All 2010 Prom Reviews

The Last Night 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010 |  Over the years that The Classical Source has been reviewing the BBC Proms the Last Night has undergone a transformation. ... Renée Fleming made everyone sit up and listen. ... John Rutter’s adaptation of the ‘Bridal Chorus’ from “Lohengrin” made a welcome, lighter change to Wagner’s version (!)... 
Monteverdi Vespers/Gardiner
Friday, September 10, 2010 |  There was the Last Night still to come, but the Proms could not have bowed out in finer style than with this majestic performance of the “Vespro della Beata Vergine”. Monteverdi’s fusion of ceremonial, drama and intensely expressive spirituality fits John Eliot Gardiner’s extrovertly patrician conducting like a glove. 
Unfinished Symphony ... Songs of Mary Stuart
Thursday, September 09, 2010 |  Neither performance of the popular symphonies quite hit the mark, their span undermined by vacuous applause between movements (although the delayed burst after Mozart’s Minuet was almost shamefacedly apologetic). Under Gianandrea Noseda, the ‘Unfinished’ Symphony flowed too easily and was agitated and edgy in the wrong way... ... Finghin Collins had but fifteen minutes to make an impression... ... In his orchestration of the five settings that constitute Robert Schumann’s “Songs of Mary Stuart”, Robin Holloway suggests the soundworlds of Korngold or early Berg... 
Penguin Cafe with Kathryn Tickell
Wednesday, September 08, 2010 |  When Simon Jeffes initiated what was then the Penguin Cafe Orchestra in 1972, he might not have foreseen that, almost four decades on, its latest incarnation would attract one of the best attended and most diverse late-night Proms of the season. But then, the PCO was always likely to attract appeal across the musical spectrum – negotiating supposed boundaries between classical, folk, jazz and pop with an effortlessness few such later outfits – ‘fusion' or otherwise – have matched. Jeffes’s untimely death in 1997 left behind a legacy too substantial and, above all, enjoyable to be consigned to studio recordings and revivals of the ballet “Still Life at the Penguin Cafe”: the present line-up took shape three years ago under the aegis of his son Arthur, whose dedication to this music was evident at every stage of this 75-minute Proms set. 
Lohengrin ... Wild Card ... Bruckner 7
Wednesday, September 08, 2010 |  The integration of popular and classical music is nothing new, especially if you include adaptations of folk-music, but Tansy Davies (born in Bristol in 1973) is one of the first composers to regularly incorporate stylistic features of the music she grew up with in the 1970s into what could broadly be termed as a ‘classical’ perspective. ... The 20-minute Wild Card also benefitted from Davies’s comments, the depiction of the “fool’s journey” laid out – the “fool” being one of the 22 Tarot cards of the Major Arcana. ... There were however many fine things about Bělohlávek’s Bruckner... 
Sir Henry Wood (continued)
Sunday, September 05, 2010 |  It was more than Sir Henry Wood day, it was the end of a Sir Henry Wood four days, starting with his extravagant orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and then including Simon Rattle and his Berliners in Mahler 1 and Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces, of which Wood gave the UK and world premieres respectively. And finally this concert by the Ulster Orchestra, with new principal guest conductor (and no stranger to the Proms, though as a cellist) Paul Watkins, hot on the heels of the BBC Concert Orchestra’s recreation of the 1910 Last Night, in all its bitty glory. 
Faune ... La mer ... The Rite of Spring
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 |  An enchanted recorder-like flute opened Debussy’s Prélude, and a fruity (finely accomplished) bassoon solo introduced The Rite of Spring. Debussy’s enchantment continued to a rapturous climax, Daniele Gatti keeping the elusive Faune on the move... 
Handel, Porpora, Telemann & Vivaldi
Monday, September 06, 2010 |  One of the greatest strengths of the BBC Proms is its ceaseless power to surprise and captivate, breathing magic into the most ordinary-looking of concert programmes. This will not be breaking news to Classical Source readers, but it still bears repeating and has particular relevance to this late-night Prom of Baroque concertos and opera arias. 
