Monday, 26 April 2010

BBC Promenade Concert Season 2010: British Music in Repertoire

I always feel that the year is beginning to fly past when the BBC Proms Concert brochure appears on the shelves at Waterstones’s or in Forsyth’s Music shop. I usually buy it, but before parting with my cash I have a quick glance to see what British music is programmed. If I am honest, I mean British Music composed between about 1850 to 1960! And I must admit that I am usually disappointed.
To a certain extent this year is no different. Some of the pieces chosen from this repertoire are quite predictable – such as the usual diet of the Last Night. However this year there are actually two ‘Last Night’s’ the ‘first’ one on September 5 being a recreation of Sir Henry Wood’s own ‘last night’ from a century ago. This includes a ‘new’ novelty –David Matthews’s realisation of Vaughan Williams Dark Pastoral which is based on the surviving fragment of the slow movement of Vaughan Williams's Cello Concerto (1942). Other British music at that concert includes Sir Henry’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s The Peep-Show. There is a rare outing at the Proms for 'Who were the Yeomen of England?’ From 'Sir Edward German’s Merrie England, Dorothy Forster's ‘Mifanwy’ and Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.4 in G major
At this particular Prom the National Anthem is in the arrangement by Elgar and there is a ‘period’ performance of Sir Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea-Songs.

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry is well represented with his Elegy for Brahms, his great Symphonic Fantasia in B minor (Fifth Symphony) and his Symphonic Variations. In addition to the usual ‘Jerusalem’ there is a performance of Blest Pair of Sirens.
I was delighted to see that there are two works by the Mancunian composer John Foulds. His Dynamic Triptych for piano and orchestra is a work that is guaranteed to bring the house down and his lovely tone poem April- England is going to be a popular choice with the ‘prommers’.

Enthusiasts of Ralph Vaughan Williams can look forward to hearing the Serenade to Music and the ubiquitous Lark Ascending. But also one of the composer’s rarer works is the Suite for viola and small orchestra.
Elgar is represented by only one major work - his magnificent First Symphony. Naturally the tradition of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is still adhered to and political correctness has not [yet] caused it to be abandoned.
Apart from the yearly outing of ‘Rule Britannia’, there is a performance of his Sir Thomas Arne’s Symphony No. 4 in C minor. Benjamin Britten is only represented by his Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, his Lachrymae and his Sinfonia da Requiem.
There are a fair few single works by British Composers. Concert goers will have a rare opportunity to hear Dorothy Howell’s orchestral poem Lamia and also Sir Arnold Bax’s London Pageant. There are performances of George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow, Sir William Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue and his suite of Bach transcriptions from the ballet The Wise Virgins, Sir Malcolm Arnold’s Four Cornish Dances and Sir Arthur Bliss’s Birthday Fanfare for Sir Henry Wood. And, lastly Percy Grainger’s fine Blithe Bells is to be heard.
Finally I am not sure why only a bit of Gustav Holst’s Planets is being given – apparently Mars is being performed twice! I am a musical snob – I do not believe in excerpting from this great masterpiece!

Naturally there are a number of contemporary works being performed, some of which are first UK premieres. This is in the long tradition of the Proms encouraging ‘novelties; and new music. However, I feel that this is outside the scope of this post. Perhaps I shall list them nearer the start of the Prom Season?

And lastly what has been missed out of this year’s Proms Programme? See my post over the next few days...

No comments: