All 2017 Prom Reviews

Prom 44: Bang on a Can All-Stars – Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Philip Glass, Louis Andriessen
Thursday, August 17, 2017 |  

There were more than the usual stage changes, necessitating the removal of five sets of seats around the stalls, to prepare for Bang on a Can’s thirtieth-anniversary Prom. This was only the New York ensemble’s second Proms performance, this birthday celebration opened with a new work, commissioned from Bang’s founder Michael Gordon especially for the Proms Youth Ensemble, New York’s finest and the Royal Albert Hall. Appositely, it’s entitled Big Space... ... The final piece was Louis Andriessen’s era-defining Workers Union which, as Thompson explained, is a score full of instructions but without specifying any exact pitches... 

Prom 43: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Charles Dutoit conducts Falla’s El amor brujo & Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony – Joshua Bell plays Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole
Thursday, August 17, 2017 |  It seems impossible that Charles Dutoit is now eighty, and not far short from turning eighty-one; as lithe as ever he conducted his tenth Prom... ... I learned my Falla at Dutoit’s knee, and it was great to hear such a vibrant and visceral performance of El amor brujo... ... With only its second Proms performance in the last fifty-six years, Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole made a very welcome reappearance... ... Joshua Bell’s eighteenth appearance at the Proms [...] sorted the wheat from the chaff... ... Following the presentation of the Gold medal, Dutoit directed a seriously cogent rendition of Saint-Saëns’s wonderful Symphony “avec orgue”... 
Prom 42: François-Xavier Roth conducts Les Siècles – Saint-Saëns, Delibes, Franck, Lalo – Cédric Tiberghien plays the Egyptian Piano Concerto & Les Djinns
Wednesday, August 16, 2017 |  The musicians of Les Siècles pride themselves on having an instrument for every occasion... ... ...and what a great way to start, with Camille Saint-Saëns’s Overture to The Yellow Princess... ... What followed was just as good, also full of Eastern Promise, François-Xavier Roth (who founded Les Siècles in 2003) enthusiastic for this delightful music, his conducting alert and devoted throughout, whether in the charms of the ballet music from Delibes’s set-in-British-India opera Lakmé... ... or the equally tuneful and vivid enchantment of selections from Lalo’s ballet-score Namouna... ... Some of the sights and sounds from one such trip found their way into his ‘Egyptian’ Concerto... Cédric Tiberghien performed on a Bechstein... 
Prom 41: Passages by Philip Glass & Ravi Shankar – Anoushka Shankar & Britten Sinfonia conducted by Karen Kamensek
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 |  Serendipitously programmed (there was no mention in the Proms Guide, nor in the meagre programme) for the exact seventieth-anniversary of Indian Independence (and Partition), Passages was the 1990 east-meets-west collaboration between old friends Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass... 
Prom 40: Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Robin Ticciati – Tragic Overture, Nocturne Insomnia, Rhenish Symphony – Christian Tetzlaff plays Berg’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 |  This was a concert of variable quality. It began with a somewhat disappointing account of Brahms’s Tragic Overture – disappointing in terms of basic pulse and of execution. Essentially, Robin Ticciati’s pulse was too fast... ... Despite such reservations, one looked forward to Berg’s Violin Concerto, with Christian Tetzlaff. ... This Prom’s second half opened with Thomas Larcher’s Nocturne – Insomnia... ... Schumann’s ‘Rhenish’ Symphony was worth the wait. 
Prom 39: Kazushi Ono conducts Debussy’s Faune & Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Hibiki – Inon Barnatan plays Ravel
Monday, August 14, 2017 |  At around fifty minutes, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Hibiki stands as one of the most substantial (along with the purely orchestral Speranza of 2012) of his concert works in the past two decades. Tokyo’s Suntory Hall was bold to commission such an extended work from a European composer to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 2016. In response Turnage produced a commemorative “secular requiem” addressing the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011 which in turn triggered the meltdown of several nuclear reactors at the Daiichi power plant in the prefecture of Fukushima. ... In the first half, Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun was languorous and restrained... ... It was quite a jolt to be pitch-forked into the carnival atmosphere of Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto. Inon Barnatan, carving a distinctive niche for himself with adventurous programming, was the superlative soloist. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM5 – Shostakovich – Alexander Melnikov & Latvian Radio Choir
Monday, August 14, 2017 |  Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues and his Poems on Texts by Revolutionary Poets both date from that period in the early-1950s when the composer was still trying to get back into Stalin’s good books by producing patriotic, unquestioning music. 
