Pick of the Proms 2012 revisited

My pick of the Proms when the season was announced:

Prom 4: Respighi, Ravel and Adams - John Adams conducting (UK premiere ?) of City Noir plus orchestral colours from Italy and France - Adams excels in this kind of pictorial music.

Well it wasn't the UK Premiere but the Proms Premiere and it was thrilling to see the composer at work with a fine orchestra moulding a piece which is still finding a settled reading.  It grows in stature each time I hear it.  In addition Feste Romane was brilliantly pulled off and a real find for me.  The Ravel was a tasteful and graceful filler.

Prom 5: R Strauss, Saariaho & Sibelius -  BBCPO/Mena awesome team and a very full programme.  I'm eager to hear Mena's way in two well established pieces by Strauss and the enigmatic final Sibelius Symphony. 

Mena proved his excellence in Strauss though the Four Last Songs was ruined by a singer who was ill trying to battle through, she only sang one of the songs effectively.  She should not have been on the platform.  Zarathustra was grand as was Sibelius 7 - the orchestra sounded wonderful and Mena revealed his many sides with a compelling reading of a new piece by Saariaho.

Prom 9,10, 12, 13, 17 & 19: Beethoven and Boulez - the first time in 60 years anyoen has given a cycle of Beethoven symphonies but don't forget the Boulez.  Fantastic opportunity to hear boulez music performed live. All televised too!

These was an incredible piece of work - an expertly delivered full cycle which consistently hit teh spot.  Boulez was played to packed houses, by young musicians and was a real ear opener in such a big space.  Barenboim's project now competes with the best orchestras in the world.  His efforts recognised with a role in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.  His valedoctory speech to the audience about West/East politics, peace and the BBC is required viewing

Prom 11: Berlioz: The Troyans - ROH Orch/Pappano - great chance to hear this mammoth (4:30 - 10pm!!!) opera and Jonas Kaufmann to boot.

Kaufmann cancelled but this epic will take time to sink in - real star as usual turns out to be Sir Tony Pappano

Prom 17: Beethoven & Boulez: Le Marteau sans Maitre - a rare chance to see 87 yo Boulez conduct (if he is well enough) in the Late Night Prom

Still not well enough Boulez didn't conduct - performances were fine just not magnetic

Prom 23: RVW, Ireland, Delius & Walton: BBCNOW/Otaka - super Prom of English music in the safe hands of Otaka

Otaka's passion for English music belies his neat and tidy demeanour.  This was compelling and gutsy stuff.  Well worth it. 

Prom 27: Wagner & Bruckner: BBSSO/Runnicles - this is a programme which will test Runnicles once and for all for me.  If he can pull off Bruckner 8 (and he's already chosen the wrong edition to perform) then he will go a long way to allaying my doubts.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra played very well the flaws in this reading of Bruckner 8 lay in Runnicles hands - wrong edition, wrong trajectory and mostly in too much of a hurry. Wagner didn't do much for me.  Too much grandiloquence. 

Prom 33: Wagner, MacMillan & Bruckner - BBCPO/Mena - if his performance of Bruckner Sym No 6 last Christmas was anything to go by this could be a very special Prom.  Mena remains a great favourite - he let's the music breathe and time stand still but he can also can whip it up into a frenzy when it demands.  This concert, with a MacMillan UK premier, is a tasty prospect. In short MUST SEE (it's on TV too!)

Just about the most perfect Bruckner 6 I heard anywhere and everyone I talked to after the performance seemed to agree this was the finest Bruckner we'd heard at the Proms for many years.  Delicate Wagner and an extravagant Credo from MacMillan  (beautifully sung).  It lived up to its billing.

Prom 34: Schubert, Dubugnon & R Strauss: BBCSO/Bychkov - this conductor does great things with this orchestra

Throughout the season the BBCSO seemed to be unsettled - the playing here was just lacking in energy.  Bychkov's Heldenleben is rather bustling but not very deep.  Was all a bit disappointing. 

PCM 5: Benedetti/Grynyuk & Elschenbroch trio in Bach, Korngold and Brahms

I missed it :(

Prom 46: Vaughan-Williams: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 - BBCSSO/Manze at last all together in one concert.  RVW's war time symphonies - lots of rubbish written about these in terms of WWII.  I think of them as anger, greiving and loss. MUST SEE

Probably the hit of the season for me: who knew these works could reveal so much more when played together.  Superb playing, fantastic conducting alert to the line and colour of RVW scoring.  Bursting with emotional counterpoint and buzzing with energy.  BBCSSO formidable in this repertoire - hope there's a recording in the offing.

