All 2017 Prom Reviews

Last Night of the Proms 2017 conducted by Sakari Oramo
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  After fifty-eight days and some ninety concerts, we’re back to another Last Night. How did that happen? There was still some unfinished business, tidied up – in the nick of time – in the first half which had three Proms premieres amidst its five pieces. 
Prom 74: Vienna Philharmonic – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Brahms & Beethoven – Emanuel Ax plays Mozart K449
Friday, September 08, 2017 |  Whether the Vienna Philharmonic sounds as it once recognisably did, in days of yore, is a moot point, but in this second of two consecutive Proms for 2017, this time with Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra was in its comfort zone but not complacent... ... Also special was Emanuel Ax in some endearing Mozart... 
Prom 73: András Schiff plays Book One of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier
Thursday, September 07, 2017 |  Any aspiring keyboard player knows of marvels that can unfold just by taking on any one of J. S. Bach’s ‘48’ Preludes and Fugues, and here was András Schiff embarking on the first twenty-four, with Book II scheduled for next year’s Proms... 
Prom 72: Vienna Philharmonic – Daniel Harding conducts Mahler 6
Thursday, September 07, 2017 |  Not for the first time the Vienna Philharmonic is giving two consecutive Proms under guest conductors neither of whom enjoys quite the legendary reputation of the ensemble itself. That said, Daniel Harding, on the podium for this first date, is no stranger to the Viennese. 
Proms at ... The Tanks at Tate Modern
Wednesday, September 06, 2017 |  When Sara Mohr-Pietsch tells you that you may walk around so as to “curate your own listening experience”, it’s a sure sign that you’re in the rarefied air of arty intellectualism. The works presented at the Open Ear Prom were music at its most abstract and experimental... 
Prom 71: London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Funeral Song ... Volga Boatmen ... Russian Funeral ... The Year 1905 – Alina Ibragimova plays Prokofiev
Wednesday, September 06, 2017 |  This London Philharmonic Prom opened with the lost-and-found Funeral Song (see link below), written in 1908 by Stravinsky to honour the deceased Rimsky-Korsakov. ... To the fairy-tale and wintery scenes of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto (completed in 1917, a significant date in Russian history), Alina Ibragimova and Vladimir Jurowski collaborated for a rendition that obliged the attention and found the LPO as sensitive and charismatic partners. ... It’s not every day that Shostakovich’s mighty Eleventh Symphony shares a concert’s half with anything. But Benjamin Britten’s Russian Funeral (1936) was an apt choice. 
Prom 70: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Karina Canellakis – Missy Mazzoli & Dvořák – Jeremy Denk plays Bartók
Tuesday, September 05, 2017 |  But nobody told the BBC Symphony Orchestra Karina Canellakis that... ... However, Missy Mazzoli was a true Proms debutante with her Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres). She is claimed as an arch-minimalist... ... With Jeremy Denk crystal-clear at the keyboard, if sometimes obliterating the quieter passages in the first movement (scored for woodwind, brass and percussion), the Concerto was nicely conceived... 
Prom 69: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck – John Adams’s Lollapalooza & Mahler 1 – Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Dvořák
Monday, September 04, 2017 |  The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, currently embarked on another of its whirlwind tours of Europe’s top music festivals, returned to the Proms for its twelfth visit with a very special guest in tow. As in 2011, the crowd-puller was Anne-Sophie Mutter... ... This was not an account of the Dvořák content to let the composer carry the day unaided. ... The Mahler confirmed that the American physicality of Pittsburgh’s brass section, still rowdy at times, is now better integrated than on previous visits. ... Honeck revealed more of his inner Carlos Kleiber – a matter of height and demeanour as well as technique – in two encores. 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM8 – Elias String Quartet & Alice Neary play Schubert’s String Quintet
Monday, September 04, 2017 |  So sensitive was this interpretation that it would be unfair to suggest that it was understated but the gentle, often poignant refinement of Schubert’s beautiful melodies was sometimes made at the expense of emphasis and contrast. 
