All 2018 Prom Reviews

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Prom 75: Andrew Davis conducts The Last Night, with Gerald Finley & Jess Gillam
Saturday, September 08, 2018 |  Anyone counting on programme information from the BBC Proms website might have been surprised that Roxanna Panufnik’s Songs of Darkness, Dreams of Light that was due to start the Last Night festivities sounded remarkably like Hindemith’s sparkling Overture to News of the Day. The switch was sensible as the BBCSO bristled along for a high-spirited start. 
Prom 74: Handel’s Theodora conducted by Jonathan Cohen, with Louise Alder, Iestyn Davies & Ann Hallenberg
Friday, September 07, 2018 |  Handel’s penultimate oratorio, about the martyrdom of the saint, Theodora, for Christian beliefs in fourth-century Antioch, provided a serious and sobering offering ahead of the revelries of the Last Night of the Proms. ... For all the steady and crisp attention to the music of both sides by Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen, a vivid and dramatic dimension might have argued the case better for the oratorio’s theme of freedom of thought and conscience... ... Louise Alder was dignified and unwavering... 
Prom 73: Before the Ending of the Day – Tallis Scholars & Peter Phillips
Thursday, September 06, 2018 |  Appositely – after Britten’s invocation to “Let us sleep now” in War Requiem heard in the evening’s first Prom – the final late-night concert this season was a seamless musical exploration of Compline – the Catholic final prayers “before the ending of the day”. With music ranging over 850 years – from Hildegard of Bingen, sung as the fourteen ladies and sixteen gentlemen of the Tallis Scholars processed through the middle of the Arena to the stage, to Arvo Pärt’s Nunc Dimittis (2001) – the seven main items were interspersed... 
Prom 72: Peter Oundjian conducts Britten’s War Requiem
Thursday, September 06, 2018 |  The centenary of the end of the First World War has been a constant presence in this year’s Proms, with three major Requiem settings and much other specifically war-related music besides. Britten’s War Requiem, last mounted at the Proms in 2014 to mark the start of the First World War, is the biggest of these choral juggernauts, and this performance also marked the centenary of the death of Wilfred Owen... ... This was Peter Oundjian’s final concert as the RSNO’s music director... 
Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner conducts Berlioz with Joyce DiDonato and Antoine Tamestit
Wednesday, September 05, 2018 |  A teacher of long ago wrote off Berlioz as a “frightful vulgarian who confused gesture and content”. I think she would have both gone into orbit and, I hope, reconsidered her stance with this Berlioz Prom from John Eliot Gardiner and his nineteenth-century period Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in two big scenes for two tragic queens, two vivid blockbusters and a Symphony with a viola-player on walk-about. 
Prom 70: Tango
Tuesday, September 04, 2018 |  This was the Proms first foray into Tango and was launched by Katie Derham rocking a voluminous androgynous black-and-white Pierrot satin trouser suit – the antithesis of Tango attire. An ominous start! 
Prom 69: Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons II – Shostakovich 4 – Baiba Skride plays Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade
Monday, September 03, 2018 |  Long marketed as “The Aristocrat of Orchestras”, today’s Boston Symphony Orchestra is a magnificent ensemble, buffed to perfection in short order by a super-competent maestro... ... Back at the Royal Albert Hall, the absence of an overture meant that the opening, unaccompanied measures of the Serenade were always likely to be obscured by bronchial explosions and cascading plastic tumblers. ... While everyone under a certain age plays it now, few do so with the rapt commitment and composure of Baiba Skride. ... With serried ranks of participants including a string section about one third larger, Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony looked a better fit. ... Andris Nelsons was closer to Kondrashin in matters of tempo... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 8/Proms Chamber Music – Soloists of the Berliner Philharmoniker with Alasdair Beatson
Monday, September 03, 2018 |  This last of the weekly Proms Chamber Music recitals also featured its final new commission in the guise of Baca (2018) by the Slovenian composer Nina Šenk. The title – Latin for 'bead' – referring to the process of making glass, by extension to the concept of breaking the glass ceiling, this eight-minute piece demonstrated a sure sense of how to extract full variety from its diverse septet ... ...these were scarcely an issue given the excellence of the playing – as Emmanuel Pahud, Amihai Grosz and Marie-Pierre Langlamet brought out its myriad subtleties in gratifyingly full measure. 
Prom 68: Berliner Philharmoniker/Kirill Petrenko II – Richard Strauss & Beethoven
Sunday, September 02, 2018 |  There is a story – it may just be an urban myth – that the BBC once turned down a proffered Proms visitation by the Bavarian State Orchestra and Kirill Petrenko, possibly on the grounds that his unrelated Wirral-based namesake had cornered the domestic market in Petrenkos. Kirill and his Bavarians did finally appear at the Barbican Hall this June for a breathtaking, controversially quick-fire Mahler Seventh. Be that as it may, the conductor’s 2018 Proms dates with the Berlin Philharmonic were yet more eagerly awaited. 
Prom 67: Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons I – Mahler 3 with Susan Graham
Sunday, September 02, 2018 |  Mahler may have turned away from the chain-of-creation programme in the original titles for the six movements of his Symphony No.3, but having been planted their imagery will never go away. Indeed, in a performance such as this from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons, the meaning behind the titles positively thrived. 
Prom 66: Berliner Philharmoniker/Kirill Petrenko I – Paul Dukas & Franz Schmidt – Yuja Wang plays Prokofiev
Saturday, September 01, 2018 |  Much of the interest in the Berlin Philharmonic's brace of Proms centre on the orchestra's Chief Conductor designate, as (save for passing engagements with the London Philharmonic and Royal Opera) Kirill Petrenko is largely an unknown quantity in the UK. ... The scene was set with as fine a rendering of La Péri (1912) as one is likely to hear. Dukas's final major work... ... If Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto (1921) was disappointing in comparison, this was largely on account of the solo playing – Yuja Wang seemingly content to channel her formidable pianism into skirting over the surface of this music to immaculate yet largely vacuous effect. ... Fortunately the balance was redressed after the interval, with an impressive reading of Franz Schmidt's Fourth Symphony... 
Proms at … Alexandra Palace Theatre – Jane Glover conducts Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury
Saturday, September 01, 2018 |  It may have been "beautifully restored to a state of frozen decay" (to quote Kate Romano's programme note), but the recently re-opened Alexandra Palace Theatre (think Wilton's Music Hall as re-imagined for the petit bourgeoisie) seems to have retained much of the evocative atmosphere which it surely possessed around the time of its opening over one-hundred-and-forty years ago. ... ...Jane Glover opened proceedings with the sparkling Overture that the teenage Arthur Sullivan wrote for a Leipzig production of The Tempest; its Mendelssohnian deftness duly making way for an aria from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Hiawatha's Wedding Feast... ... The subsequent half consisted of Trial by Jury – the second collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan, and a judiciously realised one-acter with momentous consequences for Victorian music-theatre. 
