he is conducting his new opera “Love and Other Demons” at Glyndebourne throughout August), Peter Eötvös had to pull out from this Prom – but this at least made possible a main-evening debut for Susanne Mälkki – whose late-evening Prom with Ensemble Intercontemporain last year amply confirmed her expertise in contemporary music. Nor was the programme altered – meaning that the UK premiere of Eötvös's Seven was able to go ahead. 
New York Philharmonic/Maazel – 1
Thursday, August 28, 2008 |  A pulverising account of The Rite of Spring followed, Maazel demonstrating an affinity with the music and a stunning ability to communicate it to his orchestra, able to draw out the music’s elemental savagery whilst sustaining inexorable momentum. The playing itself was technically superb and also spontaneous. 
Cantus arcticus … The Whale
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 |  As a celebration of its 40th-anniversary year the London Sinfonietta revisited its very first concert, which included the world premiere of John Tavener’s “The Whale”, conducted by David Atherton. ... The soothing tones of the narrator, BBC Radio 4 newsreader Brian Perkins (originally it was Alvar Liddell), were ideal for the delivery of the Collins Encyclopaedia definition of a whale... 
Bach Day – 3: Cello Suites/Jian Wang
Sunday, August 24, 2008 |  The best music-making of “Bach Day” was heard at this third and final instalment: a late-night recital featuring the first three of Johann Sebastian Bach’s (six) Suites for unaccompanied cello, played with rare sensitivity by Jian Wang; a relaxed and intimate nocturnal atmosphere was created. 
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 |  Musically speaking the climax of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s anniversary year came in June with Richard Hickox’s revival of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” … or more precisely Roderick Williams’s sensational performance in the title role. Even so, this sell-out Prom (given 50 years to the day since Vaughan Williams died) represented another high-point... ... Sir Andrew Davis, Conductor Laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, is of course an old hand with this composer and it helps that he doesn’t do soporific. 
Bach Day – 2: St John Passion
Sunday, August 24, 2008 |  The main event of “Bach Day” was this performance of the “St John Passion”. John Eliot Gardiner’s idiosyncratic direction did not always best serve the score; but this is one of those rare works with a greatness that transcends the minutiae of individual interpretation, and the heartfelt performance was ultimately deeply moving. ... Mark Padmore was on superb form as the Evangelist: a strong, confident reading which fully communicated the text without (often) resorting to undue theatricality. 
Bach Day – 1: Simon Preston Organ Recital
Sunday, August 24, 2008 |  The three-Prom “Bach Day” celebrating the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, each concert dedicated to a different area of his extensive output, began with an organ recital by veteran Bach specialist Simon Preston. 
Romeo and Juliet … Tchaikovsky 5
Monday, August 25, 2008 |  Fêted abroad and under-funded at home, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s carefully rationed appearances in the capital’s bigger halls have often been devoted to standard repertoire. If that might be thought a constraint, it has not seemed so thanks to the inspirational leadership of Daniele Gatti, now winding down his association after more than a decade in charge. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Saturday, August 23, 2008 |  Why, after 60 years, the members of the National Youth Orchestra, unbelievably gifted children, are not allowed to take their places like the musicians of any other orchestra, I really don’t know. ... Apart from me completely missing the Lion’s Roar (both visually and aurally) near the beginning of the opening work, the Revised Version of Varèse’s Amériques, Antonio Pappano conducted a controlled and clear performance of this score that builds and finally bursts with huge swathes of power. 
Gürzenich Orchestra – Mahler 5 … Punkte … Leonore No.3
Friday, August 22, 2008 |  You can’t accuse Markus Stenz and his Gürzenich Orchestra of short-changing the audience. A programme lasting just under three-and-a-half hours (including two intervals) of music-making of the highest quality is pretty good value in anyone‘s book. This was the debut of Cologne’s oldest orchestra, the first Proms performance of Stockhausen’s Punkte and the world premiere of contemporary orchestrations of four Schubert songs. ... This seemingly bizarre programming was as a result of wishing to replicate the running order (Mahler – Schubert – Beethoven) of the first performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony – given in October 1904 with the composer conducting the Gürzenich Orchestra. ... Glanert’s orchestration of “Das Lied in Grünen” was just that, floating strings adding intensity and warmth to Angelika Kirchschlager’s deliciously creamy soprano. 