Paul Lewis Beethoven (4) [RSNO/Denève]
Monday, September 06, 2010 |  Things got off to a cracking start with a performance of Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture that was bawdy, gaudy, thoughtful, beautiful, and great fun; Stéphane Denève directing an extrovert account of great brilliance. ... It was followed by the final instalment of Paul Lewis’s Beethoven Piano Concertos given this season. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle (2)
Saturday, September 04, 2010 |  Simon Rattle's appearances with Berliner Philharmoniker at the Proms have drawn attention to a partnership often tentative in interpretative terms. Following their concert of Beethoven and Mahler, this second-night programme took in German late-Romanticism and its Austrian modernist continuation such as Rattle has been exploring (and, in some cases, revisiting) intensively over the last decade. 
Last Night of the Proms 1910
Sunday, September 05, 2010 |  The idea of presenting the Last Night of the Proms as played in 1910 as a tribute to (Sir) Henry Wood was an interesting one, the first of two such Wood-dedicated concerts on this day. ... The real curio of the collection was surely Henry Wood’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “The Peep Show” – sung here with characteristic relish in a persuasive performance by Sergei Leiferkus. ... The same could be said of Wagner’s Kaisermarsch, which Paul Daniel tried to persuade us was better than it sounded (to paraphrase Mark Twain). 
Three 300-year-old composers
Thursday, September 02, 2010 |  So, it was a much smaller ensemble that greeted us as we returned to the Hall as Christian Curnyn led three 300th-anniversary performances of works by J. S. Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, Thomas Arne and all-too-short-lived Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, all of whom were born in 1710. Pergolesi’s “Stabat mater” was receiving only its third complete performance of the Proms... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle (1)
Friday, September 03, 2010 |  Part of the problem is that Simon Rattle seems unable to make up his mind whether he is conducting a ‘period’ band – with the occasional genuflection to ’authentic’ practice – or is the inheritor of the grand German tradition. The result is a curious hybrid. Nor does it help that he seems reluctant to phrase or sustain those long string lines as if to do so would be inauthentic and an offence to ‘period’ practice. 
Henry Wood’s Pictures at an Exhibition
Thursday, September 02, 2010 |  An eclectic and attractive programme covering several centuries of music – from Frenchman Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) to Argentinean Martin Matalon (born 1958). ... Anna Caterina Antonacci was in glorious voice... ... François-Xavier Roth conducted Matalon’s memorable piece with the utmost conviction, reciprocated by BBCNOW in the presence of the composer, and this commanding partnership then gave an over-the-top account of Henry Wood’s 1915 orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition... 
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 |  A renowned figure in Germany, Scandinavia and North America, Herbert Blomstedt (born 1927) has never achieved comparable recognition in the UK, if only because he has not enjoyed a lasting relationship with any orchestra here. Yet as this Prom amply demonstrated, here is a conductor whose understanding of the physiognomy of an orchestra is as complete as any – especially when it is played out over a substantial and unfailingly coherent programme such as also reaffirmed the Abbado-founded Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester (with its upper age-limit of 26) to be an ensemble of international standing. 
Sondheim at 80
Saturday, July 31, 2010 |  Stephen Sondheim describes himself as a “playwright in song”; a description which has unwittingly done the man a disservice as with it he appears to rank his skills as a wordsmith over those as a composer. ... Judi Dench, who played Desirée in the National Theatre production of “A Little Night Music”, showed exactly why she won an Olivier Award for it. The part, originally written for actress Glynis Johns, has short phrases with a deliberately limited range to suit Johns’s voice. 
Hänsel und Gretel – Glyndebourne
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 |  The Glyndebourne showcase at the BBC Proms is always an anticipated event and a well-attended concert, though there were perhaps fewer children in the audience than one might have anticipated. However, it was the orchestral performance that was so enjoyable on this particular evening. Humperdinck’s score is full of sonic felicities, memorable tunes and vocal highlights. ... Those who saw the Glyndebourne production, either in the theatre or at one of the big-screen transmissions will have known that the singers of the title-roles in this production of “Hänsel und Gretel” do spend much of their time in activity – almost wearingly so – although there is a lot of playful and dance-like music in the score. Lydia Teuscher was a gangly, ever-mobile Gretel and Alice Coote’s Hänsel was an expert study of adolescent male movement... 