Prom 65a: Youssou Ndour & Le Super Étoile de Dakar
Friday, August 31, 2018 |  “The king of African ballad music! You can dance! If you want to sing you can!" Thus Youssou Ndour was announced to us all by his faithful drummer bedecked in a custard-yellow tunic. Thus begun what was originally Prom 53 (August 21) on this year’s calendar. 
Prom 65: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Semyon Bychkov – La valse, Berio’s Sinfonia, The Rite of Spring
Friday, August 31, 2018 |  Despite a series of “Further Performances at the Proms” notifications throughout this year’s printed programmes promising, in Prom 65, The Rite of Spring by one Richard Strauss, I’m glad to report that Semyon Bychkov stuck resolutely to Stravinsky’s work. ... The colour reproduction for the opening work was also apt by Félix Édouad Vallotton, ghostly dancers without feet – for Ravel’s evocation of Vienna... ... The combining of Ravel and Stravinsky were for a specific purpose, as Bychkov had unfinished Proms business. In 2014 he was due to conduct the EUYO in a performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia... 
Prom 64: London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Verdi’s Requiem
Thursday, August 30, 2018 |  Verdi’s Requiem, in all its barnstorming, penitential glory, is a natural fit for the Proms and the Royal Albert Hall, but I wonder if I have heard a performance that so successfully steers a course through its drama without labouring or relying on its operatic provenance. The guiding light behind this excoriating and immensely involving account was the London Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada. 
Prom 63: András Schiff plays Book Two of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier
Wednesday, August 29, 2018 |  Having undertaken the First Book of the Well-Tempered Clavier at a late-night Prom last year, András Schiff completed his traversal of the ‘48’ with another extraordinary feat of concentration and stamina. As before, he performed Bach’s second set of Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues in all the major and minor keys from memory, communing with the myriad variety of the composer’s contrapuntal facility and generally drawing the audience in rather than making any extrovert projection or display. 
Prom 62: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko – Elgar & Bartók – Adela Zaharia gives premiere of Iain Bell’s Aurora, Miah Persson sings Richard Strauss
Wednesday, August 29, 2018 |  Light and warmth are not phenomena that spring to mind in relation to Romanticism and Modernism in music, which tend to prefer exploring the darker regions of inward and outward experience. But for this Prom, as the summer starts to draw to a close, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic basked in the colours of the sun-drenched outdoors or the reflections of light in other contexts, from the four corners of the West, in America as well as Europe. Iain Bell’s Aurora threw in a contrast with the darkness of night for good measure. ... First, though, In the South is the Englishman Elgar’s response to the brightness of Italy’s northern Mediterranean landscape around Alassio where he spent the winter of 1903-4. It was launched here by Vasily Petrenko with all the vigour of one of Respighi’s Roman tone poems... ... Miah Persson also replaced Damrau in the clutch of orchestrated Richard Strauss songs... 
Prom 61: Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin – Bruckner 4 – Yefim Bronfman plays Liszt
Tuesday, August 28, 2018 |  When a Bruckner Symphony is the main work it is the modern trend to throw in a Piano Concerto – often by Mozart and hardly ever is an ‘overture’ offered. ... Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto has no obvious connection with Bruckner... ... Yefim Bronfman displayed his understanding of Liszt’s varying effects... ... When a Bruckner Symphony is performed, the question of edition must be addressed. In the case of Symphony 4 it is not too complicated. By 1878 Bruckner had satisfactorily revised the 1874 original and in 1880 greatly altered the Finale. Yannick Nézet-Séguin used the reliable publication by Robert Haas. 
Prom 60: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet – Bernstein & Shostakovich
Monday, August 27, 2018 |  With the BBC’s extended bank-holiday Bernstein weekend drawing to its close it was no surprise to find his one-time assistant at the helm of this well-attended Prom. You can catch a glimpse of Marin Alsop... ... It was a similar story in The Age of Anxiety for which Jean‐Yves Thibaudet sported some kind of brown suit and darker shirt while old-fashioned enough to use the sheet music with a page-turner. ... Gallic insouciance should have been banished after the interval. However, Alsop’s distinctly un-Soviet sounding Shostakovich was never really about plumbing depths... 
Prom 59: Relaxed Prom
Monday, August 27, 2018 |  For the second year running the Proms hosted a Relaxed Prom. Open to all, without exception, this was a bite-size concert – Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ (The Planets) the longest piece – conducted with genial spirit by Sian Edwards (and on her birthday too), with the central work – new to London – played by the disabled-led ensemble, BSO Resound conducted by co-founder James Rose. Using a baton attached to his glasses (which he developed and redesigned himself), Rose led the second movement of Trembling, Hoping, Lingering, Flying by composer-in-residence Alexander Campkin, who himself has MS. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 7/Proms Chamber Music – Leonard Bernstein on Broadway and Beyond – Wallis Giunta & Michael Sikich ... La bonne cuisine ... Crème Brûlée on a Tree
Monday, August 27, 2018 |  The Proms centenary celebrations for Leonard Bernstein continued on a smaller scale with a programme from Wallis Giunta and Michael Sikich in a vertiginous race through recipes, La bonne cuisine... ... Then Crème Brûlée on a Tree by Bushra El-Turk which mirrors Bernstein’s playful and witty approach to food and cooking... ... ‘Big Stuff’ was composed with Billie Holiday in mind as an introduction to Bernstein’s Fancy Free... 
Prom 58: The Sound of an Orchestra – RPO/Joshua Weilerstein
Sunday, August 26, 2018 |  No homage to Leonard Bernstein could ignore his proselytising zeal as an educator, and – on this centenary weekend – the Proms followed its concert performance of On the Town with an exhilarating musical ride through three centuries’ worth of orchestral music to try to investigate “the sound of an orchestra”. If that sounds like a very Lenny type of thing to do, you’d be right – and, indeed, he so-titled one of his Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, which was first broadcast in December 1965. And here he was, courtesy of the projections across the Royal Albert Hall, be-suited and suave as ever, introducing the idea from across the decades. 
Prom 57: John Wilson conducts Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town
Saturday, August 25, 2018 |  To celebrate what would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 100th-birthday, the Proms presented the one musical revival to which John Wilson was unlikely to bring substantial revelations. The engagement of the LSO was fair warning, although guest-leader John Mills is no stranger to Wilson’s own famously superior scratch orchestra. Here was 2018’s incarnation of the band with which in 1992 Michael Tilson Thomas premiered and recorded something which, though by no means identical, also billed itself a “concert version”. MTT’s cast included so many famous names that I won’t list them all. Suffice to say that memories of Frederica von Stade, Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey and the rest were never going to be trumped by Wilson’s crudely over-miked line-up. 
Prom 56: BBCSO/Sakari Oramo – Bruckner 5 – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Mozart K467
Friday, August 24, 2018 |  Sakari Oramo rounded off his notable contributions to this year's Proms with a satisfyingly classical coupling of a Mozart Piano Concerto and Bruckner's Fifth Symphony. Interesting that, while the Bruckner (described in the Proms programme as edited by Haas and Nowak) hardly lacks for outings nowadays (its previous eleven appearances at these concerts stretch back to 1964), it remains a tough challenge in terms of playing and interpretation. ... A suitably scaled-down BBCSO was hardly less responsive during a first half in which Benjamin Grosvenor joined for Mozart's K467, relatively little heard at the Proms these days (not at all between 1984 and 2016!) though thankfully no longer indelibly associated with one of the dreariest films of its era. 
Prom 55: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer II – Hungarian Rhapsodies & Dances, Zigeunerweisen – Liszt, Brahms & Sarasate
Thursday, August 23, 2018 |  The Budapest Festival Orchestra having tuned, cimbalom-virtuoso Jenö Lisztes and Iván Fischer entered – a sure sign that this would be a thoroughly Hungarian concert, a connection with Gypsy music, Lisztes improvising on his indigenous instrument. ... Jószef Lendvay (Lendvai’s son) then performed Sarasate’s brilliant Zigeunerweisen with spectacular panache and accuracy. 
Prom 54: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer I – Enescu, Bartók, Mahler
Wednesday, August 22, 2018 |  Partially sighted after an eye operation, Iván Fischer may or may not have been constrained in his wilder movements; he was at least on reassuringly familiar ground with the present programme. While the Budapest Festival Orchestra appears not to have recorded Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta since 1985, the idiom comes as naturally as breathing to these players. ... For reasons best known to himself Fischer added his own jerks to the discontinuity implied by Mahler’s notation of the opening bars in which the jingling sleigh-bells might be construed to lose their way. 
Prom 52: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner – Flying Dutchman Overture & Sibelius 2 – Alina Ibragimova gives premiere of Rolf Wallin’s Whirld
Tuesday, August 21, 2018 |  This Nordic Prom from the Bergen Philharmonic forged connections between a bracing seascape, ecstatic mystics and a Finnish symphonic journey of nationalistic fervour. ... Edward Gardner has been at the helm since 2015... ... This was amply demonstrated in the storm-tossed Overture to The Flying Dutchman – Wagner’s opera set off the Norwegian coast. ... Where Wagner’s imagination had been fired by his traumatic experience of rough seas on his way to London in 1839, Oslo-born (1957) Rolf Wallin’s Whirld (world/whirl) takes inspiration from the beauty of fractal mathematics. ... ...where Alina Ibragimova could be more readily heard. 
Prom 51: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard – Parsifal Prelude & Nørgård 3 – Malin Byström sings Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs
Monday, August 20, 2018 |  Analogies between 1976 and 2018 extend further than the weather – the former being the year when Per Nørgård’s Third Symphony was first-performed; the latter that of its UK premiere, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard in the most significant of this season’s Proms debuts. ... Dausgaard placed it within a valedictory context – opening with a measured and lucid account of the Prelude to Wagner’s Parsifal (1882), before continuing with Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (1948). Eloquent vocally, Malin Byström was uncertain in her coordination with the orchestra... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 6/Proms Chamber Music – BBC Singers & Sakari Oramo – Bridge, Vaughan Williams, Holst ... Laura Mvula premiere ... Parry's Songs of Farewell
Monday, August 20, 2018 |  While they have worked often in an orchestral context, Sakari Oramo had not previously directed the BBC Singers in an a cappella guise, so making the sixth of this season's Proms Chamber Music recitals a notable event apart from the programme... ... Each of these lunchtime recitals features a BBC commission from a female composer, and here it fell to Laura Mvula – her Love Like a Lion (2018) comprising three settings of poems specially written by Ben Okri. 
Prom 50: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard – Mahler 5 – Annelien Van Wauwe plays Mozart
Sunday, August 19, 2018 |  As part of the Leonard Bernstein centenary, this Prom replicated the programme he brought here on 10 September 1987 with the Vienna Philharmonic. ... The concert started, though, in a hinterland of poise, with Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, completed just two months before his death. Annelien Van Wauwe duly honoured Mozart’s particular empathy with the basset clarinet’s range of mood and timbre in all its registers. ... Thomas Dausgaard directed the BBCSSO to give Van Wauwe maximum exposure... ... The same discretion rather restricted Dausgaard’s take on Mahler Five... 
Prom 49: European Union Youth Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda – Agata Zubel’s Fireworks & Tchaikovsky 5 – Seong-Jin Cho plays Chopin
Sunday, August 19, 2018 |  Rare, though not unheard of, are morning Proms – and this one was full – not only seats, but also a healthier-than-most in the Arena. There were Fireworks to start, in the shape of a new work, six days old (when it had been premiered in Warsaw). Composed by Agata Zubel in honour of the centenary of Polish independence, it positively exploded, popped, fizzed, simmered and glowed in a rather thrilling span of just under eight minutes... ... Seong-Jin Cho is one of those young artists that ooze technical ability but – as we found out – lacked any sense of what Chopin’s music is about. With a brightly mettled Steinway, he was efficient and accurate, but had no variety to his tone, missing any mystery and poetry (especially in the slow movement). Meanwhile the EUYO proved the old adage that Chopin couldn’t write for orchestra completely wrong. Gianandrea Noseda sculpted the accompaniment and nurtured a number of loving solos. 
Prom 48: LSO/Simon Rattle – Ravel – Mother Goose & L'Enfant et les sortilèges, Magdalena Kožená sings Shéhérazade
Saturday, August 18, 2018 |  The LSO has been a ‘natural’ for Ravel since the veteran Pierre Monteux made the ensemble feel like an international orchestra. Taking up the post of principal conductor in his eighties, he recorded a heartfelt account of Ma Mère l’Oye shortly before his death in 1964. Some of that stardust has returned under Sir Simon Rattle... ... It was a similar story in Shéhérazade... ... ...Rattle went for surgical exactitude, boosting overlooked pockets of woodwind writing while keeping the dynamics down so that Magdalena Kožená was never swamped. ... André Previn made two commercial recordings of L’Enfant et les sortilèges with the LSO and Rattle has been conducting performances since his teenage years. 
Prom 47: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro & Prokofiev 5 – Pekka Kuusisto gives premiere of Venables Plays Bartók
Friday, August 17, 2018 |  The strings of the BBC Symphony Orchestra excelled in Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro. Sakari Oramo is not unlike Edward Gardner in his avoidance of too much suet in this kind of repertoire. ... After which Prokofiev’s Fifth was similarly accomplished, lacking only the nth degree of sonic clout. ... At the heart of this programme was Venables Plays Bartók, a post-Modern sonic collage (or late-night experimental radio play?)... ... The results would have bemused those without a printed programme so someone had decided that Pekka Kuusisto, sporting a weird hair-do and wearing a black housecoat over his informal top and narrow-bore slacks, would act as MC both before and during the piece. 
Prom 46: National Youth Jazz Orchestra – Laura Jurd premiere & Kenton’s West Side Story – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Rhapsody in Blue
Thursday, August 16, 2018 |  Making its fourth appearance at these concerts, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra proceeded to set the Royal Albert Hall ablaze with a high-octane programme of music either unfamiliar or given in unfamiliar guises – rendered with precision and panache. ... Guy Barker took the helm for George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924), sounding simultaneously more authentic and more contemporary with jazz-band scoring for Paul Whiteman. Himself displaying no mean jazz credentials, Benjamin Grosvenor was also mindful of how the solo part is more closely integrated within the ensemble... ... The highlight was undoubtedly a first hearing in the UK for Kenton’s West Side Story (1961), an extended suite arranged for the Stan Kenton Orchestra by Mexican-born Johnny Richards which is hardly less durable (and arguably more re-creative) than the film version of Leonard Bernstein’s seminal musical which emerged at much the same time. 
Prom 45 – Suisse Romande Orchestra/Jonathan Nott – Jeux & Petrushka – Renaud Capuçon plays orchestrated Ravel
Thursday, August 16, 2018 |  It scarcely seems credible that Orchestre de la Suisse Romande should only be making its Proms (but not its London) debut in the year of its centenary; its first appearance at these concerts being conducted by Jonathan Nott, soon to commence his second season as Artistic Director. ... A programme consisting of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky pointedly underlines a connection with founder Ernest Ansermet... ... Renaud Capuçon evinced all his customary poise and sensitivity... ... Ansermet favoured it over Stravinsky’s 1947 revision, but the original 1911 orchestration of Petrushka is only periodically revived – making this performance one to savour. 
Prom 44: CBSO/Ludovic Morlot – From Faune to Boléro via Psalm 130 and Nocturnes
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 |  2018 marks the death, one-hundred years ago, not only of Debussy but also his younger compatriot Lili Boulanger, whose untimely passing (at the age of twenty-four) figures as a tantalising loss not only to the musical culture of her native France but to that of the twentieth-century generally as well. ... This joint celebration of their achievement first paid tribute to the doorway that undoubtedly opened Modernism into music, Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894) but any suggestion of its epochal status was quietly and amiably downplayed in Ludovic Morlot’s reading with the CBSO. 
Prom 43: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim – Tchaikovsky, David Robert Coleman, Scriabin – with Lisa Batiashvili & Elsa Dreisig
Tuesday, August 14, 2018 |  Brahms’s Violin Concerto was originally billed for the first half of this Prom, but for unclear reasons the crowd-pleaser by Tchaikovsky was substituted (also at Snape the evening before) – cue inane clapping from some of the audience in the pause between the first and second movements... ... That it was not a more disruptive outbreak, however, was surely attributable to the fact of Daniel Barenboim’s reading with the finely disciplined West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. ... ...pacified by the reflective, even rueful playing by Lisa Batiashvili. ... David Robert Coleman’s Looking for Palestine turns to the violently sundered territory in the Middle East, the everyday reality for the musicians of the orchestra giving this performance. Prompted by the Lebanon war of 2006, Coleman’s sets words from Najla Said’s one-woman play Palestine as a monodrama. ... ...it was sung by Elsa Dreisig with a quiet apprehension in which the words were frequently inaudible, though tonally crystalline and cutting. 
Prom 42: Estonian Festival Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Arvo Pärt & Sibelius – Khatia Buniatishvili plays Grieg
Monday, August 13, 2018 |  Yet another summertime scratch band but a very good one. Since 2011 the always-peripatetic Paavo Järvi has touched base at the Pärnu Festival, overseeing its evolution into a kind of alternative Lucerne for Estonian musical talent while drawing in guest players from more venerable European ensembles. ... A change of tone for the Grieg. While Khatia Buniatishvili is an exceptionally gifted pianist, her showboating, Lang Lang-ish style of presentation is not the only problem one has with her performances. The pianist she most resembles is Martha Argerich but this is an Argerich without taste or discipline... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5/Proms Chamber Music – Colin Currie & JACK Quartet – Xenakis, Holt, Farrin
Monday, August 13, 2018 |  Where Holt had been inspired by statuary of ancient Roman horses and specifically by an Eileen Agar painting on the same theme, Suzanne Farrin used a more abstract concept as the basis of her Hypersea: the connection between life and water. ... Xenakis’s Tetras, a mainstay of the JACK Quartet's repertoire, supplemented the Farrin in its creation of an inimitable soundworld (without percussion). The players’ fierce reading was an exhilarating conclusion... 
Prom 41: BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Pour les funérailles d'un soldat and Dona nobis pacem – Jean-Guihen Queyras plays Elgar
Sunday, August 12, 2018 |  Another Prom in the seasonal strand vaguely associated with the First World War began with Lili Boulanger’s prescient pre-War evocation of a funeral ceremony. ... And there were shades of Britten’s War Requiem in the dispensation of forces in Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem, with the eloquent Sophie Bevan perched high in the big barn’s equivalent of an organ loft. ... Before the VW was Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the music re-imagined and refined by a soloist who is a spellbinding chamber player rather than a grand virtuoso. Introverted and Fauré-like, the performance might have sounded more natural in a less cavernous venue but, imaginatively partnered by Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, it came off remarkably well. 
Prom 40: Joshua Bell & ASMF – Dream & Lament, Saint-Saëns & Beethoven
Sunday, August 12, 2018 |  After the warring Jets and Sharks running about the Royal Albert Hall stage twice the previous day in West Side Story, normal order was restored for this matinee with a modest array of chairs for the forty-one players of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, a year shy of its sixtieth-anniversary. ... Nine years younger, ASMF’s music director is Joshua Bell... 
Prom 39: John Wilson conducts Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story [performance 2]
Saturday, August 11, 2018 |  First mooted as a seventy-six-minute concert version involving the LSO with singers to be announced, this Proms rendition of a complete-ish West Side Story lasted nearly two hours, including a thirty-minute interval. ... The big discovery of the night was the Ottawa-born, Juilliard-trained Mikaela Bennett. Whatever the appropriateness or otherwise of her age and ancestry she was a buxom Maria who convinced absolutely through the outstanding quality of her voice and the touching realism of her acting. That, surely, is how it should be. Only slightly less-fine was the eager, vulnerable Tony of Ross Lekites... 
Prom 38: John Wilson conducts Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story [performance 1]
Saturday, August 11, 2018 |  By now a regular at the BBC Proms, bringing his supremely polished band with music from the shows of yesteryear, the first of John Wilson’s 2018 concerts is Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the story is set in 1950s’ New York Upper West Side neighbourhood: ethnically charged, two gangs – the Jets (White Americans) and the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) battle for control of the neighbourhood. 
Prom 37: Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano – Representation of Chaos, Jeremiah Symphony, Mahler 1
Friday, August 10, 2018 |  No need this time to strain to connect “BBC Proms 2018 – part of BBC Music” with that other dubious presentational construct, “Leonard Bernstein at 100”. Antonio Pappano’s programme consisted of pieces the maestro recorded and on two or three occasions at that. ... The Haydn was treated as a preamble to Bernstein’s First Symphony, which followed without a break. ... Is Elizabeth DeShong’s mezzo too warm and beautiful for lamentation? ... This may have been the first British ‘Jeremiah’ from Pappano and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra but they toured the UK with the same Mahler in 2011. 
Prom 36: Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Webern’s Opus 10 & Mahler 10’s Adagio, and Act I of Die Walküre
Thursday, August 09, 2018 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra’s Prom opened with Webern, world-in-a-grain-of-sand music that looked back over the composer’s shoulder, as though wondering how it was ever possible that he and Mahler were in direct descent from Wagner. History says it is so, but it takes a concert such as this and a conductor such as Esa-Pekka Salonen with his refined judgment to marvel at the process of transformation. 
Prom 35: New York: Sound of a City
Wednesday, August 08, 2018 |  The Royal Albert Hall was bedecked with a welcoming butterfly motif and psychedelic traffic lights in waves of peppermint-green and purple: a nod to the vibrant innovation of the New York City contemporary music scene. 
Prom 34: BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena – Walton, Copland, Britten, Barber – Sally Matthews sings Les Illuminations & Antony and Cleopatra
Wednesday, August 08, 2018 |  It was also a farewell concert, marking the end of Juanjo Mena’s tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic... ... All the above flowed copiously here, starting with William Walton’s Portsmouth Point... ... Brilliantly played to accentuate its jazzy wit, the Walton was in marked contrast to the sober earnestness of Aaron Copland’s Connotations... ... I am still torn over a preference for soprano or tenor soloist in Britten’s precocious song-cycle Les illuminations... ... ...but Sally Matthews was very persuasive. ... Obliqueness and veiled suggestion did not figure in the two extracts from Samuel Barber’s opera Antony and Cleopatra... ... The concert ended with more Britten, the ‘Four Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes... 
Prom 33: BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Richard Farnes conducts Phoenix Rising & German Requiem
Tuesday, August 07, 2018 |  Thea Musgrave turned ninety on May 27, and she looked on very good form when she took a bow for Phoenix Rising (premiered in 1998 by the BBCSO and Andrew Davis). ... Opera North’s former music director Richard Farnes went on to lead a lovingly crafted, spiritually cohesive account of Brahms’s German Requiem. 
Prom 32: Inside Shostakovich – Piano Concerto 2, Symphony 9 – Denis Kozhukhin, Aurora Orchestra, Nicholas Collon
Monday, August 06, 2018 |  We should no longer wonder at Aurora and its feats of musical remembrance. Since 2014, with Nicholas Collon, the orchestra has performed a succession of Mozart and Beethoven Symphonies at the Proms but, this year, in returning to a late-night spot, it made its first foray into twentieth-century repertoire from memory. As has more recently become a fixture, courtesy of a well-rehearsed and genial double act between Collon and Tom Service (who together devise the script with Jane Mitchell), Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony was prefaced by a whistle-stop introduction with examples. Service’s enthusiasm is infectious and, even if the strange enigma of Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony wasn’t completely cracked, we were given more than enough insight to hear the work anew. 
Prom 31: Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä – Candide Overture & Ives 2 – Inon Barnatan plays Gershwin
Monday, August 06, 2018 |  As American showcases go – Osmo Vänskä, married to the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, Erin Keefe, is a committed Minneapolis stalwart, and Israeli-born, London-trained Inon Barnatan is based in New York – this was one of those scintillating concerts that had everything to recommend it. In his centenary year, Leonard Bernstein's shadow loomed large, from the “fun and frolics” of Candide to his quip about Ives being America's “Mark Twain, Emerson and Lincoln all rolled into one.” ... Barnatan's Gershwin Piano Concerto mixed all worlds... ... Despite its “limb stretching” montage construction, Charles Ives's turn-of-the-century Second Symphony, revised around 1950 – an intriguing recycling of lost early works, popular and patriotic songs, and high-European borrowings, evidence Paul Griffiths noted in the programme book... ... Presaging the Minnesota Orchestra's forthcoming tour of South Africa, marking the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth, the encore was as unexpected as it was a quiet nod in the direction of Vänskä's Finnish compatriot, Jaakko Kuusisto... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 4/Proms Chamber Music – Sarah Connolly & Joseph Middleton
Monday, August 06, 2018 |  Sarah Connolly can be relied upon for judicious recitals of song (British or otherwise), and so it proved in this programme of settings by (mainly) British composers that ranged freely and imaginatively over one-hundred-and-twenty-five years of settings centred on various manifestations of sleep. ... All this Proms season’s lunchtime recitals feature a BBC commission from a woman composer; two premieres in this instance, even if Lisa Illean’s setting of Osip Mandelstam in ‘Sleeplessness … Sails’ (2018) is more intent on repetition of phrases and motifs for sustaining atmosphere without any intensification of the overall mood. 
Proms 29 & 30: The Brandenburg Project – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Brandenburg Concertos & six UK premieres, from Turnage, Hillborg, Caine, Neuwirth, Dean, and Mackey – Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
Sunday, August 05, 2018 |  By the end of the evening Prom – twelve pieces and seven hours after the start of the afternoon one – there were numerous solo performers taking a collective bow across the front of the Royal Albert Hall’s stage, joined by six composers (two of whom had also performed). It was a mighty and invigorating moment to cap a long but often enjoyable melding of eighteenth- and twenty-first century music – composers each commissioned to write a companion piece to one of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos – written three centuries ago (around 1720, it is generally supposed). The Brandenburg Project was led by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard, four years in the making. 
Prom 28: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/George Benjamin – Night on Bare Mountain, Dance Figures, Lontano, La mer – Tamara Stefanovich plays Ravel’s Left-hand Piano Concerto
Saturday, August 04, 2018 |  This was not the most thrilling National Youth Orchestra Prom in living memory although it is always inspiring to see 160-plus young musicians at full stretch. ... On the podium was Sir George Benjamin who has been seen in this role since as long ago as 1986... ... While Sir George can seem among the more purist of surviving ‘modernists’ his penchant for the critically unfashionable Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement of Night on the Bare Mountain tells a different story. 