Prom 38: Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil (Vespers) – Latvian Radio Choir conducted by Sigvards Kļava
Sunday, August 13, 2017 |  Following its brief contributions to Prom 37 earlier in the evening, the twenty-four-piece Latvian Radio Choir and Sigvards Kļava returned to the Royal Albert Hall for Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, sometimes referred to as Vespers. 
Prom 37: Rachmaninov – Thomas Dausgaard conducts Symphony 2 & Alexander Gavrylyuk plays Piano Concerto 3 – Latvian Radio Choir sings Russian Orthodox chant
Sunday, August 13, 2017 |  This Prom reflected on the link between Russian Orthodox chant and the music of Rachmaninov. ... The similarity of the first chant – ‘Grob Tvoy, Spase’ (Thy tomb, O Saviour) to the opening theme of the Third Piano Concerto is striking... ... Dausgaard’s eyes scarcely left Alexander Gavrylyuk throughout, which did ensure everything stayed together... ... The second chant, this time sung from the Gallery and conducted by Sigvards Kļava, has less of a link to the Second Symphony... 
Prom 36: Thomas Dausgaard conducts Symphonies by Schubert (Unfinished) & Mahler (Tenth)
Saturday, August 12, 2017 |  Not your usual concatenation of random classics though Thomas Dausgaard might perhaps have considered giving us Brian Newbould’s completion of the Schubert. ... Making his first Proms appearance as chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the underrated Danish maestro was playing to his strengths... ... If the ‘Unfinished’ received the kind of quick-fire interpretation arguably best suited to smaller forces in smaller rooms, the Mahler/Cooke was outstanding by any standards. ... Otherwise slow to embrace Mahler as staple repertoire, the Proms has done well by the Tenth and Deryck Cooke’s performing version in particular. 
Proms at ... Southwark Cathedral – Palestrina & Judith Weir – BBC Singers & Nash Ensemble conducted by David Hill
Saturday, August 12, 2017 |  For its first “Proms at …” outing in London this season (the previous concert in the sequence of four had been in Hull), the focus turned not as far east as Greenwich last year (the Chapel of the Old Royal Naval College), but still was nestled south of the Thames, at Southwark Cathedral. ... ...David Hill, in his final concert as Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers, led a pair of connected Palestrina’s a cappella settings... ... To match Palestrina was the premiere of Judith Weir’s In the Land of Uz, which takes the biblical tale of Job (he of utmost patience) and pairs a tenor with the exquisitely mournful musings of a viola – Adrian Thompson and William Coleman respectively. 
Prom 35: John Wilson conducts Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! [evening performance]
Friday, August 11, 2017 |  It would be easy to write numerous superlatives and stop there. Oklahoma! was indeed excellent – the John Wilson Orchestra honed into an ensemble that comes to musicals as an early-music group might approach Monteverdi... ... Oklahoma! (first seen during 1943) was the first musical that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had collaborated on... ... Scarlett Strallen lifted the role of Laurey to another level. Lizzy Connolly’s Ado Annie was full of character and her ability to throw herself about the stage, at one point on her back... 
Prom 34: John Wilson conducts Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! [matinee performance]
Friday, August 11, 2017 |  Oh what a beautiful musical! Not a Proms first (there had been a concert version given in 2002, marking Richard Rodgers’s centenary, with Maureen Lipman reprising her award-winning National Theatre performance as Aunt Eller), but the first full Rodgers & Hammerstein to be presented by John Wilson and marking the Proms debut of Rachel Kavanaugh (no stranger to cowboys though, as she has directed Oklahoma! on tour, and also delighted Open Air Theatre audiences in Regent’s Park with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). And here full justice was done to Rodgers’s magnificent score and Hammerstein’s golden-touch adaptation of Lynn Riggs’s play. 