Prom 68: Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev – Prokofiev’s October Revolution Cantata & Shostakovich 5 – Denis Matsuev plays Tchaikovsky
Sunday, September 03, 2017 |  On paper this Prom seemed designed to explore aspects of Communist Russia’s musical legacy, its big components being conceived in the menacing context of Stalin’s Great Terror. ... First up was the Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution. Set against Shostakovich’s brand of symphonic accessibility, Prokofiev’s populism feels here positively anarchic but there are problems. ... A “gun for hire” with little interest in anything beyond work, Prokofiev took time to hit his stride as a Soviet composer. Shostakovich understood the demands only too well. His Fifth Symphony is couched in the superficially cautious ‘official’ idiom through which he found the means to survive and prosper yet which manages to communicate emotional truths that cannot be faked. ... Officially we were to be offered the torso that is Tchaikovsky’s Third Piano Concerto. Gergiev and his regular (and thunderous) collaborator Denis Matsuev could not make it sound more than a might-have-been... 
Prom 67: Mendelssohn – The Hebrides, Violin Concerto, Reformation Symphony – Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado with Isabelle Faust
Sunday, September 03, 2017 |  To open this lunchtime Prom, here was Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture interpreted in a way I had not heard before and it reflected a very personal view of the music which I have no hesitation in describing as romantic. There was enormous freedom of tempo and Pablo Heras-Casado’s subjective approach had conviction. ... Refinement was the essence of Isabelle Faust’s reading of the Violin Concerto and Heras-Casado was entirely at-one with her. ... An encore provided a contrast: Wagner’s rather solemn violin-and-orchestra arrangement of ‘Träume’ from his Wesendonck-Lieder... ... The ‘Reformation’ Symphony begins with the ‘Dresden Amen’ (later used by Wagner in Parsifal), which stemmed from the Catholic Church, and the work ends with the firmly Lutheran ‘Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott’. 
Prom 66: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniele Gatti – Haydn’s Bear & Mahler’s Fourth
Saturday, September 02, 2017 |  This second of two Proms by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra was very much “a game of two halves.” All the more surprising from these distinguished players who, conducted by Danielle Gatti, gave such varied responses to repertoire that should have been meat and drink for them. 
Proms at ... Wilton’s Music Hall – songbirdsongs ... Molly's Song 3 ... Eight Songs for a Mad King
Saturday, September 02, 2017 |  Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Proms included Wilton’s Music Hall for the first time. ... The connections were finely plotted; the starting point (although last in the programme) – obviously – was Peter Maxwell Davies’s almost half-century-old Eight Songs for a Mad King, portraying what Alan Bennett’s later play encapsulated as The Madness of George III. 
Prom 65: Stax Records – 50 Years of Soul – Jools Holland
Friday, September 01, 2017 |  Fifty years (and five months) since the epochal tour of artists associated with Memphis-based Stax Records ended in London seems as good a reason as any to devote a Prom to this music. Hence this late-night concert which saw Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, hardly strangers to the Royal Albert Hall... ... The evening began with Beverley Knight, James Morrison and Tom Jones (at the age of seventy-seven the latter was making his Proms debut) kicking out the jams to Arthur Conley’s ‘Sweet Soul Music’; after which Sir Tom took centre-stage for a high-octane rendering of ‘Hard To Handle’, the first of several songs immortalised by Otis Redding. Sam Moore joined him... 
Prom 64: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniele Gatti – Wolfgang Rihm’s In-Schrift & Bruckner 9
Friday, September 01, 2017 |  It might have been a truncated version of a concert previously given in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw [...] but this programme suited the sometimes intractable acoustic properties of the Royal Albert Hall. The frustrations came from a less predictable quarter. ... Wolfgang Rihm’s In-Schrift... ... About halfway through the present performance the baton flew out of Daniele Gatti’s hands... ... The location might seem equally well-suited to Bruckner’s expansive idiom but it is only recently that his works have featured regularly during Proms seasons. 
Prom 63: Semyon Bychkov conducts The Oresteia & Manfred Symphony – Kirill Gerstein plays Rachmaninov
Thursday, August 31, 2017 |  With the Taneyev and the Tchaikovsky Semyon Bychkov was revisiting the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s “Beloved Friend” project from last season... ... The Oresteia is a singular reminder of his achievements for the stage. ... In Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto (1892/1917) Kirill Gerstein produced wondrous clarity of tone either in scintillating passagework or thunderous octaves. ... And so to Manfred, Tchaikovsky’s great programmatic Symphony based on Byron’s dramatic poem charting the tragic hero’s meditative wanderings through the Alps and on to his encounter with the infernal Arimanes. It was given a riveting account... 
Prom 62: Chineke! conducted by Kevin John Edusei, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Jeanine De Bique
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 |  While not the youngest debutant at this year’s Proms (the Multi-Story Youth Choir is that, both in age since foundation and, genuinely, in its members’ young years), Chineke! – Britain’s first BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) orchestra – made its unequivocal debut at this late-night concert... ... After Hannah Kendall’s piece, the spotlight fell on Sheku Kanneh-Mason in two works that also delved back into the history of the Proms. Both Dvořák’s Rondo and David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody were both featured in the 1900 Proms season... ... So too the second soloist, Jeanine De Bique, who dazzled in two Handel offcuts contrasting sacred (Rejoice Greatly) and profane (Cleopatra’s triumphant ‘Da tempeste’), yet similarly exuberant in their respective demeanour. 
Prom 61: Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Andrea Tarrodi & Carl Nielsen – Renée Fleming sings Samuel Barber & Richard Strauss
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 |  Whether it’s the BBC Symphony Orchestra or the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Sakari Oramo is the main man. It was the latter ensemble for the third of Oramo’s four Proms this season, here with Renée Fleming as guest. ... Renée Fleming arrived in gun-metal-grey apparel (so my lady companion advised) for Samuel Barber’s Knoxville (1947/50), another spirit-of-place piece, to a text by James Agee. 
Prom 60: Oslo Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko – The Firebird & Shostakovich 12 – Leif Ove Andsnes plays Rachmaninov
Tuesday, August 29, 2017 |  Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic work well together... ... The second of Stravinsky's Firebird Suites (there are three) prepared us for what was in store. ... Returning to a former hunting ground, Beethoven behind him, Leif Ove Andsnes dispatched Rachmaninov's Fourth Piano Concerto coolly but without much effort perhaps to reconcile its more problematic corners. 
Prom 59: Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito from Glyndebourne Festival Opera – Richard Croft, Alice Coote, Joélle Harvey, Anna Stéphany, Michèle Losier, Clive Bayley; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Robin Ticciati
Monday, August 28, 2017 |  Mozart’s final opera, La clemenza di Tito, does not get as many outings as it should, and Glyndebourne’s mounting of Claus Guth’s staging shows why it should be seen more often. ... Musically, the performance was top notch. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment adapted its reading from the warm and focused opera house to the more cavernous and booming space of the Royal Albert Hall with aplomb. Robin Ticciati favoured a lean sound, relishing Mozart’s spare yet evocative scoring... ... As Tito, Richard Croft also shone. ... Perhaps the most controversial casting was in the role of Vitellia. Alice Coote is a singer of great intensity, able to find a range of colours and textual inflection that always brings dramatic insight. Much of the role sits comfortably in the rich lower and middle parts of her voice, but the dazzle needed for the upper flourishes of ‘Vengo… aspettate’ found her taxed... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM7 – Pavel Kolesnikov plays Chopin
Monday, August 28, 2017 |  It was a wise decision to programme Pavel Kolesnikov in Chopin for the penultimate Proms Chamber Music recital this season; the hour illuminated, through Kolesnikov’s sensitive and idiomatic performances, that strange contrast of simplicity and complexity which characterises this composer. 