Proms at … Lincoln Drill Hall: Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale
Saturday, August 04, 2018 |  The marking of the centenary of the end of the First World War has, in this year’s Prom season, not been lost. A very British viewpoint from an international festival which was in some way balanced by Stravinsky’s Faust-like Tale (also 1918) of Joseph, a Soldier, who is duped into exchanging his soul (in the guise of his beloved violin) for a book that describes what the financial future holds. ... Lincoln’s red-brick Drill Hall has a strong World War One connection. 
Prom 27: Folk Music around Britain and Ireland
Friday, August 03, 2018 |  It’s ten years since the BBC Proms Folk Day (20 July 2008) and I was looking forward to a new generation of folkies to take to the Royal Albert Hall stage, but found that I had been completely blindsided, in that this was not the Prom I expected. Instead of sets from the five announced acts, interspersed with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Stephen Bell playing works by the likes of Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold and Percy Grainger, who had assimilated British folk music into some of their works – so we could see the interaction between the two – we had a succession of orchestral arrangements, robbing each group or artist and their songs of any individuality. ... Co-presenters Julie Fowlis and bare-footed Sam Lee were pleasant and personable (even though the autocue, placed at the back of the hall with extremely large lettering, caused some amusement in the audience, especially when – in capital letters – it instructed “WAIT FOR APPLAUSE TO DIE AWAY” – and there was no applause…), and their musical contributions had the benefit of highlighting their distinctive voices: Fowlis’s haunting pure Gaelic (and for ‘Camariñas’, in Catalan) contrasting with Lee’s more colloquial delivery. 
Prom 26: Serpent and Fire – Anna Prohaska/Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Thursday, August 02, 2018 |  Having collaborated on a recording profiling two of the most prominent, if semi-mythological, queens of the ancient world, Anna Prohaska and Il Giardino Armonico took a similar programme of extracts from Baroque operas to the Proms. ... If Shakespeare has one of his characters praise Cleopatra’s “infinite variety”, the same could be said about Dido... 
Prom 25: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Vedernikov – Summer Night in Madrid & The Nutcracker – Miloš Karadaglić gives premiere of Joby Talbot’s Ink Dark Moon
Thursday, August 02, 2018 |  Although bookended by Russian composers, this Prom first took us to Spain. Glinka may have been the progenitor of an authentic style of Russian music and a model for successors, but that did not prevent him from composing two Overtures inspired by Spanish themes. The second of those received an urbane performance under Alexander Vedernikov’s direction... ... Joby Talbot’s Ink Dark Moon adopts a Hispanic theme too. ... ...Miloš Karadaglić’s playing sensitively avoided predominating and merged graciously within the textures of music... ... In this concert dedicated to the memory of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Act One of Tchaikovsky’s final ballet, The Nutcracker, took us from Mediterranean heat to the fantasy world of a northern European Christmas. 
Prom 24: BBCNOW/Otto Tausk – The Wreckers & Ein Heldenleben – Daniel Müller-Schott plays Dvořák
Wednesday, August 01, 2018 |  Dutchman Otto Tausk led the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in three works of high Romanticism that were written within ten years of each other. ... The evocative Prelude to Act Two of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers (1902-4) is almost a tone poem in its own right... ... In Dvořák’s Cello Concerto (1894-5) Tausk drew back from confronting the emotional challenge of the work (the composer had been moved during much of it by the illness and death of his sister-in-law, with whom he had once been in love) in favour of a more neutral interpretation. ... Daniel Müller‐Schott’s first entry was bold and muscular, calling for – and securing – attention.... ... The bravado of Richard Strauss’s semi-autobiographical Ein Heldenleben (1897-8) might be thought to preclude much sympathetic engagement on an audience’s part... 
Prom 23: Havana Meets Kingston – Mista Savona
Tuesday, July 31, 2018 |  Havana met Kingston with swagger and style in this late-night Prom exploring the fusion of Cuban and Jamaican musical traditions; the introductory piece captured the deep spiritual element of both: the mesmeric heartbeat of the African drum accompanied by Brenda Navarrete’s soulful chant. The collective brought together by Mista Savona featured a virtuoso line up of musicians. 
Prom 22: BBC Scottish SO/Andrew Manze – London Symphonies by Haydn & Vaughan Williams
Tuesday, July 31, 2018 |  It is tempting to remember the good old bad old days in which this concert would have lasted a great deal longer. Time enough to accommodate John Ireland’s A London Overture perhaps. Or something by Eric Coates – plenty of Proms connections there. ... Indeed such is the perspicacity of Andrew Manze that cleanliness can threaten to seem like an end in itself... 
Prom 21: BBC Scottish SO/Ilan Volkov – Notturno & Alpine Symphony – Hornroh Modern Alphorn Quartet gives UK premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Concerto grosso No.1
Monday, July 30, 2018 |  For this Prom, the huge open spaces of ‘The Barn’ in South Kensington were deliberately exploited in order to take us into the metaphorical outdoors or, to be more exact, the Alps of Austria and south Germany. ... Mozart’s Notturno for four orchestras (1776 or 1777) can sound repetitive when heard in two-dimension... ... Despite its innocuous title, Georg Friedrich Haas’s Concerto grosso No.1 (2014) evokes the natural scenery of the Vorarlberg (the westernmost region of Austria) where he was brought up, not as a pretty picture-postcard of high peaks and meadows, but rather as a psychological landscape fraught with fear and trembling. ... The Hornroh Modern Alphorn Quartet was unyielding in the sonorities they were called upon to sustain for sizeable stretches... ... Haas’s Concerto formed some connection with Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony... ... Volkov’s account was generally rather foursquare... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 3/Proms Chamber Music – Joseph Tawadros – Rituals and New Tales
Monday, July 30, 2018 |  Joseph Tawadros’s encore summed up as well as anything the multitude of influences which sometimes blend, often collide, in his music. Entitled Bluegrass Nikriz, it was written after a collaboration with the banjo-player Béla Fleck; marries the blues scale with an Arabic mode; and sounds rather like Deliverance has been relocated to the souk. ... Tawadros’s recital also included a premiere: Rhapsody by the Australian Jessica Wells... 
Prom 20: Ten Pieces Prom – II
Sunday, July 29, 2018 |  The Ten Pieces music education project has to be one of the BBC’s greatest successes. The aim is to get young people not just listening to classical music but responding creatively to it. There’s another thing in its favour. It always produces a terrific Prom. Once again the full resources of the Royal Albert Hall were used to create a vibrant and exciting event. 