Prom 33: BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds – Peer Gynt, Karelia Suite, Mathis der Maler – Lise Davidsen sings Sibelius’s Luonnotar & Alban Gerhardt plays Schumann’s Cello Concerto
Thursday, August 10, 2017 |  It began with five carefully-chosen movements from Grieg’s Incidental Music for Ibsen’s “dramatic poem” Peer Gynt... ... John Storgårds’s tempos demonstrated his evident great care and attention to detail... ... ’Solveig’s Song’ featured Lise Davidsen. ... Sibelius had the good fortune to be taken up by great conductors during his long lifetime (only one-third of which was devoted to writing music), his popularity reinforced by the composition of ‘hits’ – Finlandia, Karelia Suite, Valse triste, and Swan of Tuonela especially. Others of his works remained almost inexplicably unknown, including the remarkably original ‘tone poem’ for soprano and orchestra Luonnotar... ... Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto is still not as fully appreciated as it might be... ... Alban Gerhardt’s warmth of tone and sensitivity of phrasing... ... To conclude: Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler Symphony of 1934. 
Prom 32: Ballad of Heroes, Purcell/Elgar, Enigma Variations, Leonard Elschenbroich premieres Brian Elias’s Cello Concerto – BBCNOW/Ryan Wigglesworth
Wednesday, August 09, 2017 |  This was the last of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s five Proms for this year, and its stylish playing has been a highlight of the season so far. ... The programme conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth opened with Benjamin Britten’s Ballad of Heroes... ... The diagram and table of figures in the programme intended to explain the workings of one of the movements of Brian Elias’s Cello Concerto rather made my spirits sink, but the work is far from intimidating. ... Natalie Clein, the Concerto’s dedicatee, withdrew because of illness and Leonard Elschenbroich replaced her. ... The more familiar the story of the “dark saying” that guides Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the more mysterious it becomes... 
Prom 31: John Eliot Gardiner conducts Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust
Tuesday, August 08, 2017 |  The Faust legend is one of those stories that, since the Renaissance, has never stopped giving. Of its various musical manifestations, including those by Gounod, Boito, Mahler and Busoni, Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust is the one that really runs with it for our modern, individualist times. Goethe’s introspective hero is vastly and Gallically over-romanticised in Berlioz’s treatment ... Sir John Eliot Gardiner, continuing his Proms Berlioz series, could not have made it clearer that Berlioz considered his Damnation of Faust as an opéra de concert in this vividly imagined performance. 
Prom 30: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits – Beethoven Symphony 1, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Seven They Are Seven, Belshazzar’s Feast
Monday, August 07, 2017 |  Beethoven rubbed shoulders with Richard Strauss in the first half of this Prom. The former’s First Symphony found Kirill Karabits stressing the lyrical nature of the slow introduction and the crisp elegance of the Allegro, keenly articulated by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. ... In 1946 the aging Richard Strauss looked to rescue music from Die Frau ohne Schatten, first staged in 1919 and not a huge success. ... The ante was raised following the interval, the one-hundred-and-fifty-strong National Youth Choir of Great Britain and David Butt Philip were unleashed on Prokofiev’s setting (1918/33) of Konstantin Balmont’s translation of a 3BC incantation from Mesopotamian about seven beings with destructive powers... ... With James Rutherford now in place, we were invited to Belshazzar’s Feast. Although it was graced by similarly impressive choral singing, unanimous in all musical particulars, this was not the most pristine or hedonistic account of one of William Walton’s masterpieces... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM4 – Baroque Cello Concertos by Platti, Vivaldi & Boccherini – Edgar Moreau, Il Pomo d’Oro & Maxim Emelyanychev
Monday, August 07, 2017 |  The cello’s emergence from the ensemble into a solo role was the theme of Il Pomo d’Oro’s Proms programme. And so it was not surprising that Edgar Moreau shone most beautifully when he was alone for an encore... 
Prom 29: Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, conducted by Semyon Bychkov
Sunday, August 06, 2017 |  It is astonishing that Mussorgsky’s unfinished history opera Khovanshchina (The Khovansky Affair) has survived to tell the tale of the political mayhem in seventeenth-century Russia... ... Rimsky-Korsakov has been much criticised for his first edition, but at least he kept this particular show on the road until 1959 when Shostakovich produced the score that is generally preferred, as here, and with a few additions from Semyon Bychkov. 
Prom 28: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Thomas Adès – Mural, Polaris, Rite of Spring
Saturday, August 05, 2017 |  Three Proms traditions of different vintages elided in this magnificent concert, namely the almost-annual appearance of Thomas Adès, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. ... The first half of this Prom opened with Francisco Coll’s Mural. ... Adès’s Polaris uses spatialisation of brass instruments (in this case around the Gallery) as a means of moving the music out of its usual confines. 
