Friday, 12 August 2011

Proms Watch 2011 Week 5

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

Friday 12th August
Film music at tonight’s Prom – so there are a few pieces by British composers. Certainly the Henry V Suite derived by Muir Mathieson from William Walton’s great score will be most welcome. Richard Rodney Bennett’s music to Murder on the Orient Express is well known to film music buffs as is John Barry’s (John Barry Prendergast, born in York) Out of Africa. A rare treat will be a medley of tunes from the James Bond films, including music by John Barry, David Arnold and George Martin. Other composers include Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann and Jonny Greenwood who is a member of the rock band Radiohead. The BBC Concert Orchestra is conducted by Keith Lockhart.

Saturday 13th August
It is great to have a concert devoted to music by Richard Rodney Bennett (who turned 75 this year) and Elizabeth Maconchy. The Matinee at the Cadogan Hall includes the Debussy-inspired Dream Dancing which was written for the London Sinfonietta in the 1980’s. Also by Bennett, the Jazz Calendar was originally a BBC commission and was choreographed by Frederick Ashton. Elizabeth Maconchy is represented by her Romanza, which is ‘touch-minded’ but ‘soulful’. The other composer is Henri Dutilleux with his Les Citations.
The Saturday Evening ‘comedy’ prom appears to be an open-book. No listings are given on the BBC Prom Website. It is billed as Classical for Starters.

Sunday 14th August
This is another great night for British music. The Proms guide notes that this is ‘a recreation of a Britten concert conducted by the composer at the Proms in 1963 with a contemporary twist provided by Joby Talbot.’
Talbot has written a Chaconny in G minor (after Purcell) which I guess is the twist. Britten realised his own version of this piece in 1948. The major event in this concert is the masterpiece Spring Symphony. The other two works are the Cantata Misericordium and the orchestral Sinfonia da Requiem.
There is a large group of soloists, plus the Trinity Boys Choir, the BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. It is all held together by Mark Wigglesworth. Promises to be a highlight of the season.

Monday 15th August
The matinee concert at the Cadogan Hall is an all British event with music by Frank Bridge and his one-time pupil Benjamin Britten. This excellent recital includes Britten’s early Phantasy for oboe and string trio and a two-piano reduction of his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. The ‘master’s’ works include the great Piano Quintet in D minor and the second of his Three Idylls. The performers include Nicolas Daniel (oboe), Tom Poster (piano) and the Aronowitz Ensemble. A great concert.
The evening concert is given over to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre and their conductor Valey Gergiev.

Tuesday 16th August
A big night for British music with a performance of Arnold Bax’s great, but rarely played Second Symphony. A contemporary reviewer wrote in The New York times that 'in this symphony even more than in his first symphony... there is... in the second movement, the Celtic feeling that is characteristic of many of his works; there are themes, there are harmonies of tender, wistful beauty, not free from a pleasing melancholy, but these pages only relieve and enhance the heroic character of the work as a whole, the defiant pages or those of doubt and questioning until there is at the end submission to the inevitable, if not lasting peace. These final pages, artfully simple, leading to silence, are among the most eloquent and impressive in the symphony.'
The remainder of the concert includes Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, Samuel Barber’s ubiquitous Adagio for Strings, Bela Bartok’s Second Piano Concerto and Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No.4 in C major.
Andrew Litton is in charge of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Wednesday 17th August
No British music at tonight’s Prom. However a good selection of works by Russian composers. The first half of the Prom features Shostakovich’s The Age of Gold-suite and his Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor. After the interval Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka is given in the 1947 version followed by Tchaikovsky’s tone poem Francesca da Rimini.

Thursday 18th August
Again, no British music at tonight’s Prom Concert. The first work, Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra is by the Austrian-born composer Thomas Larcher. It is a BBC commission. The reminder of the concert is given over to Anton Bruckner’s massive Symphony no.5.
The late night concert is a jazz-oriented event featuring Hungarian music.

This week has been another fabulous week for lovers of British music. Three important works from Benjamin Britten, Arnold Bax’s superb Second Symphony, Bridge and Britten chamber music and Walton’s Suite from Henry V. But not forgetting Elizabeth Maconchy and Richard Rodney Bennett...

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