Slavonic Dances … Osud
Thursday, August 21, 2008 |  As it was, “Osud” (Fate) went non-produced for over half-a-century following its completion in 1905; there was no complete recording until the mid-1970s and just one UK staging – by English National Opera in 1987. Earlier that decade, however, Simon Rattle had given a concert performance which confirmed just how impressive the work is from a purely musical standpoint and also how significant in terms of Janáček's evolution as surely the most significant opera composer of the twentieth century – both qualities that were scarcely less in evidence during this Proms outing under Jiří Bĕlohlávek. 
Tombeau de Messiaen … Speakings … Déserts
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 |  Jonathan Harvey’s three-year tenure as composer-in-association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has gradually yielded a trilogy of orchestral works based on what the composer calls “the Buddhist purification of body, mind and speech”. The final panel of the trilogy, Speakings, for orchestra and live electronics, was unveiled at an extraordinary concert... ... Ilan Volkov had evidently prepared the performance in customary meticulous fashion. 
The Sleeping Beauty
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 |  Although concert performances of opera are an established fixture at the Proms, those of ballet are a comparative novelty; how else to explain that The Sleeping Beauty is only now receiving its first complete performance in the 113-year history of this festival? ... Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre for the last two decades, Valery Gergiev is clearly as at home in the domain of Russian ballet as he is that of opera. 
Soundings … Pastoral Symphony
Monday, August 18, 2008 |  Elliott Carter’s Soundings was written in 2005 to mark Daniel Barenboim’s departure from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra music directorship... ... In Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto, a drastic reworking of his First Cello Concerto undertaken in consultation with Mstislav Rostropovich, Alban Gerhardt took on its many technical difficulties manfully... ... Respite came in the shape of Beethoven’s deceptively genial ‘Pastoral Symphony’... 
City of London Sinfonia
Sunday, August 17, 2008 |  Nigel Osborne’s Flute Concerto is also rather well-bred in its emotional range – as if by a ‘Times Crossword’ man of sensitive restraint. ... Sharon Bezaly swayed sinuously to the variegated rhythms, whilst drawing an astonishing range of dulcet tones and half-tones from her glittering, golden flute. 
All-Night Vigil (Rachmaninov’s Vespers)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 |  For his second trip to the Proms this year, Paul Hillier (who had previously taken part in a performance of Stockhausen’s “Stimmung”) brought with him the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. ... Rachmaninov’s “All-Night Vigil” (more commonly known as “Vespers”) was composed in the first months of 1915. 
Messiaen – Jennifer Bate
Sunday, August 17, 2008 |  The Proms continued its celebration of Olivier Messiaen's centenary with this programme given by Jennifer Bate who enjoyed a close working relationship with the composer. 
Handel’s Belshazzar
Saturday, August 16, 2008 |  Written in 1744 – two years after “Messiah” – George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Belshazzar” takes its story from the biblical account of the fall of Babylon at the hands of Cyrus as described in chapter five of the Book of Daniel. The eponymous character’s ‘father’ is often thought to be Nebuchadnezzar. The pivotal moment on which the drama turns in the story is the famous ‘writing on the wall’ sequence (Act Two, Scene Two) where a hand appears to Belshazzar during an extravagant party and writes its prophecy for the fall of Babylon. ... A packed Royal Albert Hall greeted the orchestra, choir and singers and most of all the “ever-youthful” 82-year-old Sir Charles Mackerras. 
Boulez conducts Janáček
Friday, August 15, 2008 |  Janáček's music is a comparatively recent absorption into Pierre Boulez's repertoire (although he included Sinfonietta in New York back in the 1970s). As with everything he does, Boulez has thought carefully about his approach, and the result is, in many ways, revelatory and causes one to think afresh about the music. ... If Janáček does have a reputation for quirkiness, then there is perhaps no better example of this than Capriccio... ... ...Jean-Efflam Bavouzet played the fiendish piano part quite brilliantly... ... With Boulez choosing to perform the 'original version' of Janáček's “Glagolitic Mass” as reconstructed by Paul Wingfield, we enter the potential minefield of which edition would have been approved of by the composer... 
Mémoriale … L’histoire du soldat
Thursday, August 14, 2008 |  A mere 50 minutes after wrapping up the evening’s ‘main’ Prom, Daniel Barenboim and members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra continued to make music in the Royal Albert Hall with an enticing programme far removed from the Austro-German concert which preceded it. ... The prospect was mouth-watering; a Proms debut for legendary French director/sometime-actor Patrice Chéreau, best known here for his remarkable and controversial centenary production of Wagner’s ‘The Ring’ at Bayreuth in 1976 with Pierre Boulez conducting. ... Boulez’s short (6-minute) Mémoriale, completed in 1985, was first up and an apposite companion piece to the Stravinsky. ... It was a brave choice to perform “L’histoire du Soldat in French... 
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Thursday, August 14, 2008 |  The humanitarian intentions behind the founding of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said can only be most warmly applauded. One might hope that the policy of bringing young musicians from Israel, Palestine and various Arab countries of the Middle East together could be widened. If only. 
In the South … Scheherazade
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 |  This was an essentially popular concert – Elgar and Rimsky-Korsakov as the bread for a sandwich that included rare Vaughan Williams as the filling, not one of his glorious earlier works (such as Tallis Fantasia or The Lark Ascending) but the something from the grittier world of the 1930s that also spawned the violent and tense Fourth Symphony. Vaughan Williams’s Piano Concerto is seldom heard in a concert (although the work has been recorded – including twice by Howard Shelley, with Vernon Handley and Bryden Thomson, and also by Piers Lane, with Handley – and it exists in a revision for Two Pianos and Orchestra. ... Ashley Wass, playing the piece for the first time, made much of the polyphonic interplay between piano and orchestra... 
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 |  Last year’s electrifying Proms appearance with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela was the sensation of the season; but this rather mixed concert with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra proved that ‘wunderkind’ Gustavo Dudamel has some way to go before he reaches a level of consistent inspiration. ... Elements of Hillborg’s successful style were evident throughout the more elaborate Clarinet Concerto, ‘Peacock Tales’, written ten years ago for Martin Fröst; but, despite some engaging moments, at the end of half-an-hour of episodic meandering it was impossible to escape the feeling that the music had not really got anywhere. 
Rachmaninov & Puccini
Monday, August 11, 2008 |  A rather curious programme combining Rachmaninov’s early First Symphony with the first of Puccini’s one-act operas from “Il trittico”. ... A strong sense of atmosphere also permeated the account of “Il tabarro”. This underrated and concentrated opera starts with a fantastic orchestral depiction of a sultry evening on the Seine, with horns and sirens providing additional colour. ... Barbara Frittoli managed to catch the edgy, nervy, disillusioned quality of Giorgetta, and even her brief snatches of time with her lover Luigi were always coloured with a tension that was perfect. 
Night Ride and Sunrise … Gaudete … Enigma Variations
Sunday, August 10, 2008 |  Among the more elusive of Sibelius's tone poems, Night Ride and Sunrise (1907) is never an easy piece to make cohere, but this was hardly apparent in a performance that brought its contrasting halves into persuasive accord... ... That unenviable task here fell to Michael Berkeley and the premiere of the orchestral version of his Slow Dawn... ... “Gaudete” (2008) MacRae sets extracts (primarily from the ‘Epilogue’) from one of Ted Hughes's most densely allusive collections... ... After this, Elgar's Enigma Variations (1899) might easily have seemed a recourse to the tried and trusted, but Gardner ensured that there was nothing routine about this performance. 
Messiaen & Manchicourt
Sunday, August 10, 2008 |  Both works were intended for the feast of Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit reportedly descended upon the Apostles causing them to speak in “tongues” (i.e. different languages). Messiaen's organ meditations reflect upon this, whilst Manchicourt's “Mass” setting would have been deployed as the sung portion of the liturgy on Whitsunday. 
Porgy and Bess … Progressions … An American in Paris
Saturday, August 09, 2008 |  The classical-jazz 'divide' – real or imagined – was the starting-point for this Prom by the BBC Concert Orchestra. Few composers have so tellingly pivoted between the two as George Gershwin. ... The fusion of jazz ensemble and orchestra has notable precedents: Howard Brubeck's Dialogues is one such and, almost half a century on, Gwilym Simcock has followed suit with Progressions (2008). ... It was a pity that the evening had to finish on a 'downer'. Expertly as he had conducted the previous work, Charles Hazlewood seemed to have no overall conception of Gershwin's An American in Paris (1928)... 