Prom 27: Ella and Dizzy – A Centenary Tribute – Dianne Reeves, James Morrison, John Mauceri
Friday, August 04, 2017 |  Honouring ‘jazz greats’ has become something of a staple over recent Proms seasons, often with little reason other than to fill-out the schedule, though when it comes to Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, whose centenaries fall in April and October, there was an imperative to mark the occasions in style. Thus it was that Dianne Reeves and James Morrison, who both worked closely with Fitzgerald and Gillespie, and can claim direct succession with authority, joined the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Mauceri for this centenary tribute. 
Prom 26: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Järvi – Erkki-Sven Tüür & Brahms – Vilde Frang & Lawrence Power play Mozart K364
Thursday, August 03, 2017 |  I have rarely heard a gentler or more sensitive account of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante (K364); every phrase was nurtured with care by soloists and orchestra alike. Vilde Frang’s sweet-toned violin was ideal and Lawrence Power was at one with her in phrasing, as indeed was the Bremen orchestra. ... In the Brahms, the playing of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen was immaculate. In particular the horns were mellow or bold according to requirements despite their strange placing half-hidden behind the double-basses. Paavo Järvi’s was an unusually romantic reading. 
Prom 25: John Eliot Gardiner conducts Heinrich Schütz & Johann Sebastian Bach – Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists
Wednesday, August 02, 2017 |  Amongst this year’s Proms foci, the five-hundredth-anniversary of Luther’s Reformation tops even the four-hundredth-and-fiftieth anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth. ... ...John Eliot Gardiner – taking a break from Monteverdi celebrations – turned to Schütz, specifically three 1617 Psalm settings, written for the centenary of the Reformation, before ending with a pair of Bach’s Lutheran cantatas from a century later. 
Prom 24: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in Vom Himmel hoch & Naive and Sentimental Music – Marianne Crébassa sings Shéhérazade
Wednesday, August 02, 2017 |  In addition to the nod to the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation (explored further in the late-night concert immediately after) and John Adams’s seventieth birthday, this Prom marked the (unstated) twenty-fifth appearance of Esa-Pekka Salonen at this festival. His first appearance, in 1985, was with the Philharmonia... ... Farewell Voices, and welcome just one – that of Marianne Crébassa with a performance that melted thousands of hearts at the very first word: “Asie”. ... ...a rapturous account of Ravel’s Shéhérazade... ... Following the interval, with enlarged orchestra again – guitar and panoply of percussion included – came John Adams’s symphony-in-all-but-name Naïve and Sentimental Music. 
Prom 23: William Christie conducts Handel’s Israel in Egypt – Choir & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Tuesday, August 01, 2017 |  Israel in Egypt is famous – even notorious – as one of Handel’s grandest choral conceptions, with its great sweep of double choruses narrating the portentous events of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt following the Ten Plagues, and causing it to be favoured by choral societies and professional choirs since at least Victorian times. ... This rendition conducted by William Christie restored Handel’s original version. With a few cuts made, principally in Part Three, the chorus was again to the fore in the high proportion of numbers allotted to it. 
Prom 22: Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (1610) – Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon
Monday, July 31, 2017 |  In bringing a work such as Monteverdi’s Vespers out of church and into concert halls entails making a decision as to whether a performance should retain an essentially liturgical character or exploit the opportunity for greater dramatic variety and impact. Raphaël Pichon’s interpretation with Pygmalion fell decisively with the former, and not simply because it was presented formally as though in the context of an ecclesiastical ritual (minus incense and vestments!) with plainsong interspersed among the movements, and ending with a Latin ‘Conclusio’ that reprised the opening fanfare to new words amidst other chant. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM3 – From the Kalevala to Kaustinen: Finnish Folk and Baroque Music
Monday, July 31, 2017 |  There’s no BBC-branded Prom this year (Blue Peter, Horrible Histories, Desert Island Discs...) but it struck me that Cadogan Hall’s weekly Proms Chamber Music fix is like Doctor Who’s TARDIS. ... We were taken back four-hundred years (and more) as well as shifted some 1,500 miles north-east to early modern Finland, with a quintet of Doctors Who in the shape of Anu Komsi and her instrumental cohorts... 