Family Prom
Monday, August 30, 2010 |  A Family Prom would have to be something to appeal to all ages, relatively short pieces in fairly easy musical styles. Recent years have seen popular innovations at the BBC Proms with the likes of Blue Peter, Dr Who, and MGM movies. This year has seen a celebration of the work of Stephen Sondheim in his eightieth year and a matinee of Rodgers & Hammerstein. ... The opening work, Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, is taken from his score for the 1942 film “The First of the Few”, comprises the film’s title music of brass fanfares followed by a march and the fugue, the film paying tribute to the designer of the Spitfire, R. J. Mitchell... 
Children's Prom
Monday, August 30, 2010 |  There was a sizeable audience for this morning “Children’s Prom”, with hordes of enthusiastic parents eager to introduce their offspring, many just babes in arms, to music spanning almost five centuries. Louise Fryer – she so dulcet of tone – and Basil Brush (surely irritating only to those adults who have lost touch with their child-selves) offered light-hearted spoken introductions to a diverting programme that was clearly designed to appeal to children’s innate sense of, and joy in, rhythm. 
Czech Philharmonic/Gardiner
Sunday, August 29, 2010 |  On paper this triple-decker concert, two of Dvořák's most popular works bookending Martinů's Sixth Symphony and Janáček's The Ballad of Blaník, offered an enticing prospect, especially with the Czech Philharmonic. In the event it was Grieg's Piano Concerto which stole the show. 
Minnesota Orchestra (2)
Saturday, August 28, 2010 |  A packed house greeted the Minnesota Orchestra for its second outing at this year’s Proms. Gil Shaham replaced Lisa Batiashvili in a Berg Violin Concerto that was as remarkable as the Beethoven symphony was not. ... Until the 1980s Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony was habitually performed on the penultimate night of each Proms season but since then has been repositioned to other evenings. 
Minnesota Orchestra (1)
Friday, August 27, 2010 |  Osmo Vänskä here made a welcome return to the Proms for the first of two concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra, of which he has been Music Director since 2003 (and will be until at least 2015). ... Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto (1959) followed in what was a Proms debut for American cellist Alisa Weilerstein. 
Jamie Cullum
Thursday, August 26, 2010 |  Making his humble Proms debut (all credit to his closing remarks urging the audience to keep its support for the institution strong), Jamie Cullum brought his trademark energy to Kensington Gore for a well-timed 90 minutes of jazz standards and self-penned hits. 
Hammered Out
Thursday, August 26, 2010 |  In a season peppered with cancellations, David Robertson was always scheduled to appear twice. Gil Shaham will now be doing the same, an illustrious cover for the indisposed Lisa Batiashvili in Berg’s Violin Concerto for Osmo Vänskä two days from this concert. 
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Wednesday, August 25, 2010 |  Bent Sørensen’s La mattina (The morning), his second piano concerto, was commissioned by the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, and is dedicated to Leif Ove Andsnes whose playing of Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s chorale ‘Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’ one evening at a piano-bar in Vienna had inspired the composer to write a concerto, which he started the next morning, hence the title. 
Sydney Symphony/Ashkenazy
Tuesday, August 24, 2010 |  As part of its European tour, which has so far taken in the Stresa and Lucerne festivals, the Sydney Symphony made a welcome visit to the Proms with Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Vladimir Ashkenazy. ... Hélène Grimaud had technique enough to spare... 
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Monday, August 23, 2010 |  The Royal Albert Hall can sometimes be an unforgiving venue for a chamber orchestra, the tone thin, the sound underpowered. This performance by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra showed that this need not be the case. In his second appearance at the 2010 Proms Thomas Dausgaard here presented another intriguing programme sandwiching Berlioz’s “Les nuits d’été” and a contemporary piece in between Schumann symphonic works. ... There was interest in hearing Swedish soprano Nina Stemme singing music outside her usual fach. 
The Magic Flute ... Cantata profana
Sunday, August 22, 2010 |  Inspiration was in greater supply for the Bartók piano concerto, especially with Richard Goode in prime form. ... Bartók’s “Cantata profana” was previously played at the Proms in 1963. 
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Sunday, August 22, 2010 |  This Promenade Concert was scheduled to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death on 23 August of Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960). However, you could not celebrate the work of the great American lyricist without mentioning composer Richard Rodgers (1902-79), for they enjoyed their greatest successes when working together. They had already collaborated with others. Rodgers arguably did more for the popular song with Lorenz Hart as his lyricist, than even his work with Hammerstein achieved; and Hammerstein had worked with the likes of Rudolf Friml on “Rose-Marie” (1924), with Sigmund Romberg on “The Desert Song” (1926) and “The New Moon” (1928) and with Jerome Kern on several shows including the groundbreaking “Show Boat”. 
