Best of the Rest Proms 2013 No 6

Empty hall post Prom

And the final stretch of the Prom's season moves us from Summer into Autumn: seven days of Proms in September with the first half of the week enlivened by soloists:

Prom 67: Janine Jansen's account of the Britten Violin Concerto was all that I needed to convert me to the piece and take a step up in my admiration for the composer.  There has been a lot of Britten in this season so I've had the chance to compare and contrast his works and at each turn the impressive talent of the composer in my head gives way to more a heart-felt feeling for his emotional resourcefulness. This violin concerto is a complex and yet accessible and has some drama, some poignancy and intimate moments - all delivered brilliantly by both the soloist and the Orchestre de Paris conducted with panache by Parvo Jarvi.

PCM 8 was devoted to a single composer - John Dowland - I didn't catch all of it but what I heard was so simple and pure and divinely rendered by Ian Bostridge, Lutist Elizabeth Kenny and Fretwork.  As usual in every Prom week the Chamber Music provided some of the most inspiring moments of music making.

Prom 68: Baiba Skide's Proms debut piece was a lean account of Szymanowski's First Violin Concerto - her tone worked well against the richness of the Oslo Philharmonic who were well equipped for the composer's rich aural world.  That said the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov left me a little cold.  I had tipped Petrenko for great things after his Messiaen last year but each concert this year found one piece or another failing to connect emotionally - for me at least.  The Rachmaninov Symphonic Variations need someone with an ear for the broad emotional sweep and the fine detail.  It seems to me Petrenko tipped the balance too far into the precious treasuring of nuance and forgets the weight of emotion behind it.

I've written separately about Osmo Vanska's Prom 71 - it was the soloists there who brought most to the table.

I don't watch or listen to the Last Night of the Proms - it is something of a theatrical set piece, but from what I've read Marin Alsop did well both musically and as compere for the greatest musical show on earth. So my last entry in this diary of the season falls to Lorin Maazel and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in probably my favourite symphony, Bruckner's 8th in Prom 74.  It's sad to write that after one of the most impressive first movements I've heard in concert or performance this reading fell over, not helped I think by the superlative set up the BBC sound engineers came up with. In the last two movements Maazel nurtured rubato at the end of too many phrases - lingering on their dying embers like a leading lady dragging out a death scene through reluctance to leave the limelight. To me the Adagio of this symphony is - somewhat paradoxically - tersely argued, ever moment should be conclusive for the next is soon up on you.  It demands flow of one sort or another.  The finale too was subject to this intra-phrase ebbing and floooooooooooowing.  And as the piece went on the Vienna Philharmonic showed once again that their technical mastery is not what it used to be.


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