Prom 21: James MacMillan’s European Requiem & Beethoven’s Choral Symphony – BBCNOW/Xian Zhang
Sunday, July 30, 2017 |  The programme note for Sir James MacMillan’s A European Requiem makes the point that it was composed before last year’s UK EU referendum, so that any political agenda that might accrue to the work will be solely in the ear of the beholder. Even so, it made a stark contrast against Beethoven’s vision of universal brotherhood in his ‘Choral' Symphony, firmed up by MacMillan’s deconstruction of the ‘Ode to Joy’ anthem. 
Prom 20: BBC Philharmonic/Mark Wigglesworth – David Sawer & Joseph Haydn – Stephen Hough plays Brahms
Saturday, July 29, 2017 |  Anyway, to the Brahms, one of the mightiest of Piano Concertos... ... So, from a good-enough relay over the Internet, the BBC Philharmonic a little recessed, and Mark Wigglesworth ensured an attention-grabbing timpani roll and incisive strings – this is music with a grand if tragic import – letting the lengthy orchestral introduction set the scene admirably. Stephen Hough’s first entrance was nicely dovetailed with what had preceded it... ... The highly unusual source of inspiration for David Sawer’s The Greatest Happiness Principle (1997) is philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s 1791 design for the penitentiary which was to have been built on Millbank in London. 
Prom 19: Relaxed Prom
Saturday, July 29, 2017 |  Last year one of the two CBeebies Proms, this year the first Relaxed Prom – I seem to have become the Classical Source fall-back “kids’ Prom” reviewer since my seven-year-old son, Alex, has bestowed a credibility in such matters that I would lack as a lone adult. ... The concert was presented by Andy Pidcock, with Grant Llewellyn conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and their interaction was almost always referred back to the audience for a reaction. ... ...Llewellyn asked us to conduct Brahms’s Sixth Hungarian Dance along with him and see if we could cope with the changes of tempo. Pidcock interrupted Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz and asked the musicians to play a rather crude one he said he had composed... ... The Doctor Who theme music was introduced by the voice of a Dalek... 
Prom 18: Sea Hawk, Sirens, Scheherazade – BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Gaffigan
Friday, July 28, 2017 |  The sea in various forms provided the linking thread for this programme... ... This year’s Proms Prospectus naturally lists the music to be performed, but those who know a thing or two about Erich Wolfgang Korngold [...] have been curious as to what we were going to hear first in this concert, the music rather confusingly titled “The Sea Hawk – Overture”... ... James Gaffigan directed an adequate performance... ... Perhaps Gaffigan was thinking of the following work in terms of held-back tempos, for Anders Hillborg’s half-hour long Sirens, for two sopranos, chorus and orchestra, threw into relief the freshness and unflagging inspiration of Rimsky-Korsakov... ... Gaffigan’s account of Scheherazade came as a return to normality. 
Prom 17: Mark Simpson’s The Immortal & Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony – BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena
Thursday, July 27, 2017 |  Mark Simpson, now in his late-twenties, is prodigiously gifted. Not only is he a BBC Young Musician of the Year clarinettist who really knows how to squeeze a nuance, he is also a composer of startling originality. The Immortal had its first performance in Manchester in 2015, with this Prom's orchestra and conductor. ... The Victorian era was obsessed by the occult, and one of its supposedly rationalist luminaries was Frederic Myers, who founded the Society for Psychical Research. ... The Immortal’s spectral vision of death inevitably poured into Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony, if with less visceral grandiloquence. Mena has given the BBC Philharmonic a distinctive style... 
Prom 16: Hamlet, From the Cradle to the Grave, Pictures at an Exhibition – Steven Osborne premieres Julian Anderson’s The Imaginary Museum – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ilan Volkov
Wednesday, July 26, 2017 |  This Prom was notable, above all, for the first performance (nineteen years since he first had a work premiered at these concerts) of Julian Anderson’s The Imaginary Museum... ... Not that Steven Osborne was other than convincing in the demanding solo part, with Ilan Volkov securing playing from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra of dexterity and finesse. ... Either side of the Anderson came rare revivals (at least in the UK) of two of Liszt’s most exploratory Symphonic Poems. Surprising that Hamlet (1858) is not heard more often... 