Prom 19: Ten Pieces Prom – I
Sunday, July 29, 2018 |  BBC Learning’s Ten Pieces initiative is in its fourth year, opening up classical music to children all over the UK by encouraging them to make music at school. This Prom was themed around a search for the Firebird and a magical narrative was constructed with the help of Naomi Wilkinson, Paapa Essiedu and Josie Lawrence. ... Young violinists from the London Music Masters project played their own compositions with the BBCSO, inspired by Barak Obama, Rebecca Adlington and Rosalind Franklin... 
Prom 18: MusicAeterna/Teodor Currentzis – Beethoven 2 & 5
Saturday, July 28, 2018 |  Founded fourteen years ago by Teodor Currentzis, MusicaAeterna is a skilled period-instrument orchestra; the string strength is about a dozen fewer than with the standard symphony orchestra. The players respond to their conductor with remarkable unanimity in his often individual phrasing. This was at once apparent in the expressive rendering of the introduction to Beethoven’s Second Symphony... ... Following the interval, and without waiting for the audience to settle, Currentzis drove straight into the Fifth... 
Prom 17: BBCNOW/Martyn Brabbins – Parry 5, Holst’s Ode to Death, Vaughan Williams’s Pastoral Symphony – Tai Murray plays The Lark Ascending
Friday, July 27, 2018 |  The centenaries of Hubert Parry’s death and the end of the First World War are in the Proms’ sights this season... ... Despite Jerusalem being a Proms fixture, Parry’s music, the five Symphonies in particular, has not fared well. The Fifth (published as Symphonic Fantasia ‘1912’) is the only one to have been played here. The odd thing about this wonderful work – something the performance from Martyn Brabbins and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on top form made effortlessly clear – is that while Parry’s debt to his god Brahms verges on plagiarism, Symphony 5 has its own integrity, expressed with disarming candour. ... Tai Murray showed the same degree of connection with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending... 
Prom 16: Hallé/Mark Elder – Wagner, Debussy, Stravinsky
Thursday, July 26, 2018 |  After last year’s lecture concert, ending in a performance of Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony, it was good to welcome the Hallé and Mark Elder back for a full-evening programme – offering a century-long survey of the way music shifted its focus from romanticism to something more eclectic in the first half of the twentieth-century. ... They reckon that the Tannhäuser Overture is the most-performed piece played at the Proms... 
Prom 15: BBC Philharmonic/Ben Gernon – What Did We See? & Brahms 2 – Paul Lewis plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, July 25, 2018 |  Tansy Davies's opera about 9/11, Between Worlds, was premiered by ENO in 2015, to a mixed reception. What Did We See? is a twenty-four-minute four-movement Suite drawn from that score, commissioned, we're told, “to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Third Programme” – in which case it's late by two years... ... Ben Gernon captained proceedings politely, if perhaps loathe to fully unleash the forces before him... ... From a very different perspective, agreed, but Mark Knopfler's 'If this is Goodbye' from his 2006 All the Roadrunning album with Emmylou Harris, based on the last phone call of a woman trapped in the World Trade Center, tells its story in just five minutes... ... The 'Emperor' was frankly ordinary and small-scaled, Paul Lewis going through the motions without much poetry or distinction... 
Prom 14: BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds, with Elizabeth Watts & Louis Lortie – Wagner's Mastersingers, Schubert/Liszt Songs & Wanderer, Zimmermann & Sibelius Symphonies
Tuesday, July 24, 2018 |  “To see a World in a Grain of Sand” (William Blake) might have been one way of summing up the components of this programme: its overview of the Romantic movement in music (and beyond in the case of Zimmermann’s Symphony) eschewed direct confrontation with its more grandiloquent and monumental landmarks in favour of some notably compressed compositional statements and extracts instead. By accident or design, the Prelude, Fantasia, and the Sibelius Symphony, all centre on the pure, open key of C-major, ultimately confounding other assumptions about such repertoire as to any expectations there may be of harmonic complexity or ambiguity associated with the heady and feverish expressions of that era. ... The Prelude to Die Meistersinger is the mature Wagner at his most exuberant, although here, with the BBC Philharmonic under John Storgårds, it was broad and dignified... 
Prom 13: Pioneers of Sound
Monday, July 23, 2018 |  

The London Contemporary Orchestra has certainly established a secure basis in the capital's fixtures over its first decade of existence, and this late-night Prom of music by five pioneering female composers – each of them working within the electro-acoustic domain – left little doubt as to its innovative programming or the thoroughness and conviction brought to its performances. ... The singular and latterly unfortunate life of Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) should not detract from her achievement in a highly experimental – and, at least in the UK, under-funded – field. ... The culmination of this programme in all senses was the second performance, and the first of what may well be its definitive incarnation, of Daphne Oram's Still Point... 

Prom 12: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Karina Canellakis – Coriolan, Spiral, Symphonic Dances – Alisa Weilerstein plays Shostakovich
Monday, July 23, 2018 |  Karina Canellakis has rapidly come to prominence among younger conductors and, on the basis of this Prom, it is not hard to hear why. Beethoven's Coriolan (1807, for Collin’s play) might not be the ubiquitous programme-opener it once was, but it still launches a concert in uncompromising fashion... ... By the time of his First Cello Concerto (1959), Shostakovich was very much a composer in the Beethovenian lineage, with all the emphasis on formal integration and motivic lucidity which this implies. Alisa Weilerstein likely thinks so too, given these qualities were uppermost in her reading. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 2/Proms Chamber Music – Jean Rondeau
Monday, July 23, 2018 |  The enthusiasm of Eve Risser for the harpsichord – “the most fun instrument to write for” – is perhaps not surprising: for all its associations with Baroque music, the plucked strings’ clarity and range of tone colours make it an attractively novel vehicle for new music, and it suits very well the improvisatory elements that arise from Risser’s jazz background. ... Much of the piece was improvised by Jean Rondeau... 
Prom 11 – Thomas Søndergård conducts Mahler 8 (Symphony of a Thousand)
Sunday, July 22, 2018 |  Separately if not together, Sir Henry Wood and the Royal Albert Hall have played significant roles in the UK performance history of Mahler’s ‘Symphony of a Thousand’, the Proms as such rather less so. ... Making his final appearance as the BBCNOW’s principal conductor before a sideways move to the RSNO, where however he will be styled music director, Thomas Søndergård’s main task was to hold his titanic forces together. 
Prom 10: Iveta Apkalna at Royal Albert Hall organ
Sunday, July 22, 2018 |  The heart doesn’t quite sink at the prospect of Widor’s ‘Toccata’ yet again – it’s not a bad piece despite its over-exposure, but it comes with the wish that something less familiar had been programmed. That said, Iveta Apkalna gave one of the most convincing accounts I’ve heard in a long while... 
