All 2019 Prom Reviews

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Lost in the Canyons of the Stars – Alan Davey’s Classical Source Blog – BBC Proms 2019 takes-off today, July 19
Friday, July 19, 2019 |  This being the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon Landings we begin the Proms with a new work by Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri, followed by The Planets and a new piece by Anna Thorvaldsdottir about deep-space travel. ... In the spirit of Sir Henry, there is something for everyone with a huge range of performers and performances for all to enjoy. 
Prom 40: Queen Victoria's 200th-Anniversary – Ádám Fischer conducts the OAE in Sullivan and the Scottish Symphony – Stephen Hough plays Mendelssohn | Alessandro Fisher sings songs by Prince Albert
Friday, August 16, 2019 |  This Prom provided an ideal celebration for the bicentenary of Queen Victoria’s birth. A remarkable enhancement to Stephen Hough’s performance of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto was the use of Victoria’s own piano. It’s in a perfect state of preservation. ... Prince Albert was a skilled musician, a singer, pianist and organist and it was good to have five of his Lieder – “songs written by German-speaking composers of classical music.” ... Mendelssohn’s ‘Scotch’ Symphony (so-called by the composer and all nineteenth-century publishers) sounded very interesting from the OAE’s instruments... 
Prom 39 – BBC National Orchestra of Wales – Elim Chan conducts The Hebrides & Pictures at an Exhibition – Catriona Morison sings Elgar’s Sea Pictures & Errollyn Wallen's This Frame Is Part of the Painting
Thursday, August 15, 2019 |  Two recent prize-winners at the Proms. Catriona Morison was winner of Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 whilst Elim Chan won the Donatella Flick Conducting Prize in 2014. Chan made an immediate impression in a thoughtful reading of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture... ... Morison was particularly impressive Elgar’s Sea Pictures. ... Morison had a major role to play in Errollyn Wallen’s This Frame is Part of the Painting. It’s a twelve-minute paean to the work of painter Howard Hodgkin... ... The evening closed with a very familiar musical homage, Mussorgsky’s for-piano Pictures at an Exhibition, written to commemorate painter and architect Viktor Hartmann, in Ravel’s orchestration (could we though have had Henry Wood’s version?). 
Prom 38: Solomon’s Knot – Johann Sebastian Bach Cantatas
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 |  Solomon’s Knot arrived at the Proms in no uncertain terms with this late-nighter of punchy Bach Cantatas. A flexible ensemble, founded in 2008 and with a modus operandi that dictates singers perform from memory, here it fielded a band of nineteen players to support the eight vocalists. ... This programme could easily have been termed ‘Game of Thrones comes to the Proms’ – as the triumphant choruses by which Bach marked St Michael’s feast day on September 29, for which all these Cantatas were written during the 1720s, celebrate his defeat of a dragon. 
Prom 37: Hallé – Maxime Pascal conducts Berlioz’s Childhood of Christ
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 |  Like the work itself – which grew organically over four years from a rustic ditty Berlioz was asked to compose at a card game for a friend’s album in 1850 – this performance morphed from the originally advertised line-up. Following the news about Sarah Connolly, Julie Boulianne was quickly announced (she’d sung in John Eliot Gardiner’s Roméo et Juliette in 2016 here). But then Mark Elder also had to withdraw at short notice – requiring surgery – and was replaced by Maxime Pascal, who at the Royal Festival Hall in May conducted Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht. 
Prom 36: Late-Night Mixtape
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 |  Hazy distant summers came to life with Soumik Datta's sarod opuses, such as the luxurious Morning Song, then the meditative choral glory of Gjeilo's The Spheres, Lobo's Versa est in luctum, John Tavener's The Lamb and the sombre sublimation of Max Richter's On the Nature of Daylight continued the theme of reflection. 