Prom 15: The Songs of Scott Walker (1967-70) – Jarvis Cocker, John Grant, Richard Hawley, Susanne Sundfør, Jules Buckley
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 |  Scott Walker has earned the rare reputation as a pioneering force as a singer and songwriter, with his works interpreted and cited as an influence by illustrious artists such as Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Radiohead. ... Jarvis Cocker emerged as the first of the featured artists, rendering ‘Boy Child’ as a pensive and pendulous lullaby. ... Susanne Sundfør opened with a thrilling version of ‘On Your Own Again’... ... John Grant’s velvety baritone set him apart as the natural successor to Walker’s mantle. ... In ‘It’s Raining Today’ Richard Hawley echoed Walker’s contemplative, melancholy tone... 
Prom 14: Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Ninth Symphony & Gustav Holst’s The Planets – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 |  The Royal Albert Hall knows him best as the man who extended the concept of authentic period performance to the work of the great twentieth-century songwriters and their arrangers but, in the ten years since John Wilson first directed a programme of Great British Film Music with the BBC Concert Orchestra, he has emerged as a significant interpreter of concert pieces from both sides of the Atlantic. ... Some listeners may already have perceived the Holstian shards in last week’s John Williams Prom (No.8). And there’s a further hidden Hollywood connection in that it was Henry Wood who conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s first stab at The Planets, on 14 July 1925. ... Wilson’s love of Vaughan Williams is no secret – he has conducted many of the Symphonies and recently took on the Five Tudor Portraits with the CBSO. His Ninth, placed first on the bill, promised to revive memories of 2008’s Vaughan Williams Anniversary Prom at which Sir Andrew Davis excelled. 
Prom 13: Malcolm Sargent's 500th Prom conducted by Andrew Davis – ...Cockaigne, Façade, The Perfect Fool, First Cuckoo in Spring... – Beatrice Rana plays Schumann’s Piano Concerto
Monday, July 24, 2017 |  ...I overheard a conversation between two younger concert-goers querying who Sir Malcolm Sargent was – and why was there a Prom named after him. ... So, marking the half-century since Sargent’s death with a repeat of the five-hundredth Prom that he conducted, on 23 July 1966 (that season’s first night), it was entirely suitable that Sir Andrew Davis led the self-same wide-ranging programme. ... Fifty years ago, Sargent’s soloist in Schumann’s Piano Concerto was Moura Lympany, but no British pianist of any gender was on hand for this concert – so the soloist was the twenty-four-year-old Italian Beatrice Rana... ... ...as convincing today as it must have been in the year of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ and The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM2 – Van Kuijk Quartet & Annelien Van Wauwe – Webern, Durupt, Mozart
Monday, July 24, 2017 |  If the Van Kuijk Quartet saved the crowd-pleasers until later – when joined by Annelien Van Wauwe – in many ways the more interesting performances were at the beginning. ... Anton Webern’s Langsamer Satz comes from his Romantic youth, when under the influence of Schoenberg... ... Contrast is fundamental to Laurent Durupt’s Grids for Greed, a ten-minute opus essentially about tension... ... Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet was a world away, delivered in a genteel, exact reading... 
Prom 12: Ten Pieces Presents ... Sir Henry's Magnificent Musical Inspirations! [second concert]
Sunday, July 23, 2017 |  There was a distinct Doctor Who feel to this Ten Pieces Prom. A time traveller was summoned to the Royal Albert Hall pursued by a malevolent cosmic leader in female clothing. ... The Time Traveller was Sir Henry Wood, co-instigator of the Proms in 1895... ... Music from William Walton’s Henry V score (for Olivier’s film) and the opening of Vivaldi’s Gloria kept the mood upbeat, while some of the Finale from Ravi Shankar’s Symphony (with sitar) and the first of Peter Sculthorpe’s Island Songs (featuring Jess Gillam) provided a lovely contrast in cultural diversity. 
Prom 11: Ten Pieces Presents ... Sir Henry's Magnificent Musical Inspirations! [first concert]
Sunday, July 23, 2017 |  The Ten Pieces project has now reached over four-million young people since 2010 with the aim of getting them to produce creative responses to classical music. The latest outing at the Proms (this concert the first of two) modified previous formats with Rory Kinnear as Sir Henry Wood explaining how composers through the ages have been inspired by various subjects. 
Prom 10: Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon – Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen & Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony
Saturday, July 22, 2017 |  Four years running Nicholas Collon and Aurora Orchestra have astounded Proms audiences with an audacious feat of memory – Mozart and Beethoven Symphonies: now the ‘Eroica’ ... The last couple of years at the Proms Tom Service has been on hand with Collon to help explain the workings of the Symphony in question. ... ...before ending with a more-detailed look at the second-movement ‘Funeral March’; and, finally, showing how – nearly one-hundred-and-fifty years later – Richard Strauss quotes from it in Metamorphosen. 
