Best of the Rest Proms 2013 No 4
Best of the Rest Proms 2013 No 4Better late than never
First a few words about the splendid Prom 39 - though long ago I caught up with it later and I was surprised how familiar much of the language was in the new sitar concerto by Nashit Khan. I was grabbed by the powerful tone poem Indra by Holst - too many echoes of empire to be entirely comfortable. It was powerfully delivered by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under the baton of that great Proms conductor David Atherton. Best of all though was his thoroughly refreshing, dramatic, detailed and emotionally jaw-dropping interpretation of Vaughan Williams' A London Symphony. On a par with the amazing accounts of Symphonies 4 to 6 last year from Manze and the BBC Scottish - I reviewed here.
Gergiev's Prom 40 with the LSO left me cold aside from the Gubaidulina: tantalising and powerful.
Once again an early Tchaikovsky symphony, No 3 "Polish", caught my ear in Prom 43 with Kirill Karabits conducting the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra - not as sizzling as Noseda but a fine account of an under programmed work.
Saturday 17th August was built up as a high point but was very much of a damp squib. Nelsons is all over the place this summer including a spell in hospital, conducting in particular Lohengrin at Bayreuth. His Dvorak Symphony No 8 was good - full of the usual Nelsons insights and energy, but a 38 minute lollipop symphony is hardly a Proms first half nowadays is it? The deeply conservative programme continued with Verdi and Tchaikovsky bleeding operatic chunks - or should that be "operatic bleeding chunks". Mrs Nelsons, Kristīne Opolais, sings beautifully - her diction is fantastic, but I didn't really buy into her Verdi - though the Letter scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugen Onegin went well. The family affair worked with sumptuous accompaniment from the orchestra. But this kind of programming is a bit of a shock: it was a throw-back to Proms programmes of 40 years ago. I wonder how many people turned up and how many listened? At the end we had two perfunctory Strauss waltzes - lacking glitter, grace, glide or taking much account of the RAH acoustic. This kind of programme is all to necessary to get the punters in at home - but the CBSO's single Prom should show them in more challenging mode I think.
There was worse to come in Prom 47 where Marin Alsop brought a kind of hybrid Historically Informed Practice (HIP) to bear on Brahms and Schumann. I hear Marin Alsop likes the sound the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment makes but doesn't know a lot about HIP - I think she replaced one lot of accumulated bad habits with some new ones. There was no vibrato, burnished brass and piquant woodwind for sure but a front heavy attack on the notes distorted the Symphony and the Requiem especially given both were covered at an unnecessary speed. I hankered after Lorin Maazel's Berlin recording as a curative to the cultivated Tragic overture. The Schumann was nearly fun - but all wonder was lost especially in that great moment of transition so carefully cultured by Furtwangler and others. In his hands it was Promethian - smashing the shackles - but in this case it was quite earthbound. The fugues in the Brahms Requiem never broke threw: a punchy orchestra was left on the ropes. Notes were snatched in the hurry, entries were uneven and the baritone struggled to make his lines lyrical. Having said that the choir coped with these unreasoned demands wonderful and the vocal lines out - albeit too briefly to savour. It was the wrong thing to do in the RAH.
Thank goodness for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in their penultimate Prom under Matthias Pintscher playing a work of his in it's UK premiere following the WP in Lucerne last year by Welser-Most and the Cleveland Orchestra. Chute d'etoiles is a tremendous piece - for orchestra and two trumpets - played by Tine Thing Helseth and Marco Blaaw. It is - to my ear - everything a modern piece should be: densely packed with instrumental virtuosity and instrumental and orchestral effects but none every getting in the way of musical progress. It's powerful engaging and demands further performance I think. Much of the new music this year at the Proms has been very good - but this was a corker.
The Proms Chamber Music recitals at Cadogan Hall on Monday lunchtime have revealed some gems. All broadcast in video on the web too. Beyond the reach of many now, there was a great jewel - a profound reading of Warlock's Curlew sung with beauty, feeling and a very intimate sadness by Robin Tritschler accompanied with painful beauty by the London Conchord Ensemble. It a most moving performance - Tritschler sings Yeats' words with a clear-eyed passion and great assurance. The ensemble were as engaged in this performance as he was - the mournful curlew and peewit cries never fell sound heavily on the heart. To think this performance has now drifted into the ether saddens me - it is a very beautiful thing and I hope it somehow endures.