Friday, 5 August 2011

Proms Watch 2011 Week 4

This is the fourth of my Proms-Watch analysis of British Music being performed during the 2011 season. This is a rather good week...!

Friday 5th August
This week’s activities (the Proms-week begins on Friday as the First Night was on a Friday) is dedicated to a performance of Gustav Mahler’s massive Symphony No.2 in C minor ‘Resurrection’ played by the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra with their conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Interestingly, this is the second symphony by Mahler performed in four weeks. Would that honour be given to a British Composer...?

Saturday 6th August
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain features Benjamin Britten’s excellent Piano Concerto with Benjamin Grosvenor as the soloist. This is an excellent choice for a concert dedicated to ‘young people’ and will hopefully allow the audience to see that BB wrote much fine orchestral music as well as his more famous operas and songs. Other works include selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and a certain Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra. Mr Prokofiev is a London-born composer who ‘has produced Dance, Electro & Hip-hop music under a variety of different guises.’
So a great night for British composers.
At the late night Prom, Nigel Kennedy performs music by J.S. Bach.

Sunday 7th August
On Sunday listeners have yet another opportunity to hear Mahler. This time it is his Das klagende Lied in the original version. This is coupled with Christian Tetzlaff playing the solo part of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major. The BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra along with a galaxy of soloists are conducted by Edward Gardner.
So no British music tonight. And someone at ‘Auntie’ seems to have a soft spot for Gustav Mahler!

Monday 8th August
Khatia Buniatishvili plays Franz Liszt and Sergei Prokofiev at the lunchtime time concert at the Cadogan Hall. This includes Liszt’ great Piano Sonata in B minor.
The evening concert has no British music. However it is a great night of Scandinavian music. Three major works are given by one Finnish, one Norwegian and one Danish composer, Sibelius, Grieg and Nielsen respectively. Pity they could not have found a work by a Swedish composer to truly reflect the ‘extended’ Scandinavian region. And what about Iceland?
Naturally there is no British music tonight.

Tuesday 9th August
Things get much better today! Simon Holt, a North Countryman born in Bolton, Lancashire is represented by the London Premiere of Centauromachy. I have no idea what this will sound like, but the augers seem to suggest that it will be an excellent piece of music. Certainly it would appear to be a million miles away from minimalism and ‘pop’ crossover.
I am delighted that Frank Bridge’s orchestral masterpiece Enter Spring is being given an outing tonight. This is one of the finest tone poems in any musical tradition.
This work is sunny, turbulent, colourful, exuberant and melancholic all in the space of twenty minutes. At the end of the work spring is truly ushered in.
And an extra piece by Bridge too – ‘Blow Out you Bugles’ set for tenor and orchestra.
Other works in this concert include Saint Saëns’s massive ‘Organ’ Symphony and Marcel Dupré’s Cortege and Litany played by the organist Thomas Trotter.

Wednesday 10th August
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s evening is devoid of any British music. However there are a number of fine works Perhaps the highlight of the evening is Sergei Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony in E minor. However, it is good to hear Franz Liszt’s tone poem Mazepa and Reinhold Glière’s rarely performed Concerto for Coloratura Soprano with Ailish Tynan.
The late night Prom is devoted to music by the American, Steve Reich.

Thursday 11th August
British music all the way tonight with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestras concert. Vassily Sinaisky conducts works by Elgar, Holst and Bridge. The only interloper is Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 3 which is a realisation of his Violin Concerto by Dejan Lazic for piano and orchestra. I do wonder why he bothered? Are there not enough great piano concertos in this world?
The concert gets off to an excellent start with Frank Bridge’s Overture: Rebus which dates from the year before the composer’s death. It is supposed to portray how a rumour spreads. This is a romantic and stylish work that is truly worthy of the composer. It is certainly not in the ‘modernist’ style of his late string quartets or Piano Sonata.
After the interval Julian Lloyd-Webber plays the solo part of Gustav Holst’s Invocation.
The concert concludes with a performance of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. I wonder what the encore will be?

This week has been a great week for British music enthusiasts, with three works by Frank Bridge, Britten’s Piano Concerto, a Simon Holt premiere, Elgar’s 'Friends Pictured Within' and a rarely heard piece of Gustav Holst. Well done!

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