Prom 58: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Louis Langrée – On the Waterfront & Tchaikovsky 5 – Charles Dance narrates Lincoln Portrait
Sunday, August 27, 2017 |  The early years of the present century were not kind to the Cincinnati Symphony, which in 1909 gave an untried Leopold Stokowski his first conducting post. The disappearance of the Telarc record label, the death of Cincinnati Pops supremo Erich Kunzel (2009), the departure of Paavo Järvi (2011) and, most intractably, an ongoing world-wide recession, led to a slimming down of numbers. Now, buoyed up by far-sighted patronage and a long-term relationship with Louis Langrée... ... This first appearance at the Proms was just one stop on an ambitious, three-week, eleven-concert circuit taking in six European countries. ... That Leonard Bernstein’s archetypal urban film music for On the Waterfront allows for differing interpretation is borne out by the composer’s own recordings... ... The programming of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait (written for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942) must have posed problems for the BBC... ... When Sir Patrick Stewart’s rumoured participation failed to materialise, another old RSC hand, the impeccably British Charles Dance, was pressed into service. Latterly most widely seen as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones... 
Prom 57: Swing No End – Clare Teal, Guy Barker, Winston Rollins
Sunday, August 27, 2017 |  Big Band concerts have become a regular feature at the Proms of late... ... Once again Claire Teale guided us through what was an ambitious programme... ... Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Milenburg Joys’ launched proceedings in truly rousing fashion, then Teale joined the combined bands for the sassiness of Jay Livingston’s ‘Stuff Like That There’, before Guy Barker Big Band trumpeter Nathan Bray led the players through Duke Ellington’s earthy ‘East St Louis Toodle-Oo’. Harry Warren’s ‘Serenade in Blue’ brought soulful singing from Mads Mathias and the Accent Quartet... ... The bands combined for Jimmy Guiffre’s sax-fronted ‘Four Brothers’, Mathias then doing the honours in Vernon Duke’s trumpet-bound ‘I Can’t Get Started’, before the Winston Rollins Big Band took centre-stage for Cole Porter’s ‘Ridin’ High’... ... What was unassumingly billed as “Medley” turned into a fifteen-minute sequence of Latin evergreens featuring all the vocalists for a roof-raising rendition of Stan Kenton’s ‘Tampico’ and rounded-off with his signature-tune ‘The Peanut Vendor’. 
Prom 56: The Bohemian Reformation – Tábor & Blaník, Field Mass, Hussite Overture, The Excursions of Mr Brouček, Praga – BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jakub Hrůša
Saturday, August 26, 2017 |  Continuing the Reformation strand of this season's Proms, this concert focussed on the legacy of the early-fifteenth-century Czech reformer Jan Hus, burned at the stake in July 1415 for decrying the Church in Rome – his death torching the Hussite Wars with the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Bohemia's Catholic neighbours. ... ’Ktož jsú boží bojovníci’ permeates, directly or through allusion, the closing two sections of Smetana's Má vlast cycle (1879), Dvořák's Hussite Overture (1883) and Suk's Prague eulogy (1904). ... Certainly the Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša, a protégé of the late Jiří Bělohlávek, did his best to galvanise his forces. 
Proms at ... Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park, Peckham – Multi-Story Orchestra/Christopher Stark – Bach/Bantock, Kate Whitley, John Adams’s Harmonielehre
Saturday, August 26, 2017 |  A bijou encapsulation about what the Proms is all about, albeit with a shift some six miles south-east from the Royal Albert Hall, a return to the Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park in Peckham. Last year Christopher Stark and his Multi-Story Orchestra celebrated the eightieth-birthday of Steve Reich, this time John Adams’s seventieth, with an enthralling performance of Harmonielehre. Preceding it were the luscious string-heavy version of Bach’s ‘Sleepers Awake’ by Granville Bantock...  