Tannhäuser ... Rückert-Lieder ... Eroica
Saturday, August 21, 2010 |  The Philadelphia Orchestra clearly made a canny choice in appointing Yannick Nézet-Séguin as its Music Director from 2012, and it is hoped that he will continue as the Rotterdam Philharmonic’s MD, a role in which Prom 48 saw him endear himself to a near-capacity audience despite uneven performances. ... In the Mahler, it was sad that Simon Keenlyside’s voice is not in a good state at the moment. 
Cage Cardew Skempton Feldman
Friday, August 20, 2010 |  This late-night Prom offered one of the season's most interesting programmes, not only on account of its content. Above all, it marked the appearance of Cornelius Cardew's music at these concerts for the first time in virtually four decades though, inevitably, in a vastly different cultural context. ... All of which could not have found greater contrast than in Morton Feldman's Piano and Orchestra (1975) which ended the evening. 
The Foundry ... Pärt 4 ... Poem of Ecstasy
Friday, August 20, 2010 |  Pärt’s Fourth Symphony (Los Angeles) is not that different if unsurprisingly cooler and thinner in content. Gloomier too. Timpani obtrude in places although there’s only one patch of the forced Kancheli-like oppositional writing which disfigures Pärt’s large-scale “Lamentate”, ostensibly inspired by Anish Kapoor’s ‘Marsyas’ installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The dedication of the Fourth may or may not be a key to its own downbeat atmosphere... 
20 August 1962 [Dillon replacing Musgrave]
Thursday, August 19, 2010 |  This was a recreation (almost) of a Prom given on 20 August 1962 by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (currently in its 75th-year). Such generosity of programming reflected the norm back then; indeed today the Mozart, Liszt and Rimsky pieces, forming this concert’s first half, could well count, and be accepted, as a whole evening's worth. (Discuss.) For the August 1962 occasion the versatile and open-minded Norman Del Mar conducted; and, as a welcome update, the then-new piece (by Thea Musgrave) was replaced by a recent one by another Scottish-born composer, James Dillon. ... Like Norman Del Mar, Martyn Brabbins is an all-rounder... ... We then swapped one Boris for another, Giltburg for the “unable to appear” Berezovsky. ... James Dillon’s La navette (2001) for its 26 minutes (longer than the 20 suggested) engrossed the listener in its hallucinatory effects. 
Russian National Orchestra
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 |  After Ingo Metzmacher’s brilliant recontextualisation of Mahler’s Seventh and Andrew Litton’s bold miscellany of (pre-) historic Bach, there was always a danger that the Russian National Orchestra’s return to the Proms would seem less remarkable. Andrey Boreyko, best known as a proponent of contemporary music from the ex-Soviet bloc, failed to raise the temperature with the initial item on his inherited bill of fare, a tired and shapeless account of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture... 
Arvo Pärt's St John Passion
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 |  The first of two ‘Pärts’, if you like, the Proms celebrating the Estonian’s 75th-birthday with a dignified late-night performance of his “St John Passion” notable for one of the best-behaved audiences this reviewer can remember. Save for some cheering at the end, which went against the devotional and meditative spirit of the piece, those in the Royal Albert Hall were incredibly quiet throughout. 
Huw Watkins’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 |  Watkins’s new Violin Concerto proves a very likeable addition to the repertoire, its three concise movements (totalling 20 minutes) sometimes seeming a surprising throwback to Bartók, Prokofiev and Szymanowski (to various degrees), the ‘innocent ear’ might have guessed at a piece dating from the 1940s or 1950s and probably from an American composer, maybe Samuel Barber of William Schuman (1910 brings their centenaries) before finally settling on Peter Mennin. ... Written for Alina Ibragimova, who played superbly, this work’s restful conclusion seemed inevitable. 
LSO/Gergiev – Scriabin & Stravinsky
Monday, August 16, 2010 |  Scriabin
Symphony No.1 in E, Op.26
The Firebird 
The BBC Proms: A History
Friday, July 16, 2010 |  Robert Newman and Henry Wood staged the very first of “Mr Newman’s Promenade Concerts” (the event we now know as The BBC Proms) over 100 years ago, back in August 1895. 
