Sir Henry Wood founded the Proms back in 1895 and what a great idea it was seeing as this year celebrates the 124th Prom, which shall include an 8-week long schedule of first-class orchestras, musicians, artists and performances yet to be announced, this week [Thursday 19th April]. Many die-hard Prommers are waiting with bated breath to know who will be performing this summer. That said, and as promised by its founder, the BBC Proms was made for everyone, and not just classical music aficionados and expert Prommers who know their way around the Royal Albert Hall’s pit.
It has been a quarter of a century since Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass collaborated together and composed Passages – a superb fusion of traditional Indian and Western music, separated into six parts. Today, it is Shankar’s devoted daughter Anoushka who performs with a sitar. Proudly and skilfully, she follows the footsteps of her father playing with world-class orchestras across various genres. Tonight (15 August), it was at the BBC Proms.
Passages has never been performed outside of a studio, live, yet, despite the limited rehearsal time, the Late Night Prom was an electrifying and thrilling event. Prommers enjoyed themselves so much that some danced the evening away in the middle of the pit with little hesitation.
For Monday night, this was a special occasion on many accounts for the BBC Proms. It was the debut for award-winning French early music ensemble Pygmalion and their artistic director Raphaël Pichon. The 32-year-old violinist, countertenor and conductor had dreamed of developing a ensemble – now called Pygmalion – ever since he was an adolescent musician, and the Proms got to see the first glimpse of Pichon’s musical wizardry and genius.
The work performed was Monteverdi’s exquisite 1610 Vespers. This year Monteverdi fans celebrate the composer’s 450th anniversary since his birth. The music was produced while Monteverdi was a choirmaster to Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and he took every opportunity to compose the piece as he saw fit. Rather than simply writing the work as a compendium for choir chapels and churches, such as St Mark’s in Venice or St Peter’s in Rome, he included Vespers psalms, motets and a mass setting – the creation of a spectacular kaleidoscope of spiritual music.
As a BBC Proms regular, Nicola Benedetti had the Royal Albert Hall’s attention all to herself when she performed to a packed auditorium on Tuesday night’s Proms 6. It was her time to shine with Shostakovich’s No. 1 Violin Concerto, which she recently recorded on disc, with works by Glazunov, that won critical acclaim. Speaking to BBC Radio 3, she talked about Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto like a dedicated student, equipped to perform the masterwork. She provided evidence of truly understanding the journey of the piece with deep reflection. ‘From the first movement, you have a stomach ache from beginning to the end. It’s just such relentless tension… And then, of course, the cadenza – the isolation is terrifying and grows to a frenzy…’
With her Stradivarius violin, she performed with veracity and a varied blend of colour and emotion. From start to finish, she uncovered the effort, grace and sensitivity required for any violinist attempting to perform the work, and it definitely didn’t seem straightforward. Shostakovich, himself, didn’t compose the concerto to entertain. Rather his aim was to educate and give a lesson, and a historical message, of the political upheaval in his own country in 1947. Stalin was determined to assert power into every aspect of life in the Soviet Union, including the arts, and for the most part, listeners sense the unsettling feelings; the sadness and internal violence Shostakovich faced, within the score’s writing. Naturally, the work was unheard of until Stalin died, a couple of years after Shostakovich had finished it.
Welcome to the BBC Proms 2017. Marking their 90th anniversary, the Proms continues to pursue Henry Wood’s founding principles and present classical music to the widest possible audience with celebrated international artists, orchestras and conductors. The annual summer festival has its devoted followers and ‘prommers’ rounding up early in the afternoon, just before the big event. And with standing tickets worth £6 only, who could blame them.
Proms 3 was an afternoon concert focused on works by Mozart and Schumann. Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink made his 89th performance at the Proms with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The conductor looked dashing and in good shape for 88-years-old and, it should be noted, the choice of works for the concert’s programme weren’t quick, hit and run-type pieces. In fact, the first half was no more than an hour long with two fascinating works by Mozart, and Haitink wasn’t taking any survivors. Not literally, of course. As presentation goes the Royal Albert Hall got professionalism at its best with fine and squeaky clean music-playing from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The relentless and highly-spirited playing was visible throughout the concert – we have to thank the energy and sheer force of Mozartian conductor, Haitink, for that.>>>
If you had the chance to live for three centuries would you take it? This is one of the questions you may ask yourself after an evening of witnessing the suffering of Emilia Marty – a beautiful opera singer with a world of knowledge that goes far beyond our time. Leoš Janáček’s (1854 – 1928) Makropulous Affair was performed semi-staged last night at the Royal Albert Hall, after more than 20 years of absence from the BBC Proms, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with its former conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, an all-round talented cast of Czech soloists and the radiant Finnish soprano, Karita Mattila.
Mattila is no stranger to Janáček as she has performed many lead roles from the Czech composer’s work, which includes Katya Kabanova, Jenůfa and most recently the Kostelnička – one of opera’s villainous evildoers – at the Royal Festival Hall with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra this April.
Delicious Peruvian dishes in Mayfair @coyamayfair. It's not cheap, but certainly worth it for special occasions. That said, I've had enough of hearing house music in trendy restaurants. Can we have classical music instead please? Or else your customers will get indigestion. 😵😰