Prom 55: Classical Music of India and Pakistan
Friday, August 25, 2017 |  Curated by the Darbar Foundation, this long late-night Prom (extending into Saturday morning) celebrated the seventieth-anniversary of the ending of colonial rule in India, the creation of the modern states of India and Pakistan, and the musical traditions therein. ... Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee (“Pandit” refers to the rank of teacher, or expert) was the astonishing sitar-player. ... The South Indian Carnatic tradition was represented by the husband-and-wife team of Kumaresh Rajagopalan and Jayanthi Kumaresh, joined by Anantha R. Krishnan, and included the wonderful sound of the Saraswati veena (the national instrument of India – its history dates back 2,000 years). ... A medley of five numbers, devotional and secular, the Qawwali section of Pakistan had its distinct sound. 
Prom 54: La Scala Philharmonic/Riccardo Chailly – Respighi’s Pines and Fountains of Rome – Leonidas Kavakos plays Brahms's Violin Concerto
Friday, August 25, 2017 |  But no, this was a concert with a bit missing and therefore an unsatisfactory ‘cold’ start into Brahms’s Violin Concerto. ... Leonidas Kavakos was technically imperious, and exact in the matter of intonation, yet whether he penetrated to the music’s core is another matter. ... The La Scala Philharmonic is the concert-giving wing of the opera house, founded by Abbado in 1982 and then nurtured by Giulini and Muti and now under the directorship of Chailly. Two selections from Respighi’s Roman Triptych (the other is Festivals) filled the concert’s part two. 
Prom 53: Beneath the Underdog – Charles Mingus Revisited
Thursday, August 24, 2017 |  Beneath the Underdog proved a powerful Proms showcase of Charles Mingus’s radical repertoire, performed with bold attitude by Jules Buckley and his Metropole Orkest. 
Prom 52: Beyond the Score® – Dvořák’s New World Symphony – Henry Goodman, Hallé, Mark Elder
Wednesday, August 23, 2017 |  The Royal Albert Hall, decked out with three big screens – one in front of the organ, two at the front of the canopy above the stage – is not the ideal space. ... It was generously done, though, and at nearly seventy-five minutes a good half-hour longer than Dvořák’s best-known Symphony, ‘From the New World’. ... Henry Goodman was Dvořák, convinced, like so many composers, that a national music should not part company with its folk roots, and Tamzin Griffin played his sponsor Jeanette Thurber, and other roles were taken by Robert Pickavance and Toby Jones. ... Mark Elder’s overview of the complete Symphony caught the wonder the composer experienced in the New World... 
Prom 51 – Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius & Elgar-Payne – Javier Perianes plays Saint-Saëns
Tuesday, August 22, 2017 |  That both of Elgar’s completed Symphonies were heard at the start of this Proms season (Barenboim) meant the 'Third' was a logical inclusion. ... Having given perceptive performances of those earlier Symphonies with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and made comparable recordings with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Sakari Oramo was well placed to deliver a convincing account of ‘No.3’. ... Before the interval, Javier Perianes intermittently impressed in Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto... ... Opening the Prom, a comparatively rare outing for the first of Sibelius’s Scènes historiques suites (1899). Drawn from the same Press Celebrations Music that gave the world Finlandia... 
Prom 50: CBSO/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla – Leonore No.3 & Beethoven’s Fifth, Leila Josefowicz plays Stravinsky, and Allan Clayton premieres Gerald Barry’s Canada
Monday, August 21, 2017 |  There were times when I thought that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s Beethoven, particularly in the Fifth Symphony, was too much of a good thing in its drive and tension, but there was no failure of togetherness, and anything that might have initially sounded like a novelty she totally justified in a superbly balanced performance. ... Gražinytė-Tyla proved a cool foil to Leila Josefowicz’s lyricism in Stravinsky’s neo-Baroque Violin Concerto... ... Josefowicz’s wildly virtuosic encore, from Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Lachen verlernt (Laughter unlearned), could have been intended to clear the decks for Gerald Barry’s anarchic mischief in Canada. ... ...Allan Clayton obsessively deconstructing the country’s three syllables... 