LPO/Jurowski Julia Fischer
Sunday, August 15, 2010 |  A Night on the Bare Mountain was played in Rimsky-Korsakov’s well-meaning if sanitised version... ... Prokofiev’s great Third Symphony (deriving from his opera “The Fiery Angel”) should grab the listener by the throat and not let go. ... Although accommodating of Julia Fischer’s conception of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto he underplayed the orchestra’s pungency and edge... 
Bach on the Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Saturday, August 14, 2010 |  Probably one of the most famous of all Bach transcriptions is that by Leopold Stokowski of the (possibly spurious) Toccata and Fugue in D minor. It might have been pertinent to have heard another orchestration – that by Henry Wood, for instance – but the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the authoritative direction of Andrew Litton certainly made sure the piece made an impact. 
Bach on the Organ/David Briggs
Saturday, August 14, 2010 |  Given the participation of such a fine player as David Briggs, it was a pity that there was not more of an opportunity to hear other examples of ‘original’ Bach organ music (some of the Preludes and Fugues, for instance) during the course of this Bach Day. 
Verdi Dallapiccola Bruch Schumann
Friday, August 13, 2010 |  It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of Max Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto that you can fill the Royal Albert Hall with a Prom including a major work by Dallapiccola and a symphony by Schumann (never a crowd puller). ... Luigi Dallapiccola’s Partita was the work that made his name in Italy in the early 1930s... ... Simplicity and directness were the keywords in James Ehnes’s approach to the Bruch concerto. 
BBCSO/Bringuier Nelson Freire
Thursday, August 12, 2010 |  If we count Chopin as being French – his father was a Frenchman who went to Poland – then this Prom conducted Lionel Bringuier was an all-French affair. Topped and tailed by two of the most popular works in the repertoire, the concert’s major interest lay in the opportunity to hear Nelson Freire, one of the world's great but relatively unsung artists. This was coupled with a rare outing for Roussel's Third Symphony, a Koussevitzky commission to celebrate the Boston Symphony Orchestra's 50th-anniversary in 1930 and the work with which Roussel finally burst onto the international scene. 
Music of the Spheres
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 |  Thomas Dausgaard’s Prom-visits with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra have never lacked for innovation or ambition, though here he took these to new heights with a programme as unlikely as it was convincing: a three-part odyssey at whose centre was the UK premiere of a singular, indeed infamous work by Rued Langgaard. ... Completed in 1918, Music of the Spheres comes from the most radical phase of Langgaard’s output... 
Schreker, Korngold & Mahler/Metzmacher
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 |  This concert was of especial interest in its marking Ingo Metzmacher’s final appearance as Principal Conductor of Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and with a programme as ambitious as any during the three seasons of his tenure. ... After the interval came Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (1905) – his most equivocal and still among his least played, whatever that means these days. 
BBC Radio 3 World Routes Academy
Monday, August 09, 2010 |  It was simply the word “Iraq” in Ilham Al Madfai’s introduction to his first song “Khuttar” that caused the first whoops and cheers from the well-heeled crowd, predominantly Iraqi exiles. Hardly your usual Proms concert, but this late-night event with this Iraqi doyen of folk-music – dubbed the Baghdad Beatle because of his Paul McCartney imitation – together with a dashing young British-Iraqi oud player Khyam Allami, was pushing Henry Wood’s Proms blueprint to its limit. 
European Union Youth Orchestra
Monday, August 09, 2010 |  The European Union Youth Orchestra arrived without the indisposed Sir Colin Davis. In his stead Matthias Bamert was a steady pair of hands... ... Berlioz made it clear that Harold in Italy is a symphony and not a concerto (much to the chagrin of the work’s instigator, Nicolò Paganini)... ... Maxim Rysanov, a wonderful violist... 
Aimard & Nott
Monday, August 02, 2010 |  Four-and-a-half years after his debut with the orchestra, and following a brace of well-received appearances at last year's BBC Proms, Jonathan Nott here returned to the BBC Symphony for a concert of intriguing halves: the first of which proved to be as unlikely as the second was revelatory. ... ...Pierre-Laurent Aimard is well-versed in Mozartean niceties, but this account of K595 was oddly unsatisfying. 