Prom 35: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, ENO Chorus & BBC Singers – Martyn Brabbins’s 60th-birthday concert – Pictured Within: Birthday Variations for M. C. B. | Serenade to Music | Song of Destiny | Enigma Variations
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 |  Martyn Brabbins has been conducting ensembles big and small at the Proms since 1993. ... The opening Theme (by an Anonymous author), plainly taking off from Elgar’s, has a provisional, aspiring, rocking element and a more troubled second strain. ... Sir Harrison Birtwistle, given the impossible task of responding to ‘Nimrod’, provides a tranche of instantly recognisable primeval landscape, suitably meditative if less than melodic (or relevant?). Next a massive contrast (as in the original), Judith Weir basing her Variation more directly on ‘Dorabella’ or rather its flickering woodwind figures. ... The remainder of the first half was taken up by Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, music closely associated with Henry Wood and the Royal Albert Hall rather than the Proms itself. ... Following the interval, the Brahms received a reading with similar strengths, the Elgar probing deeper. Brabbins has lately emerged as a major Elgarian, though it’s not easy to explain what makes his interpretations so special (the art that conceals art and all that). 
Prom 35 preview: Martyn Brabbins introduces Pictured Within: Birthday Variations for M. C. B. [August 13 @ 7 p.m.]
Thursday, July 25, 2019 |  Having conducted hundreds of premieres, and having a passion for English music, I decided to commission a new set of “Enigma Variations”!! Risky, I know, but perhaps worth a try... 
Prom 34: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – Daniel Barenboim conducts Schubert & Lutosławski – Martha Argerich plays Tchaikovsky
Monday, August 12, 2019 |  A full house for this London leg of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s twentieth-anniversary tour was guaranteed even without the presence of Martha Argerich... ... Daniel Barenboim can conduct Schubert in a curiously sedate fashion, as if transported to some sleepy German provincial town in the late 1950s. ... There was more drama (and eight basses) in the Tchaikovsky. Most pianists in late career opt for intimate recitals. Not so Argerich who has always preferred to make music with chums – and she has known Barenboim longer than most [...] even if they have only been regular partners in the last few years. 
Proms at … Cadogan Hall/Proms Chamber Music 4: Aris Quartett plays Schubert, Sirmen & Haydn
Monday, August 12, 2019 |  It was curious to start with the piece written last. Here we had Schubert, in his early teens, who would contribute greatly to the String Quartet genre, feeling his way if with infectious spirit and also some experimental forays into tonality and texture. The Aris Quartett revelled in these aspects. 
Prom 33 – BBC Symphony Orchestra with Christina Gansch – Semyon Bychkov conducts Detlev Glanert/Weites Land, Schubert & Glanert's Einsamkeit, Mahler 4
Sunday, August 11, 2019 |  Detlev Glanert, born in Hamburg in 1960, came to music late, beginning his formal studies in composition only in his twenties – working with Hans Werner Henze for four years and then Oliver Knussen. ... Subtitled ‘Music with Brahms’, Weites Land (Open Country, 2013, revised February 2018) takes the first four bars of Brahms's Fourth Symphony as its starting point... ... Economical in gesture, a master of his art, Semyon Bychkov (following up on a fine performance with the Berlin Philharmonic last September, link below) secured committed playing from the BBCSO. ... Schubert's massive, emotionally intense 1818 setting of Johann Mayrhofer's allegoric Einsamkeit doesn't get aired that often. ... Christina Gansch gave a glorious account, one of soaring tenderness... 
Prom 32: National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America – Antonio Pappano conducts Occidentalis & Alpine Symphony – Joyce DiDonato sings Nuits d’été
Sunday, August 11, 2019 |  An exciting morning Prom celebrating summer nights and an alpine excursion. Resplendent in its uniform – domino black jackets, crimson red pants and sneakers – the National Youth Orchestra of the USA showed itself to be of considerable talent, particularly in control of dynamics and texture in a difficult acoustic. Kicking off the programme was nineteen-year old Benjamin Beckman’s four-minute Occidentalis... ... Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été was ravishingly sung by Joyce DiDonato... 
Prom 31: Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Brahms's Haydn Variations & Bruckner's Romantic Symphony – Lise Davidsen sings Richard Strauss
Saturday, August 10, 2019 |  The Four Songs, Opus 27, by Richard Strauss were composed in 1894 by the thirty-year-old Strauss as a wedding present for his wife, soprano Pauline de Ahna. The orchestration is masterly, but the colourful sounds never obstruct the vocal line, and gave Lise Davidsen the opportunity to reveal the superbly expressive quality of the middle range of her voice. ... Salonen says that “Anton Bruckner was one of the main reasons why I decided to become a musician.” Certainly his devotion to the ‘Romantic’ Symphony (which first drew his attention to the composer) was evident in this performance in which the Philharmonia responded to his direction sympathetically and with immaculate precision... 