Prom 50: Beethoven, Mozart, Delius and Nielsen: BBCSO/Vanska - a fromer Proms favourite of mine is on safer ground with this programme than of late.  But it is a crazy programme noentheless.  Has he lost the power to enchant a Proms audience - we'll see.

Osmo back on form - cultured Mozart and formidable Nielsen - the latter hair raising in its depiction of war and turmoil.  Fancy Delius sounding so splendid too - OV added real dramatic feel to a peice by a composer who's works tend to waft along.  

Prom 51: DSCH Leningrad Symphony - CBSO/Nelsons - dynamite

Far from dynamite - the Glinka was dazzling and the Howard just too slight to keep my interest.  The Leningrad symphony was beautifully realised and full of detail but didn't engage me emotionally as others have.  He will conduct it with even greater insight in 20 years time. 

Prom 56: Goehr, Knussen, Grime & Debussy - BBCSO/Knussen another powerful combination - Knussen has been doing fantastic work with this orchestra of late.  Claire Booth with him.  Always compelling.  MUST SEE

A grand concert - the Debussy has seldom sounded so radiant.  The Goehr & Knussen were tightly concentrated and to a certain extent reveal an uncompromising style.  The Knussen tribute by Helen Grime got two performances (as is OK won't) because as he said to the audience "I think that was OK but my glasses fell off halfway through so I think we'll do it again" Absolute star!

Prom 57: Wagner, Berg, Strauss & Ravel: GustavMahler Jugendorchester/Gatti - Gatti persuades most orchestras to make beautiful sounds - this youth orchestra is a crack squad.  Combination in this repetoire is very tasty.

When did Gatti get so flabby and mannered.  After writing my pick I heard a performance under his baton on the radio and then had my doubts about this prom.  There were beautiful parts but the whole never really came together.  Gatti regards himself as a Wagnerian - which is borne out by his schedule and not by his performances in my book.  The second half was ghastly - not that anyone should be playing the Rosenkavalier Suite.  Self- regarding Berg too. 

Prom 63 & 64: BPO/Rattle - Most of Rattle's interpretations of mainstream music I can do without - but in these concerts (neither of which are televised!) there is Ligeti and Lutoslawski - he will excel in both.  I'll be tuning in for those bits.

Much as I thought though even the Lutoslawski seemed a reading in a hurry and a reading which was talked up rather than played up.  The fawning to the audience, aimed I suspect to distract them from the idea they were getting such a scant encore, was rather annoying.  The short phrasing Rattle uses in most Romantic works made Parsifal an uneasy overture and Sibelius 3 turned into a series of episodic moments.  The Debussy and Ravel were just too stop and start to be satisfying.. Curiously the orchestra seemed off form too.

Prom 72: Adams: Nixon in China - BBCSO/Adams a chance to hear Adam's breakthrough opera under the composer - huge kudos to the BBC for even contemplating it.

Still working through this on iPlayer - but my first encounter with Adams' best known opera has been enthralling.

Prom 73 & 75: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Haitink - traditional fare here Beethoven, Bruckner, Haydn and R Strauss - it will be great to hear this orchestra in repetoire which is central to its core and which they have been playing since it was written.  BUT if an all male orchestra takes to the stage again - the shine will be taken off its hallowed status.

Well I listened on the radio so I can't tell you if there were women in the orchestra BUT in Beethoven and Haydn the orchestra sounded smooth and full-bodied, not very adventurous but that too comes with the territory.  The Bruckner and the Strauss showed an unusual weakness or thinness in the VPO strings, they also demonstrated Haitink's way in both works which is familiar and welcome if you like that sort of thing.

What I didn't pick were some other notable winners so watch out for these players next season:-

Bach: B Minor Mass - English Concert and Harry Bicket
Handel: Water Music etc - Le Concert Spirituel and Herve Niquet
Prokofiev Sym No 6 - BBCSO and Sakari Oramo
Kronos Quartet
London Sinfonietta under Andre Ridder
And last but not least
Alice Coote's French Art Music lunchtime prom 


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