Vom Himmel Hoch ... Threni
Wednesday, August 04, 2010 |  Obviously carefully planned, the players of the London Sinfonietta and the BBC Singers were present from the start, so Stravinsky’s Chorale Variations based on the second Bach piece... ... No such fault could be levelled at the revelatory performance of Stravinsky’s late, but first serial piece “Threni”. 
Mahler 3/Runnicles
Wednesday, August 04, 2010 |  With Mahler all around us, it is hard now to recall just how infrequent performances of his Third Symphony used to be. Both Barbirolli and Horenstein memorably championed it (in 1969 and 1970 respectively) but possibly because of its daunting scale – its lasts the better part of 100 minutes – the symphony hardly crops up at the Proms with anything like the regularity of Mahler's other works. So this was something of a special occasion. It also marked the recent arrival of the Edinburgh-born Donald Runnicles as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra... 
Messiaen & Mozart … Parry & Brahms
Sunday, August 08, 2010 |  Sir Andrew Davis’s conducting of Un sourire – which Messiaen composed in 1989 for the 200th-anniversary of Mozart’s death (1991) – made an appropriate as well as affecting opening to this BBC Prom. ... The concert's second half began with Hubert Parry’s Elegy for Brahms 
BBCSC, London Brass, O Duo – Wilful Chants
Sunday, August 08, 2010 |  Two masterpieces of twentieth-century French choral music began and ended the programme. Having chosen to perform Poulenc's great secular cantata “Figure humaine” (The Face of Humanity)... ... Born in 1908 and dying in 2002, the long-lived (Jean-Yves) Daniel-Lesur's sensual, at times positively erotic sacred cantata “Le cantique des cantiques” (Song of Songs) concluded the concert... ... In between came brass music by Toru Takemitsu, eloquently played by London Brass. ... All the forces, together with O DUO, came together for the new work by Stephen Montague. 
National Youth Orchestra of GB – Fantasias
Saturday, August 07, 2010 |  This proved a well-planned ‘fantasy’ Proms concert and generally a splendid showcase for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Semyon Bychkov – a genial, authoritative and lucid conductor – had the very talented young players on his side. ... Beginning the concert, Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice... ... Stealing the show though was Julian Anderson... ... Fantasias was composed for The Cleveland Orchestra, completed last year and first heard in November under Jonathan Nott. 
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Friday, August 06, 2010 |  A family bereavement prevented George Benjamin from conducting this late-night BBC Prom, but Ilan Volkov was available to direct this well-balanced programme of both potential and established modern classics. Oliver Knussen's Two Organa (1994) falls into the latter category... 
Paul Lewis Beethoven (3) [Hallé/Elder]
Friday, August 06, 2010 |  Three days after Dynamic Triptych, it was gratifying to record another festival first for John Foulds in this performance of April – England. ... Paul Lewis then joined reduced orchestral forces for the third instalment of his Beethoven piano concerto series... ... Some blemishes aside, there followed a superb reading of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. Mark Elder was careful not to give too much credence to the Hero early on... 
World Orchestra for Peace/Gergiev – Mahler
Thursday, August 05, 2010 |  On the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, Sir Georg Solti (1912-97) founded the World Orchestra for Peace, its players drawn from numerous orchestras, many of them concertmasters and section leaders, the orchestra having no existence outside the very special occasions that call it into being. When Solti died suddenly, shortly before a WOP concert, Valery Gergiev was invited to conduct in his place. 
Serenade to Music ... The Lark Ascending
Tuesday, August 03, 2010 |  Donald Runnicles (Chief Conductor since September last year but a regular visitor to Glasgow for several years beforehand) is doing a great job with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra... ... Manchester-born John Foulds (1880-1939, he died in India from cholera) – cellist (as a member of the Hallé Orchestra), pianist, musical experimenter, spiritualist and socialist – completed Dynamic Triptych in 1929... ... it again did in The Lark Ascending, Nicola Benedetti rather too calculated in her (finely honed) playing... 