Prom 30: The Warner Brothers Story – John Wilson [second reel]
Friday, August 09, 2019 |  For the second time on this day, the John Wilson Orchestra together with adorning singers indefatigably led us through music composed for Warner Brothers’ movies. 
Prom 29: The Warner Brothers Story – John Wilson [matinee showing]
Friday, August 09, 2019 |  Whether or not it produced the finest movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Warner Brothers boasted an unmatchable roster of composers from which to draw at a time when lavishness, opulence and melodrama were the order of the day. From among his select corpus of sixteen film-scores, Erich Wolfgang Korngold certainly pulled out the stops in The Sea Hawk and not least its Overture – a succinct while unerring encapsulation of widescreen action which launched this latest Proms appearance by John Wilson and his Orchestra in appropriately swashbuckling fashion. 
Prom 28: BBC National Chorus & Orchestra of Wales – Tadaaki Otaka conducts Takemitsu/Twill by Twilight, Huw Watkins/The Moon, Rachmaninov/The Bells, Borodin/Polovtsian Dances
Thursday, August 08, 2019 |  An oddly conceived and structured concert. On paper the inclusion of the Borodin looked as lame as any pre-announced encore, but the programming of Takemitsu and Rachmaninov promised something special given their prominence during Tadaaki Otaka’s thirty-year relationship with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Might Huw Watkins’s new piece prove more durable than the typical ten-minute Proms pièce d’occasion? 
Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music
Wednesday, August 07, 2019 |  Attending a concert of Sci-Fi film music, one has expectations: a smattering of John Williams is a certainty (E.T., Close Encounters, Star Wars) and perhaps a bit of Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek, Alien). Not here – this was a Prom for nerds; and while, as underscoring for a particular drama, the music can be effective, devoid of visual cues it can become bland, all sounding very much the same. ... The London Contemporary Orchestra and Robert Ames focus on commissioning new music. Not too challenging here and there was the visual distraction of spotlights more commonly found in a rock concert. 
Prom 26: BBC National Chorus & Orchestra of Wales – Nathalie Stutzmann conducts Tragic Overture, Prelude & Liebestod, and Mozart’s Requiem
Wednesday, August 07, 2019 |  Nathalie Stutzmann’s shapely and vibrant presentation kept the action flowing with little tendency to wallow into despair... ... Although Wagner completed Tristan and Isolde in 1859, it wasn’t premiered until six years later. Taking every opportunity to stimulate interest in his music-drama, he stitched-together the score’s bookends. ... Like it or not, Stutzmann had a clear picture of how Mozart’s final/left-unfinished manuscript should go. 
Prom 25: BBC Symphony Orchestra – Dalia Stasevska conducts Karelia Suite & Pathétique Symphony – Sol Gabetta gives London premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg’s Cello Concerto
Tuesday, August 06, 2019 |  Reflecting that “music is a place where worst enemies can sit side by side and feel the same thing”, Dalia Stasevska, the new young Ukrainian-born Finnish principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, hasn't been conducting long – less than five years professionally. But, benefitting from studies with a clutch of Finland's best – Mikko Franck, Hannu Lintu, Susanna Mälkki (whom she particularly admires), Sakari Oramo and Leif Segerstam – she clearly has a passion for the occupation. ... Born a century ago, Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-96) – a Polish Jew who, fleeing the German occupation of Warsaw, embraced the Soviet Union in 1939, journeying from Belorussia to Uzbekistan to finally Moscow – dominated the first half. A close friend and musical partner of Shostakovich... ... A ravishing, aristocratic player always seeking out new repertory with a difference – she should look at some of the cello music of Adrian Williams or Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Sol Gabetta made a cultured case for its revival, commanding the platform with elegance and finesse... 
Prom 24: Relaxed Prom – Swan Lake & Paganini Rhapsody – BBC Phil/Ben Gernon with Juan Pérez Floristán
Tuesday, August 06, 2019 |  Fighting your way out of a tourist-encrusted South Kensington tube station in time for an 11.30 a.m. concert at the Royal Albert Hall was always going to be a strain, so a Relaxed Prom was attractive, an abridged version of the previous night’s show, presented by Carrie and David Grant, possibly best-known as vocal coaches and judges on Pop Idol and Fame Academy, who introduced the music. 
