Friday, 2 September 2011

Prom Watch 2001 Week 8

This is the eighth of my Proms-Watch analysis of British Music being performed during the 2011 season. Once again it is not a brilliant week for British music, but there are some hightlights...

Friday 2 September
Ah, lucky old Gustav Mahler – tonight is the fourth symphony played at the 2011 Proms: it is the turn of Symphony No. 1 in D major. Would that certain British composers could have had just one played – Rawsthorne, Martelli, Searle, Joubert, Cliffe, Dunhill, Coleridge-Taylor, Grace Williams...
Other works at this concert given by the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer include more Mahler – his Blumine and two pieces by Franz Liszt - Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke (Mephisto Waltz No. 1) and the Totentanz.

Saturday 3 September
This is a much better day for British music. At the afternoon concert at the Cadogan Hall, there is music by Sir John Tavener and Michael Tippett. These include the choral music ‘The Windhover’ and ‘Plebs Angelica’ by the latter and Popule meus by Sir John.
Tippett’s Little Music for Strings is also heard alongside the Russian Sofia Gubaidulina’s large-scale The Canticle of the Sun. David Hill conducts the BBC Singers and the Britten Sinfonia. Natalie Clein is the cellist for the Tavener.
The evening concert is also impressive from the British point of view. The proceedings open with Edward Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture and is followed by a newly commissioned Organ Concerto by Michael Berkeley. After the interval there is a performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the concert concludes with Kodaly’s Háry János – Suite. Marc-André Hamelin is the soloist for the Rachmaninov, David Goode for the Berkeley. Jac van Steen conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Sunday 4 September
More organ music at the afternoon Prom today. Thierry Escaich plays works by J.S. Bach, César Franck, Franz Liszt and three of his own compositions. No British music.

The evening Prom is given over to a performance of Beethoven’s great Missa Solemnis. This includes an impressive cast of soloists and London Philharmonic Choir London Symphony Chorus London Symphony Orchestra all held together by the redoubtable Sir Colin Davis.

Monday 7 September
The afternoon concert at the Cadogan Hall has two violin sonatas. The first is Mozart’s Violin Sonata in A major, K526 and this is followed by Bartok’s Violin Sonata No. 1. The soloists are Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt.
The evening concert features the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Manfred Honeck. Works include Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 in E flat minor and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4. The soloist is Hélène Grimaud. At tonight’s concert there is a rare piece by the German composer Walter Braunfels (1892-1954), Fantastic Appearances of a Theme of Hector Berlioz: it is a work well worth hearing.

Tuesday 6 September
No British music tonight. It is the second of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s concerts at this year’s Proms. And I am afraid it is another Mahler Symphony - Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor. The evening opens with Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin - Prelude, Act 1 and this is followed by Wolfgang Rihm’s Gesungene Zeit (Time Chant) which dates from 1991-92. It is a contemporary masterpiece. Anne-Sophie Mutter is the soloist.

Wednesday 7 September
This is a huge British music night. The main work is a performance of Gustav Holst’s best known works The Planets. However, I do sometimes wonder if concert promoters know that GH wrote one or two other pieces for orchestra.
The concert opens with a first UK performance of Harrison Birtwistle’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. The Proms website notes that this is ‘his first for a string instrument, was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for Christian Tetzlaff and unveiled by him in March to rave reviews’. Birtwistle himself has written that ‘I had some violin lessons at school, so I have a memory of the physical feel of the instrument, in a sense. It's rather like remembering how to bowl a leg break in cricket, even if I couldn't do it now.'
Promises to be a great piece.

Frank Bridge enthusiast are well-served tonight with a rarely-hreard tone poem. The BBC writes that [Bridge] ‘is at his most romantic and Lisztian in the Keats-inspired Isabella, given its world premiere at the Proms by founder-conductor Henry Wood’. It has been a great Prom season for Frank Bridge. Let us hope that it has increased his profile amongst music enthusiasts. David Robertson conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Holst Singers. The soloist in the violin concerto is Christian Tetzlaff.
A ‘fab’ night.
The late-night Prom is devoted to the music of jazz-legend Stan Kenton.

Thursday 8 September
No British music this evening. The Philadelphia Orchestra under Charles Dutoit perform Sibelius’ Finlandia, Tchaikovsky’s Violin concerto with soloist Janine Jansen, Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and finally Ravel’s La Valse.

Friday 9 September
We are into the last two days of the season. This evening is given over to a performance or Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz. Tonight it is given in Hector Berlioz’s rarely heard French version of the opera. Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique with a galaxy of soloists.

A mixed week for British Music. Great to have another work by Frank Bridge (Isabella) and certainly good to hear the Planets. Birtwistle and Berkeley both have new concertos performed. Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture is always welcome, especially in the city that inspired it. Also some choral works by Tippett and Britten. So not too bad...

I will comment on the Last Night of the Proms nearer the time...

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