The Chairman Dances … Harlem
Friday, August 08, 2008 |  Four American works from the second half of the 20th-century made for an entertaining late-night Prom, conducted with gusto by Kristjan Järvi. ... Duke Ellington’s Harlem, for large orchestra, was given a performance large in character and rhythm... 
Olympic Fire … Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Friday, August 08, 2008 |  On the opening day of the Beijing Games, Chen Yi’s Olympic Fire received its world premiere. ... Russian soloist Olga Kern gave a fine account of the piece, with good, clean playing that was positive and assured, full of fresh ideas... ... The concert’s second half was devoted to Vaughan Williams... ... Slatkin and the RPO gave a terrific and sensitive account of this great work... 
Ulster Orchestra
Thursday, August 07, 2008 |  In 1915, Charles Villiers Stanford expressed his frustration at the cancellation of a Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert that was to have introduced his Second Piano Concerto to the British public. Some 93 years later his wish was finally fulfilled at the Royal Albert Hall, cleverly positioned alongside the symphony that Dvořák conducted – for Stanford – ahead of receiving an honorary doctorate at Cambridge in 1891. ... Finghin Collins, bright of tone and secure of technique, was careful not to ‘display’ the opening arpeggios, the piano accompanying the orchestra, and where the two forces melodically or rhythmically combined, he was extremely sensitive in applying respectful dynamics. 
The King’s Singers
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 |  Yes, this was The King’s Singers, the most recent six of nineteen who have, over four decades, ensured the lasting appeal of close harmony between two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass. There was a seventh of the 19 to start with, Brian Kay (a founding member back in 1968) who introduced this late-night prom for the BBC Radio 3 audience and then members of the group took it in turns to present the pieces with trademark gentle humour. 
L’Ascension … Ringed by the Flat Horizon … Boléro
Wednesday, August 06, 2008 |  Ringed by the Flat Horizon is an impressive early work, grave and spacious. Here, the BBCSO successfully evoked the timelessness it didn't quite manage to capture earlier. George Benjamin invited us to contemplate a vast horizon and be aware of lowering storm clouds at its edge. These clouds are present and only remotely threatening – until a great electric storm breaks out over the landscape briefly and tersely, resolving nothing. ... Following its close, the pause before Boléro's beginning seemed to last forever – shimmering tensely, in anticipation of ... what? 
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 |  Established as recently as 1985 and conducted by Yakov Kreizberg since 2003, the Netherlands Philharmonic is Amsterdam's 'other' orchestra, giving the majority of its orchestral concerts in the Concertgebouw. A well-blended body boasting some exceptionally fine wind players, it also functions as the orchestra of Netherlands Opera. ... In 2005 Julia Fischer was appointed Artist-in-Residence and has recently recorded Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Double Concerto with the orchestra (for PentaTone)... ... Not too many people outside the Netherlands will know the name Johan Wagenaar (1862-1941) although, along with Alphons Diepenbrock, he enjoyed a certain vogue during the national revival at the end of the 19th-century and was also active as a teacher, numbering several composers including Alexander Voormolen and Willem Pijper amongst his pupils. 
Bach, Ethel Smyth, Rachmaninov – and Henry Wood
Monday, August 04, 2008 |  Sir Henry Wood was the common denominator for this Prom – as the dedicatee of Ethel Smyth’s Concerto for Violin, Horn and Orchestra, an early champion of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, and the orchestrator of two works for keyboard. 
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Graven Image
Friday, August 01, 2008 |  Since I last heard the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko (on home ground), this completely different programme confirmed the good things that have been said about this pairing: that the overall sound is much tighter and the ensemble more together, something borne out in this Prom. ... Liverpool-born Kenneth Hesketh (40 this year) has had a long association with the Liverpool Philharmonic; in 1988, while still a student at the Royal College of Music, he completed his first formal commission for the Orchestra. 