Prom 9: World Orchestra for Peace – Donald Runnicles conducts Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem & Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
Saturday, July 21, 2018 |  War and Peace” was the BBC’s online strapline for this Prom given (mostly) by the multinational ensemble founded by Sir Georg Solti on the fiftieth-anniversary of the United Nations in 1995. Ironically as some see it, Valery Gergiev has been the conductor most associated with the project since his death, not least at the Proms, but here the podium was occupied by Donald Runnicles. 
Proms at … The Roundhouse – London Sinfonietta/George Benjamin
Saturday, July 21, 2018 |  Billed as a fiftieth-birthday concert for the London Sinfonietta as well as one of the cornerstone Proms in this year’s commemoration of the end of the First World War – with four commissions from combatant countries (Austria, Britain, Germany and Italy) – this Roundhouse matinee was dedicated to the memory of Oliver Knussen, remembered fondly by George Benjamin – who had not only been a long-standing collaborator of the ensemble but also a supporter of the 14-18 NOW organisation. 
Prom 8: BBCNOW/Thomas Søndergård – Lili Boulanger, Morfydd Owen, Schumann 4 – Bertrand Chamayou plays Mendelssohn
Friday, July 20, 2018 |  There were a few connective threads in this very fine concert, the first of BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s two Proms this season. Lili Boulanger and Morfydd Owen were contemporaries who died in 1918, the Mendelssohn and Schumann works make a thing about gaps between movements, and all four composers died young, the two women in their mid-twenties. 
Prom 7: Jacob Collier and Friends
Thursday, July 19, 2018 |  Before a note even sounded, Jacob Collier received an emphatic response as he entered the Royal Albert Hall. His musical journey has been spectacular. ... In hosting his Prom, Collier launched full-throttle into a genre-shifting repertoire, combining his original compositions with innovative arrangements of other artists such as Sting, Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie. ... Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest provided gorgeous arrangements... 
Prom 6: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Gershwin’s An American in Paris & Messiaen’s Turangalîla
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 |  The big barn was almost but not quite full for this unlikely pairing held together, however loosely, by two of this year’s Proms themes: the musical legacy of French Impressionism and the role of Leonard Bernstein... ... The American maestro, who could sound a little condescending when describing the structural limitations of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, conducted An American in Paris with suitably idiomatic fervour into his mid-career. It was Messiaen’s Turangalîla he dropped... ... Yvonne Loriod’s tumultuous piano part was taken here by Angela Hewitt, equipped with a tablet in lieu of sheet music and coping with the mainly swift, distinctly twenty-first-century tempos favoured by Sakari Oramo. Cynthia Millar was the other named soloist... 
Prom 5: Glyndebourne Festival Opera – Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande – John Chest, Christina Gansch, Christopher Purves; London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robin Ticciati
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 |  Glyndebourne’s annual showcase at the Proms this year derived from its new staging of Debussy’s ever-intriguing Pelléas et Mélisande, a controversial production. Played without some of the distractions and accretions of Stefan Herheim’s concept this performance smouldered with ever-increasing intensity... ... The London Philharmonic Orchestra had the generous space of the Royal Albert Hall to fill and under Robin Ticciati’s assured leadership the subtlety of Debussy’s orchestration unfolded with amazing clarity... ... At the centre was Christopher Purves’s superb Golaud. He charted the prince’s mental deterioration with uncompromising directness... 
Prom 4: BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena – Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony – Mark Simpson plays Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto
Monday, July 16, 2018 |  Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto, written for Kari Kriikku in 2002 (he gave its Proms premiere five years later, under Semyon Bychkov), is one of those masterworks that transcends place and period. ... Mark Simpson's death-defying performance went for the jugular and the stratospheric. ... Shostakovich's 'Leningrad' Symphony opened with a sense of hard rhythms and shaped solos. But, careful as Mena was to steer a straight, serious course, it didn't quite gel. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 1/Proms Chamber Music – Calidore String Quartet & Javier Perianes – Caroline Shaw’s Essays & Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet
Monday, July 16, 2018 |  Schumann's Piano Quintet should have been the highlight of this lunchtime Prom, the first of eight this season marking one-hundred years since women in the UK were given the right to vote. In the event it was Caroline Shaw's three Essays (2016-18, around twenty minutes in all) – which caught the imagination. ... The Calidore String Quartet – engaged currently in BBC Radio 3's New Generation Artists scheme and winners of the Emerging Artist Award at Lincoln Center – is as good as one can get. ... Favouring a closely integrated first/second violin, cello, viola seating, their Schumann Piano Quintet with Javier Perianes was less gripping... 
Prom 3: BBC Young Musician 40th Anniversary
Sunday, July 15, 2018 |  How do you celebrate an institution’s fortieth-birthday, which has elicited not only twenty-one winners but also a hinterland of talented others? That’s the problem faced by the Proms to mark the BBC’s second-most recognised classical music event: the BBC Young Musician competition. 
Prom 2: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Alain Altinoglu – Fauré's Pavane & Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé – Francesco Piemontesi plays Mozart K595
Saturday, July 14, 2018 |  No doubt Charles Dutoit was originally in the driving seat for this Prom, but step forward Alain Altinoglu who led the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a vividly theatrical performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe... ... Earlier, Francesco Piemontesi had played Mozart’s final Piano Concerto, its intimacy dwarfed by the size of the Royal Albert Hall, Radio 3 listeners probably getting a better deal... 
First Night of the Proms 2018 – Sakari Oramo conducts BBCSO in Oliver Knussen's Flourish with Fireworks, VW's Toward the Unknown Region, Holst's The Planets, and Anna Meredith's Five Telegrams
Friday, July 13, 2018 |  Braving a thunderstorm and sundry demonstrations, a near-capacity crowd assembled for 2018’s First Night of the BBC Proms, timed to begin at the implausible hour of 8.15. Was that to accommodate the Wimbledon tennis? ... This is not to say that Anna Meredith writes tunes. ... A different kind of memorial first. We might regret that Oliver Knussen, who should have been England’s Stravinsky, turned out to be its Liadov... ... Sakari Oramo projected its whirring activity with authority... ... The Holst was comparably lean and fit, even if slightly compromised by desultory clapping between Planets. ... Five Telegrams draws on communications sent by young soldiers in 1918 but displays little empathy for their plight.  
Alan Davey's Proms Blog
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 |  David Pickard, the Proms team and I are very proud of the broad and exciting range of concerts we have packed into eight weeks of music-making at the 2018 BBC Proms. ... ...as relevant today as it was in Henry Wood’s time. The Relaxed Prom will be accompanied by an audio description available through headsets for the blind and partially sighted live audience and across BBC Radio 3’s broadcast coverage. 

 

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