Thursday 10 April 2008

The Proms!

So the new Proms season has been announced, the first one in which Roger Wright has had some hand. I don't know whether it is because of Wright's involvement or simply because of a happy confluence of anniversaries, but I find that there is much to look forward to in the season.

As might be expected, there is a lot of Vaughan Williams and a lot of Messiaen; in itself a slightly strange confluence, but Wright has not gone all the way and programmed an RVW/Messiaen concert! We are getting 5 RVW symphonies, plus Job and the Piano Concerto (with the wonderful Ashley Wass), in total some 15 works. Andrew Davis is doing the 9th Symphony and A Serenade to Music with an exciting young cast which includes Sarah Tynan as Isabel Baillie (a role taken many years ago by Amanda Roocroft). But we get none of the operas and none of the major choral works; surely the Proms is the ideal place to do Sancta Civitas. Given that other orchestras are doing quite a few RVW symphonies this year, we are getting full exposure to this output without much balancing work.

The Messiaen includes some 17 works including St. Francois d'Assise from Netherlands Opera with Rodney Gilfrey in the title role. Also in the commemoration spot is a goodly handful of music by Stockhausen, just what the proms should be doing. Also, slipped discreetly in to Prom 24 is Dame Ethel Smyth's Concerto for violin and french horn; not, perhaps, her greatest work but nice to have as she was born in 1858.

Rachmaninov and Beethoven seem to be the other composers who get a significant look in this year. Handel is represented by a single work, but it is Belshazzar with Sir Charles Mackerras conduction the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Opera is a strong feature this year. We get Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione de Poppea from Glyndebourne, the aforementioned St. Francis, Rimsky Korsakov's Kaschey the immortal (twinned neatly with Firebird from Jurowoski and the LPO, and Janacek's Osud.

Other stray works of interest include Stanford's 2nd Piano concerto from the Ulster Orchestra, Janacek's Glagolitic Mass in Paul Wingfield's reconstruction of his original version with BBC forces conducted by Boulez. And Grace Williams makes a rare Proms performance with her Sea Sketches. Vernon Handley is conducting Nigel Kennedy in the Elgar Violin Concerto, paired with Bax's The Garden of Fand and Andrew Kennedy in Finzi's Intimations of Immortality (one of the essential concerts that one).

The first Sunday is a Folk day, mixing RVW's folk inspired music with much, much else.

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