Proms at ... [email protected], Hull – Water Music with Royal Northern Sinfonia & Nicholas McGegan [first sailing]
Saturday, July 22, 2017 |  A city decked with rainbow flags and banners, locals and visitors – including an unusual number of “morris sides” – sang and played music in a carnival atmosphere for the first “Pride in Hull”. Alongside was a smaller event, just as significant – the Proms venturing outside of London for the first time, to Hull to mark the three-hundredth-anniversary of Handel’s Water Music. ... Grace Evangeline Mason was the winner of the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition in 2013. Now studying at the Royal Northern College of Music, RIVER commemorates the anniversary of Handel’s Water Music and was recently first-performed on the River Thames... ... Grace Williams’s Sea Sketches (1944) is of five movements for strings. 
Prom 9: Beethoven’s Fidelio – Ricarda Merbeth & Stuart Skelton – BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena
Friday, July 21, 2017 |  After recent productions in which direction has run amok, a concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio was an enticing prospect, but initially this Prom, led by the BBC Philharmonic and its chief conductor Juanjo Mena, didn’t fire on all cylinders. ... The ‘Mir ist so wunderbar’ quartet, dramatically the most intractable event in the opera, had the desired out-of-time magic and introduced us to Ricarda Merbeth’s Fidelio (Leonore in disguise)... ... The other factor that can make Fidelio so lopsided is the long wait for the prisoner Florestan in the deepest dungeon, and Stuart Skelton lived up to expectations. 
Prom 8: Celebrating John Williams – Jaws, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, The Witches of Eastwick, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – BBC Concert Orchestra/Keith Lockhart
Thursday, July 20, 2017 |  John Williams may have won five Academy Awards, twenty-two Grammys and seven BAFTAs but his greatest achievement is that he kept the art of orchestral film-music alive when it was being threatened in the early-1970s. With Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) the epic sound established in the 1930s once again became a viable choice in Hollywood. ... Keith Lockhart, the successor to Williams at the Boston Pops, is an experienced hand at this sort of programme and the BBC Concert Orchestra, moments of rough ensemble aside, played with spirit throughout. ... Williams excels at capturing the imaginative world of children. ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ is from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and was then used as the main subject for the following Potter movies. 
Prom 7: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Joshua Weilerstein – Les élémens & Symphonie fantastique – Alisa Weilerstein gives UK premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Outscape
Wednesday, July 19, 2017 |  A French Prom, with music covering three centuries: from Jean-Féry Rebel’s 1737 ballet to Pascal Dusapin’s new work for cello and orchestra, composed for Alisa Weilerstein, and first-performed just over a year ago with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. ... It was Joshua Weilerstein’s idea to open with the most risqué sound of the evening, the dissonance of ‘Chaos’... ... A vast increase in forces was required for the second half. Despite Joshua Weilerstein’s stated liking for making one of his favourite pieces “as hallucinogenic and crazy as possible” this was an admirably prepared and presented account of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique... 
Prom 6: BBCNOW/Thomas Søndergård – October & Sibelius 2 – Nicola Benedetti plays Shostakovich
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 |  This team’s second helping of Sibelius and Shostakovich at this year’s Proms included a real rarity in the form of the latter’s symphonic poem, October (1967). It is an occasional piece, hastily composed and not especially distinguished, though, as with Mahler, its shortcomings may now be ‘read’ as ironically intended and/or, in the Russian’s case, politically motivated. ... Few commentators have ever doubted the sincerity of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, certainly not Nicola Benedetti who has also thought deeply about the long shadow cast by its dedicatee. Where David Oistrakh had the moral authority and life experience to play the work with his “luscious free sound”, younger players feel the need to go further... ... It helped that Thomas Søndergård and BBCNOW were active collaborators rather than retreating to a grey middle distance. 