Roméo et Juliette … Tristan und Isolde
Sunday, August 01, 2010 |  On the question of ‘authenticity’ (which is what the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment aspires to be about), I wonder just how ‘authentic’ it is to present excerpts from these two great works? I know the intention was to point up the links (and contrasts) between Berlioz and Wagner, and “Roméo et Juliette” and “Tristan und Isolde”… …Simon Rattle began at the Adagio marking and there was a noticeable distinctiveness about the orchestral sonority… 
Wayne Marshall Plays Wagner
Sunday, August 01, 2010 |  Edwin H. Lemare (1866-1934) must have had a phenomenal technique, as these transcriptions are incredibly challenging. Wayne Marshall undeniably rose to them... 
Late-night Dvořák & Mozart
Thursday, July 29, 2010 |  This was the second Prom this year due to have been conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, and featuring repertoire the late conductor held dear. While it would have been a nice touch for the required members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to perform these works without a conductor, the engagement of Douglas Boyd was a completely logical one. 
The Australian Youth Orchestra
Friday, July 30, 2010 |  Elder’s wonderful realisation helped in some way to mitigate the disappointments of the first half of a strangely planned concert. It began with a vacuous, mercifully short, inconsequential work by Brett Dean, but there must be better, more representative scores by which to judge him. ... This unappetising aperitif was followed by selections from Mahler’s glorious “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” songs. 
Paul Lewis Beethoven (2) [CBSO/Nelsons]
Thursday, July 29, 2010 |  This very fine concert offered further evidence that Andris Nelsons, who has been at the helm of the CBSO since 2008, is continuing the transformative work of his predecessors. By the end of the evening it was transparently clear why this conductor is now so highly esteemed in Birmingham and far beyond. ... Paul Lewis then continued his Proms 2010 cycle of Beethoven piano concertos with the Second. 
Doctor Who Prom (2)
Sunday, July 25, 2010 |  The Sunday morning after the Saturday evening: a repeat of the Doctor Who Prom. ... The attention of the many children that filled the hall was short at the best of times, only turning to wide-eyed amazement when Cybermen, Daleks, Silurians, Judoon, and the Vampires of Venice made their presence known throughout the hall. John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine was taken at a good speed and its cross-rhythms were well articulated but the rest the orchestra seemed to be playing the dots and marking time until the real music came back. 
BBCSO/Knussen Leila Josefowicz - Jubilee
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 |  Oliver Knussen can be relied on for imaginative but also intelligent concert planning, and so it proved with this Prom. A three-part programme lasting around 80 minutes might appear extravagant, even indulgent, but the sequence came together as naturally and as provokingly as intended. 
Beethoven – Paavo Järvi & Hilary Hahn
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 |  This programme revived the spirit of “Beethoven Night” at the BBC Proms for the second time in a week, and these were no ordinary performances. As its four-year Beethoven Project draws to a close, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie brought to the BBC Proms a taste of its Beethoven symphony cycle... ... Paavo Järvi and his orchestra launched into Beethoven’s First Symphony with such enormous force that the less than ideally coordinated opening chords were soon forgotten. ... Joining Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie for the Violin Concerto was Hilary Hahn. 
Medée … a table of noises … Till
Monday, July 26, 2010 |  Bookending this concert was the Overture to Cherubini’s opera “Medée” (1797) – suitably pulsating and expressive, but needing a smidgen more rehearsal time, especially for the violins – and Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel… …As for a table of noises (2007), one can wonder why two piccolo players are antiphonally placed, let alone standing… Simon Holt seems not to have wanted to write a conventional concerto… 
In Memory of Sir Charles Mackerras
Sunday, July 25, 2010 |  Sir Charles Mackerras was scheduled to conduct this BBC Prom, which became dedicated to his memory. As a suitable tribute to him, a Dvořák piece replaced one of the advertised Johann Strauss waltzes (the lovely Where the Lemon Trees Blossom), but surely it could have been an addition to the advertised programme played complete? ... Intrusive applause breaks concentration, which happened again in Schumann’s Piano Concerto of which Christian Zacharias gave an unaffectedly virile reading. 
Doctor Who Prom (1)
Saturday, July 24, 2010 |  A number of firsts for the annual BBC children’s franchise Prom (if I can put it like that); which was once the sole preserve of “Blue Peter” but which, in 2008, went intergalactic with the first Dr Who Prom. After last year’s turn to another venerable BBC one-man institution, Sir David Attenborough, for the Evolution Prom, the return to Dr Who marked two firsts... ... Only half-a-year in to his tenure as the eleventh regeneration of Dr Who, Matt Smith, along with his assistants and co-presenters here, Karen Gillen and Andrew Darvill (who play screen couple, Amy Pond and Rory Williams), have rapidly found their way into audiences’ hearts. When, towards the end, we saw ten of the ‘regenerations’ between the eleven Doctors (William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker to Peter Davison to Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy to Paul McGann, and from Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant to Matt Smith... 