Prom 23: BBC Philharmonic – Ben Gernon conducts Peterloo Overture & Swan Lake – Juan Pérez Floristán plays Paganini Rhapsody
Monday, August 05, 2019 |  Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture was commissioned by the Trades Union Congress in 1968 to commemorate the massacre of protesting workers in Saint Peter’s Field, Manchester in 1819... ... Juan Pérez Floristán took over from the indisposed Alexander Gavrylyuk in Paganini Rhapsody. 
Proms at … Cadogan Hall/Proms Chamber Music 3: The English Concert & Kristian Bezuidenhout
Monday, August 05, 2019 |  Comprising music derived largely from the late-seventeenth-century this was a fascinating programme featuring works all attempting to seek popularity by adopting or emulating features of music popular at the court of Louis XIV. 
Prom 22: BBC Philharmonic – John Storgårds conducts Isle of the Dead, Midnight Sun Variations, The Year 1905
Sunday, August 04, 2019 |  Not that the present evening was without its Finnish connections. John Storgårds, himself a notable Sibelian, had chosen a mostly Russian programme... ... The atmospherics were rather lacking in the Rachmaninov which launched the concert. ... It was much the same story in the Shostakovich, middle-of-the-road in matters of tempo and well-received at the close by the virtually full house (a gratifying statistic given the absence of a Concerto). 
Prom 21: Olivier Latry at the Royal Albert Hall organ
Sunday, August 04, 2019 |  ...I trust I shall not be considered elitist when I say my initial reaction on reading Olivier Latry’s programme for the single organ recital Prom this year was that a golden opportunity had been sacrificed on the altar of fashionable populism. 
Prom 20 – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Sibelius – Thomas Dausgaard conducts the UK premiere of the first score of Symphony 5 | Pekka Kuusisto plays the Violin Concerto | Finnish Folk Music
Saturday, August 03, 2019 |  Thomas Dausgaard can be relied upon for thoughtful and imaginative programme-planning, and this Prom was no exception; culminating as it did with a first UK performance for Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony in its (much discussed though rarely heard) original version. ... An appropriate occasion for featuring the original version of the Violin Concerto, though Pekka Kuusisto opted for the familiar revision... 
Prom 19: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Thomas Dausgaard conducts Also sprach Zarathustra & The Confession of Isobel Gowdie – Alexander Melnikov plays Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto
Friday, August 02, 2019 |  Three composers around thirty-one. Tone-poem, Concerto, requiem. 1895-96, 1841-45, 1990. Gravity depths, cosmic trumpets, sounds remembered, a single pitch, C, to open, link and close. ... Witnessing the fire and power of creativity on the cusp of maturity, James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, premiered at the Proms in 1990, was, by some distance, the glory of the evening. ... Earlier – reminding of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing fifty years ago no less than Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey – Also sprach Zarathustra got off to a magnificent start, the Royal Albert Hall's organ ever thunderously the "Voice of Jupiter". ... Schumann's Piano Concerto was the disappointment. Alexander Melnikov – a former Naumov student in Moscow championed by Richter, third at the 1989 Robert Schumann International and fifth at the 1991 Queen Elisabeth – took an egg-shell view of the work... 
Prom 18: BBC Symphony Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Claudia Mahnke & Stuart Skelton – Leif Ove Andsnes plays Benjamin Britten’s Piano Concerto
Thursday, August 01, 2019 |  Britten loved Mahler’s music and thought, in relation to Das Lied von der Erde, that it was “cruel that music should be so beautiful” – and there are flickers of that composer in the Englishman’s epically precocious Piano Concerto, which he wrote as a showpiece for his virtuosic pianism, and which was almost the last work he composed (in 1938) before his wartime move to America. ... With the BBCSO and Edward Gardner scoring point after brilliant point in the accompaniment, Leif Ove Andsnes was on elegant and economic form... 
Prom 17: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra – 2 – Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Sibelius 1 & Der Rosenkavalier | Gil Shaham plays Prokofiev
Wednesday, July 31, 2019 |  Having been conducting Brahms on Sunday at the Festival de Lanaudière, Canada’s largest classical music festival, Yannick Nézet-Séguin can’t have had much time to prepare for his surprise stint with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Proms (with Salzburg to follow). Most audience members were aware that Mariss Jansons had been advised to withdraw on medical grounds but fewer were expecting a replacement soloist. The advent of Gil Shaham came too late for the printed programmes although an insert was provided. That said, stand-ins don’t come much more welcome! 
Prom 16: Angélique Kidjo
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 |  Angélique Kidjo's muse is the late Cuban salsa superstar Celia Cruz, and much of the night was devoted to this genre including Quimbara accompanied by Kidjo's strutting cockerel-dancing. 
Prom 15: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra – 1 – Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Symphonies by Beethoven (No.2) & Shostakovich (No.5)
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 |  It should have been Mariss Jansons conducting (resting on doctor’s orders), and Shostakovich’s Tenth. Yannick Nézet-Seguin replaced him and offered the Russian composer’s Fifth instead. ... At this Prom, the distinction of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra’s sound was achieved mainly through absolute precision and enhanced by the immaculate balance obtained by Nézet-Séguin. The challenging acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall was overcome... 
Prom 14: Omer Meir Wellber conducts Haydn’s The Creation with BBC Philharmonic & BBC Proms Youth Choir
Monday, July 29, 2019 |  This was an extraordinarily crisp and engaging account of Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (The Creation), led by Omer Meir Wellber with an unerring sense of pace very attuned to the narrative of the work and refreshingly devoid of a ‘grand oratorio’ approach with the recitatives flowing in an almost improvisatory way. 
Proms at … Cadogan Hall/Proms Chamber Music 2: A Celebration of Barbara Strozzi
Monday, July 29, 2019 |  Bringing a touch of vibrancy to this seventeenth-century stop-off in the Proms Chamber Music survey of 800 years of music – not only aurally but visually, with Mariana Flores in a swishing, sparkling, salmon-pink full-length dress – this must have surely been the first lunchtime Prom devoted to women composers (well, Venetian woman composers at least). There were two – Barbara Strozzi, born 400 years ago; and her slightly younger Venetian compatriot Antonia Bembo – with one addition from Bembo’s teacher (and possibly Strozzi’s as well), Francesco Cavalli. 
Prom 13: BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles ...
Sunday, July 28, 2019 |  Continuing this year’s Proms theme of space exploration on the fiftieth-anniversary of the first Moon Landings, Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra took up Olivier Messiaen’s expansive cycle Des canyons aux étoiles ... (1971-4). As a spiritual meditation that leads up from the sublime landscapes of Utah, to the empyrean realm of the stars, its succession of a dozen movements is often the occasion for performers to wallow in slow, mystical fervour. 
Prom 12: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – Mark Wigglesworth conducts Icarus & Romeo and Juliet – Nicola Benedetti plays Tchaikovsky
Saturday, July 27, 2019 |  There may be economic reasons behind the appearance of more and more youth orchestras at the Proms but it’s pure gain to hear an ensemble big enough to fill the venue with unamplified sound, however inauthentic the doublings. Relatives and supporters seemed to outnumber tourists at this packed National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain Prom, long an annual event. ... The more or less Russian programme began with a London premiere. Not that a musical treatment of the Icarus legend was the most obvious candidate for inclusion in a season inspired by the 1969 Apollo Moon Landing and, by implication, that make-believe directive “to boldly go where no man has gone before”... ... Next up was Nicola Benedetti who created quite a stir even before she had played a note – whether thanks to her high public profile, profound commitment to music education or an impactful off-the-shoulder frock of fiery red. Although she has regularly confounded critics with her devotion to non-standard musical fare she must have a special relationship with the Tchaikovsky... ... The enormous popularity of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is a relatively recent phenomenon. ... The selection was typical of Mark Wigglesworth, telling a grand, tragic tale with high seriousness, visceral attack and impressive continuity... 
Proms at … Battersea Arts Centre
Saturday, July 27, 2019 |  Take three stages in a resurrected venue, brazen in its shabby chic state with a nearly-completed organ restoration. Add five composer/performers and the might of the BBC, let alone the droll enthusiasm of presenter Georgia Mann, and what have you got? The first Proms at... this season in the cool surroundings of Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall, with its distressed walls revealing a patina of the building’s history and a constant reminder of the fire that all-but destroyed it four years ago. 