Wayne Marshall Organ Recital
Sunday, August 03, 2008 |  As it happened, the first item, Jeanne Demessieux’s Te Deum, a clearly constructed piece in five sections, came as something of a revelation in purely musical terms. She was a really fine organist, and her work was brilliantly played by Wayne Marshall, although one could hardly describe it, hand on heart, as a very original inspiration. 
Stockhausen Day – 2: Stimmung
Saturday, August 02, 2008 |  Stimmung is for six amplified singers and is truly a 'one-off' not only in Stockhausen's output but also in the context of Western European music. 
Beethoven 1 & Das Lied von der Erde
Sunday, August 03, 2008 |  Two very contrasted symphonies composed 110 years apart, either of which would put any self-respecting conductor and orchestra on their mettle. ... In September next year Donald Runnicles takes up the post of Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. ... The account of Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” (The Song of the Earth) by Orchestre de Paris under Christoph Eschenbach with Yvette Naef at the 2005 Proms will never be forgotten by anyone who was there; hers was singing such as we may hear but rarely in a lifetime. It may seem somewhat ungallant to refer to this performance before mentioning the mezzo-soprano soloist with Donald Runnicles, Karen Cargill, but I have to say that she sang quite superbly throughout, if not – in the circumstances – effacing memories of Naef. 
Stockhausen Day – 1: Gruppen ... Kontakte...
Saturday, August 02, 2008 |  Karlheinz Stockhausen would have turned 80 on 22 August this year. One assumes that this “Stockhausen Day” was planned to celebrate the occasion, perhaps with the composer being present? In the event, his sudden death on 5 December last year inevitably transformed this occasion into a memorial one, though affording a welcome opportunity to reflect on his legacy. ... This concert presented the first 'live' performances in the UK of pieces from KLANG – the cycle of works for each of the 24 hours of the day which he was working on when he died. There was also the chance to re-visit two 'classics' from his pioneering output – Kontakte (one of the first compositions to combine electronic and acoustic sounds) and Gruppen for three orchestras. 
The Coronation of Poppea
Thursday, July 31, 2008 |  In a packed, hot and stuffy Royal Albert Hall Glyndebourne Festival Opera made its annual Proms appearance, this year with Robert Carsen’s production of “The Coronation of Poppea”. 
World Music Celebration
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 |  It was a hot night! 
Hallé – A Shropshire Lad … Till Eulenspiegel
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 |  A quintessential Barbirolli programme (indeed Vaughan Williams dedicated his Eighth Symphony to the Hallé’s illustrious former Chief, "for Glorious John ... with love and admiration") from Sir Mark Elder who has done so much to restore the Hallé to its former glory. ... There is even a Northern connection since the composer spent several years in Liverpool as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (and Vaughan Williams studied with him in Germany). For all the beauty of Janine Jansen's playing – and an excellent accompaniment – this was the least satisfying part of the evening. 
Beethoven & Elliott Carter
Monday, July 28, 2008 |  The first half was altogether more impressive. Try and decide which is the more ‘difficult’ and challenging music – Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge or Elliott Carter’s Oboe Concerto. 
La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ
Sunday, July 27, 2008 |  The celebration of Olivier Messiaen’s centenary continued with one of his most spectacular works, “La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ”. 
Doctor Who Prom
Sunday, July 27, 2008 |  With a pulse from a borrowed sonic screwdriver, Roger Wright – Director of the BBC Proms – seems to have transformed the annual children (or in this case definitely family) prom, by regenerating the old Blue Peter Prom into the Dr Who Prom. 
Troubled Light … Pictures at an Exhibition
Friday, July 25, 2008 |  Troubled Light is Goethe’s description of colour, revealed to Holt via Derek Jarman. The work is cast in five movements, of which the first four focus in various degrees of directness on particular colours and the extended fifth reworks material from the previous four – as if one had been viewing a series of Rothko panels and then stepped back to survey the whole exhibition from a distance, perhaps from some fantastical perspective in a Gehry-designed gallery. ... Ravel’s version of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ was no less welcome for being an obvious pairing with the Holt. Where the first half of the concert had been about the elusive and the ambiguous, the radiant diatonic nature of the opening ‘Promenade’ tangibly snapped everything into focus. 