Parry, Scriabin & Tchaikovsky
Friday, July 23, 2010 |  For many, this was the first highlight of this Proms season – the chance to hear a Parry symphony live – and we weren’t disappointed. Vassily Sinaisky gained his spurs in English music last Proms season with fine performances of E. J. Moeran’s Symphony and Elgar’s Second. He certainly proved to be the safe pair of hands required for Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s complex Fifth Symphony. 
Sinfonia da Requiem … Leningrad Symphony
Thursday, July 22, 2010 |  A somewhat gruelling programme from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, under its principal conductor Thierry Fischer, brought together three works written under the cloud of war, two of them particularly weighty. …Benjamin’s Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, completed in 1940, made a slightly awkward start to the concert… …Alexander Toradze launched into his solo part with such brio that the piano visibly shook… …Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony fared best. 
Maria João Pires – Chopin Nocturnes
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 |  There’s no such thing as coincidence, is there? Only an hour before the diminutive figure of Maria João Pires stepped on to the platform for that rare Proms accolade of a solo recital, Paul Lewis had been the soloist in Beethoven’s Fourth, the concerto Pires had played, unforgettably, at her last Proms appearance in 1999. The contrast between these two great players was telling, Lewis getting in touch with his feminine side, Pires, in her late-night programme of Chopin Nocturnes, constantly edging away from cosy enchantment to present these pieces in all their baffling inscrutability. 
Paul Lewis Beethoven (1) [BBCSO/Bělohlávek]
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 |  In Proms seasons of yesteryear a tradition of “Beethoven Nights” developed. This year that custom has been revived with two such evenings. The first of these (the second is on 27 July), played to a capacity audience, began Paul Lewis’s survey this season of Beethoven’s five numbered piano concertos. 
Where the Word Ends ... An Alpine Symphony
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 |  Semyon Bychkov directed a sizable programme that included a demanding recent work by the veteran polymath Gunther Schuller. Completed in 2006 as a commission for the Boston Symphony Orchestra's 125th anniversary, but premiered only 18 months ago under James Levine, Where the Word Ends might have been termed a 'symphonic fantasia'... ... After which, Mendelssohn's E minor Violin Concerto brought a return to the Proms for Viviane Hagner... 
Liverpool Phil/Petrenko Trpčeski – Manfred
Monday, July 19, 2010 |  Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic have been making a huge impact on audiences on Merseyside, and much further afield. This Proms appearance attracted a full house, and expectations were more than fulfilled, the concert demonstrating what a superb orchestra the Liverpool Phil currently is under the inspired guidance of Petrenko. ... Mahler’s re-orchestration of the Overture that begins Schumann’s incidental music for “Manfred” goes further... ... ...Simon Trpčeski’s approach would not be of the heart-on-sleeve variety. 
Simon Boccanegra [Plácido Domingo]
Sunday, July 18, 2010 |  Completing the operatically grandiose opening weekend of the 2010 BBC Proms season were Antonio Pappano and Royal Opera House forces in a semi-staged performance of “Simon Boccanegra”... ... Plácido Domingo’s tenorial presence in the baritone title-role was of course a major draw, and so the Hall and the Arena was absolutely packed. 
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [Bryn Terfel]
Saturday, July 17, 2010 |  The casting of Bryn Terfel as Hans Sachs in Welsh National Opera’s production of Wagner’s comic-opera made this concert a hot ticket even before the company’s performances in Cardiff and Birmingham began to collect highly favourable reviews. Given that a concert presentation of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” in a space as large the Royal Albert Hall risks losing much of its intimacy and humour... 
First Night of the Proms – Mahler 8
Friday, July 16, 2010 |  There can be few more exhilarating starts to a Proms season than the opening chord of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (the so-called "Symphony of a Thousand") and the massed sound of a huge chorus calling on the Spirit Creator to inspire and fill the soul. With some eight weeks of artistic creativity ahead that promises much – and this performance certainly set the barrier very high to start. 


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