Prom 11: 1969: The Sound of a Summer
Friday, July 26, 2019 |  People wore flowers in their hair and there were Paisley shirts and loon pants in the auditorium but more people wore twenty-first-century sportswear and trainers. This Prom was 1969 – the Sound of a Summer: Woodstock, Apollo 11 Landing on the Moon, Vietnam War protests, the Beatles’ final album and counter-cultural activity generally. ... Haynes and co-vocalist Tony Momrelle were real assets, often able to give familiar songs new life. Haynes gave Burt Bacharach’s Oscar-winning Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) more lift than it frequently receives. She made What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (by Michel Legrand) touching with her distinct and elastic phrasing. Momrelle has a fine voice that can be both sinewy and buttery and brought vigour to Everybody’s Talkin’ (sung in Midnight Cowboy by Harry Nilsson). ... Momrelle sang I Heard It Through the Grapevine which became Motown’s biggest hit with Marvin Gaye. Haynes sang Bacharach’s I Say a Little Prayer, originally sung by Dionne Warwick but re-recorded by Aretha Franklin. 
Prom 10: Public Service Broadcasting – The Race for Space
Thursday, July 25, 2019 |  Despite the heat, which may have put off passing audiences at the earlier Prom (No.9), this year’s first Late Night was rammed. I may have been one of the laggards in only recently falling for the charms of Public Service Broadcasting’s intriguing The Race for Space released in 2015, but it was a shoe-in for the celebrations of the first Moon Landing in 1969. And it proved an energising experience in its live expanded form: band-member J. F. Abraham’s orchestrations for The Multi-Story Orchestra filling the Royal Albert Hall with a succession of ear-caressing chords and cadences, adding an introduction and coda to the album, as well as interpolating an extra track, Korolev (Sputnik’s single B-side, about Russian rocket engineer, Sergei Korolev), between Go! and the final track Tomorrow. 
Prom 9: BBC National Orchestra of Wales – Markus Stenz conducts Till Eulenspiegel & Brahms 1 – Jeroen Berwaerts & Håkan Hardenberger give UK premiere of Tobias Broström’s Nigredo – Dark Night of the Soul
Thursday, July 25, 2019 |  Improbable as it looks on paper, Richard Strauss and Brahms constituted the livelier outer panels of a triptych in which Tobias Broström’s two-trumpet Concerto formed the heart of darkness. ... Markus Stenz and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales set the scene with their carefully calibrated ripples of sound which evoked waves of water, more than light even, as though floating around a point of equilibrium within the texture of the music itself, rather than tied to, or grounded in, anything outside of itself. The contributions from Håkan Hardenberger and Jeroen Berwaerts emanated from those indistinct eddies of sound... ... The turbulence of Brahms’s First Symphony – the product of a twenty-year artistic struggle with Beethoven’s mighty cycle – is often taken to be indicative of some dark night of the soul on that composer’s part. But in Stenz’s interpretation, it took on a surprising levity and clarity. ... To open the concert was a jocular reading of Strauss’s high-spirited tone poem about the ‘merry pranks’ of the folkloric hero Till Eulenspiegel... 
Prom 8: BBC Symphony Orchestra – Peter Eötvös conducts Faune, Dance Suite & Firebird – Isabelle Faust gives UK premiere of Eötvös’s Alhambra
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 |  Henry Wood (Proms guru, and it’s his 150th-anniversary this year) introduced three of these works to the UK, and Peter Eötvös was on hand to do similarly with his Alhambra. ... Eötvös (born 1944) is a conductor who, through his composer’s instincts, freshens-up the music he interprets – much-needed with the ubiquitous Firebird... ... Alhambra (2018, premiered twelve days ago) was written for Isabelle Faust. The note G (Granada) is important, so too the interval of a fifth, and the orchestration includes a mandolin (the violinist’s “constant follower”, like Sancho Panza says Eötvös) and a baritone saxophone... 
Prom 7: BBC Philharmonic – Omer Meir Wellber conducts Ben-Haim, Schoenberg & Schumann – Yeol Eum Son plays Mozart Piano Concerto K450
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 |  In his debut appearance at the Proms – as Chief Conductor designate of the BBC Philharmonic – Omer Meir Wellber ranged over three centuries’ worth of music with four bold works from the Austro-German tradition that were all ground-breaking in their various ways. 