Prom 5: BBCNOW/Thomas Søndergård – Sibelius 7 & Shostakovich 10 – Behzod Abduraimov plays Rachmaninov
Monday, July 17, 2017 |  In the first of two successive Proms appearances, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales showed its polish to advantage under Thomas Søndergård. Their ease with Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony was abundantly clear. ... The restraint and mood of the Sibelius passed into the hands of Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov whose undemonstrative rendition of Rachmaniov’s Second Piano Concerto was ear-catching... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM1 – I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth – Claudio Monteverdi & Roderick Williams
Monday, July 17, 2017 |  Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini celebrated Monteverdi’s 450th-anniversary and their twenty-first in typically effervescent style. ... Roderick Williams appeared, not as a baritone, but as composer: a new working of ‘Là ci darem la mano’. 
Prom 4: Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim – Elgar Symphony 2 – UK premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s Deep Time
Sunday, July 16, 2017 |  For the second of their two Proms, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin contrasted works by Elgar and Birtwistle written over a century apart... ... Dedicated to the memory of his friend and Manchester School contemporary Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle's Deep Time (2016), premiered in Berlin last month, is a dark, brooding canvas. ... Elgar's Symphonies may have long been in Barenboim's repertory but in this reading of the Second he was more truculent than usual, mirrored also in the two encores – 'Nimrod' (Enigma Variations) and a brisk First Pomp and Circumstance March (‘Land of Hope and Glory' in Proms-speak) failing, smiles and cheers notwithstanding, to get much of a stir out of the audience). 
Prom 3: Bernard Haitink conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Mozart & Schumann – Isabelle Faust plays Violin Concerto K216
Sunday, July 16, 2017 |  Now eighty-eight, in charge of his eighty-ninth Prom, Bernard Haitink has never been a conductor of extremes or histrionics. To this classic mix of Mozart and Schumann he brought all his customary elegance, refinement and culture. ... The ‘Prague’ Symphony journeyed its way pruned of structural signposting. ... Sharing the chamber-music spirit of the afternoon, playing from music, happy to join in the elation of the tuttis, Isabelle Faust gave an intimately gauged performance of the G-major Violin Concerto... ... In Schumann's Second Symphony Haitink set a tone less to do with Beethovenian reverence than a Bach to Mendelssohn odyssey via the open-fifths of Haydn's ‘London’ Symphony... 
Prom 2: Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim – Elgar Symphony 1 – Lisa Batiashvili plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, July 15, 2017 |  The end of the Proms season was upon us a little early to close this invigorating concert by Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim. He decided, for whatever reason, to play Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 (aka ‘Land of Hope and Glory’) to a bemused audience. ... Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, with Lisa Batiashvili, opened the evening with a whisper. ... Perhaps Barenboim avoids Sibelius because the slightly remote Finn (from mainstream European musical style) wrote such spare scores, even in the Concerto. No such worries seem to occur to him when guiding us through the full-blown sonorities of Elgar’s glorious First Symphony. 
First Night of the Proms 2017 – Edward Gardner conducts Tom Coult’s St John’s Dance and John Adams’s Harmonium – Igor Levit plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.3
Friday, July 14, 2017 |  And so the world’s longest and possibly greatest music festival comes round again. 2017 may be a little thin on significant musical anniversaries but the BBC has been intimately involved with the Proms for ninety years, give or take a little local difficulty during the early years of the Second World War. ... The programming of Harmonium, one of John Adams’s breakthrough works, composed in 1980 between Shaker Loops and the Grand Pianola Music, provided the First Night with a suitably sensational launch... ... The concert had begun with Tom Coult’s six-minute commission... ... Between the two contemporary utterances, Igor Levit brought intimacy and poise to Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, fresh from his recent journey through all the composer’s Piano Sonatas at Wigmore Hall. 
As you’ve never heard us before... Alan Davey – Controller BBC Radio 3 – a Proms Blog for Classical Source [begins July 14]
Friday, July 07, 2017 |  This year at the Proms we are celebrating the ninetieth anniversary of the BBC taking responsibility for what was already a popular festival – saving it from bankruptcy. ... From the opening notes of Tom Coult’s new piece St John’s Dance conducted on the first night by Ed Gardner, through Bernard Haitink conducting Mozart and Schumann, Beethoven’s Fidelio, a recreation of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s 500th Prom, Oklahoma! with the fantastic John Wilson Orchestra, Water Music in Hull, Finnish Folk music AND Sibelius, Music of the Reformation, Sakari Oramo’s Mahler 2, late-night Bach by Sir András Schiff, an ‘Open Ear’ Prom of contemporary music in the Tanks at Tate Modern , the first complete live performance of Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass’s album Passages... 

 

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