Proms at ... Cadogan Hall, PCM6 – Christiane Karg & Malcolm Martineau
Monday, August 21, 2017 |  It might seem perverse to single out the only non-native composer from a recital given over largely to French song, but if one had to pick a highlight from Christiane Karg’s Proms recital at Cadogan Hall, it would be Guridi’s Seis canciones castellanas. 
Prom 49: Reformation Day 3 – J. S. Bach’s St John Passion with the Dunedin Ensemble and John Butt
Sunday, August 20, 2017 |  J. S. Bach’s St John Passion formed the culmination of this tripartite “Reformation Day” at the Proms, celebrating the five-hundredth-anniversary of that pivotal event in history – a work which transcends its time, place, and particular religious context to express a universal drama of suffering, death, faith, hope and, ultimately, life. ... John Butt’s performance with the Dunedin Consort reconstructed the essence of its wider liturgical context within a putative service of Vespers on Good Friday at the Nikolaikirche (rather than the Thomaskirche) in Leipzig, based upon Bach’s revision of 1739, and notes in other service-books and church-orders which have survived. 
Prom 48: Reformation Day 2 – A Patchwork Passion – BBC Singers & City of London Sinfonia conducted by Sofi Jeannin
Sunday, August 20, 2017 |  For the second instalment of the Proms’ “Reformation Day” John Butt wove together a fascinating sequence of excerpts, in more or less chronological order, from settings of the narrative of Christ’s trials, sufferings, and death, entitled “A Patchwork Passion”. ... The sequence demonstrated the cross-currents which have existed among the denominations of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox in the case of the St John Passions by Sofia Gubaidulina and Arvo Pärt) and the fact that the Protestant Reformation did not mark a complete cutting off from, or the erecting of a barrier between, its traditions and those that already existed within Christianity at large. ... It was testament, though, to the attentiveness which Sofi Jeannin brought to her direction of the BBC Singers and the City of London Sinfonia that this array of excerpts all stemmed from a consistent mood of meditative focus fixed upon each piece. 
Prom 47: Reformation Day 1 – Bach’s Little Organ Book past and present – Robert Quinney & William Whitehead at Royal Albert Hall organ
Sunday, August 20, 2017 |  Although the religious revolution spawned in Europe exactly five-hundred years ago by Martin Luther’s challenge to the theology and practices of the Roman Catholic Church has come to be described in convenient shorthand as The Reformation, really there were several ecclesiastical reformations. This trinity of events on this single Proms day celebrating that anniversary largely concentrated upon the German, Lutheran one – unsurprisingly, as that bore the richest fruit, musically – rather than the Calvinist or Anglican varieties. Common to many Protestant traditions, however, remains the practice of congregational singing of hymns or chorales in the vernacular, inspired by the examples Luther himself wrote, and which formed a major source of inspiration for composers in the centuries afterwards. ... Whitehead skilfully displayed a different sort of control and attention in the growing pace and volume of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Prelude on that most famous of Reformation chorales, ‘Ein feste Burg’... 
Prom 46: Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, with Simon O'Neill, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Karen Cargill, Christopher Purves, Peter Hoare, Thomas Quasthoff
Saturday, August 19, 2017 |  What is it about doomed lovers and the inexorable progress towards a New Music? First Tristan und Isolde, then Pelléas et Mélisande, and, almost as though he wanted to have the last word, the young Arnold Schoenberg, music’s saviour from the straitjacket of tonality (or so he thought then), slapped down his late-romantic credentials with Gurrelieder... ... It’s a work Simon Rattle has championed throughout his career... 
Prom 45: Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, dedicated to the memory of Jiří Bělohlávek
Friday, August 18, 2017 |  Before he and the BBC Symphony Orchestra launched Mahler’s first movement [...], Sakari Oramo made a brief speech dedicating this Prom ‘Resurrection’ Symphony to the memory of Jiří Bělohlávek... 
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 ... Stage@TheDock, 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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