Prom 6: Orchestra of the Royal Academy of Music and The Juilliard School – Edward Gardner conducts Metacosmos & The Rite of Spring – James Ehnes plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Monday, July 22, 2019 |  An ensemble of gifted students from London’s Royal Academy of Music and New York’s Julliard School. From the hot summer’s day outside – there were deck-chairs in Hyde Park – we were transported to the ice-cold of outer space. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music has characteristic Nordic signposts... ... Then to Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto. James Ehnes graduated from The Juilliard School in 1997 and now serves as a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy. ... Following the break, a nervous start to The Rite of Spring quickly gave way to a confident rendition... 
Proms at … Cadogan Hall/Proms Chamber Music 1: VOCES8
Monday, July 22, 2019 |  Interspersing some familiar choral works oft-heard in concerts or cathedral or church services and choral evensongs with snatches of the unfamiliar and two works by contemporary composers was a great way to kick-off the Proms at Cadogan Hall season. VOCES8 is a top-notch ensemble... ... The premiere of Alexia Sloane’s Earthward [BBC commission], set to a text of her own, followed. 
Prom 5: CBeebies: A Musical Trip to the Moon [second voyage]
Monday, July 22, 2019 |  The CBeebies joined in the Proms celebrations of the fiftieth-anniversary of the first manned mission to land on the Moon with their own trip to it, including a brief diversion to the Clangers Planet (also fifty). There was much audience involvement in the panto spirit. Multiple screens, projections, lighting effects and roving spots were used to make the experience as immersive as possible. Archival footage of the Moon Landing was strangely touching. The massed ranks of the CBeebies Proms Choir and the BBC Singers were green-clad to striking effect and a rather handsome rocket achieved a strictly limited lift-off from the Arena. 
Prom 4: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits – Short Ride ... The Planets – Nemanja Radulović plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, July 21, 2019 |  Gustav Holst’s inspiration in writing The Planets may have been as much astrology as it was astronomy but it was the (too?) obvious work for the Proms celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first manned mission to land on the Moon. ... Nemanja Radulović may look and dress like Slash from Guns N’ Roses but he is a fine violinist who makes up for any lack of sumptuous tone with a variety of timbre and spot-on execution. This was evident in his reading of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto... 
Prom 3: CBeebies: A Musical Trip to the Moon
Sunday, July 21, 2019 |  Oh, what fun! From the choir’s splendid “Welcome to the CBeebies Prom” to an appeal to the Go Jetters to assist in getting the CBeebies’ rocket back to Earth, this was a concert that had children at its heart. Four CBeebies stalwarts, Justin, Yolanda, Chris and Maddie – all very well known to at least half the audience (the ones below the age of ten) – presided over our trip to the Moon. A large rocket in the centre of the Arena was the transport with music and instruments providing the fuel. 
Prom 2: Bamberg Symphony – Jakub Hrůša conducts Smetana’s Má vlast – Joshua Bell plays Dvořák’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, July 20, 2019 |  This was a Prom of two halves – possibly of many smaller parts if one counts clapping between most movements of Má vlast. It is a brave promoter that starts a concert with a Concerto. Orchestras need time to settle in: an Overture? Perhaps that from The Bartered Bride (to keep this a Czech affair)? The Bamberg Symphony, also known, since 1993, as the Bavarian State Philharmonic, certainly needed such time – two movements of Dvořák’s Violin Concerto to be precise. ... on occasion the dots didn’t quite line up with those of the toe-tapping Joshua Bell. ... ...Jakub Hrůša hopelessly trying to steer the two. ... The bubbling waters of the ‘Vltava’ had the flutes effortlessly tripping over the fast-moving scale passages and though the tempo slowed slightly when the main string theme entered the music ebbed and flowed like the river it was set to depict. 
First Night of the BBC Proms 2019 – Karina Canellakis conducts BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus & Symphony Orchestra – Zosha Di Castri commission, Dvořák’s Golden Spinning Wheel, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass
Friday, July 19, 2019 |  As old certainties fade the Last Night of the Proms has assumed a unique role in national life, albeit one that would have perplexed Henry Wood given that its ‘traditional’ second half post-dates him. The 150th-anniversary of his birth gives rise to one of the running threads of the new season. Another, woozier, theme takes off from the Apollo moon-landing fifty years ago, a cue “to explore the link between music, nature and environment, which to this day continues to inspire composers of every kind.” 

 

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