John Tomlinson, Louis Lortie & Thomas Adès
Saturday, July 26, 2008 |  The evening opened with the choral version of Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain... ... Tomlinson was then the focus for three of the great moments from “Boris Godunov”... ... After the first interval we had Adès conducting his own work, Tevot, written for Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle, eminently approachable music and very satisfying. 
Bax, Rachmaninov & Vaughan Williams
Thursday, July 24, 2008 |  A compact and well-linked concert: Ralph Vaughan Williams dedicated his Fourth Symphony to Arnold Bax; Bax’s music has its Russian characteristics; and Rachmaninov played some of Bax’s piano music (I believe). ... Ultimately, the concert fell short of expectations. Yan Pascal Tortelier led a curious, sometimes-interesting account of the Vaughan Williams. 
A Prom from 1958
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 |  This current generous programme reflected a Prom given by Basil Cameron and the London Philharmonic Orchestra on 3 September 1958, when the first half comprised the Mendelssohn works and the Brahms concerto, Maria Donska the soloist. 
Tallis Scholars
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 |  This late-night Prom gives the lie to our preoccupation that we live in uniquely complex musical times. Cast back 500 years and the word “complex” achieves its true meaning. 
Stuttgart Radio Symphony/Roger Norrington
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 |  Sir Roger Norrington has form in performing a British symphony with his German orchestra at the Proms. A few years ago he played Vaughan Williams’s A Pastoral Symphony. Now it is Elgar’s First, already documented by this team on Hänssler, probably the most popular English symphony in its first year rated by the number of performances, rivalled only by Vaughan Williams’s Sixth in its first year. 
Messiaen & Saint-Saëns from Paris
Monday, July 21, 2008 |  This year's Proms’ focus on Messiaen's centenary was marked in fine style by the first half of this satisfying programme. Olivier Latry – titular organist at Notre-Dame in Paris and one of the finest solo organists of our time – gave a most convincing performance of L'Ascension. 
Folk Day 2
Sunday, July 20, 2008 |  Somehow 25 minutes each seemed woefully short, as did Bellowhead’s set after the interval, on the main stage. Bellowhead is an 11-piece band – four strings, four brass (well, trumpet, trombone, sax and sousaphone – yes, sousaphone), accordion, mandolin and percussion – that has developed a big-band treatment of folk-music which is a real winner. Masterminded by the more-intimate folk duo, fiddler Jon Boden and melodeon/concertina-player John Spiers, the band debuted in 2004 and has already played the Royal Opera House and the Royal Festival Hall. 
Folk Day 1
Sunday, July 20, 2008 |  This was the first of two Royal Albert Hall concerts on this day marking “Folk Day” at the BBC Proms and made the best out of a potentially fraught, not to say disastrous, concept, in a manner that would not have offended purists, mainstream classical-music lovers or the ‘occasional’ listener. 
NKQ – Nigel Kennedy Quintet
Saturday, July 19, 2008 |  Remaining in the Royal Albert Hall for extra time, Nigel Kennedy, well-known as an Aston Villa supporter, presented a selection from his recent “A Very Nice Album”. 
Nigel Kennedy plays Elgar’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, July 19, 2008 |  Given plenty of notice that Vernon Handley would not be able to conduct this Prom due to ill-health, Paul Daniel was able to undertake Handley’s inimitable programme unchanged. ... The Garden of Fand concerns the sea... ... Gerald Finzi’s “Intimations of Immortality” sets William Wordsworth’s ode... ... Nigel Kennedy here returned to the Proms after an absence of 21 years. He is particularly associated with Elgar’s Violin Concerto (which he played in London just a few months ago) having recorded it with Handley and more recently with Simon Rattle. 
The First Night
Friday, July 18, 2008 |  This first concert of BBC Proms 2008 (the first under the control of Roger Wright) was an overture for the season as a whole. Not only did the programme include music by Olivier Messiaen and Elliott Carter, whose centenaries are being celebrated this year, but also appearances by three soloists due to appear again over the summer. 
Somm issues First Night of the 1943 Proms
Thursday, July 17, 2008 |  Issued on the eve of the 2008 Season of BBC Proms, Somm has released a recording of the First Night of the 1943 Season conducted by Sir Henry Wood. 
BBC Proms 2008 On Television
Thursday, July 17, 2008 |   


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