Pick of the Proms 2014 Part 2
Prom 37 is a Late Night Prom - these are really only accessible to those who live in London - the BBC ought to think about doing them across the country to share the intimate experience and let more people enjoy the imaginative programmes and performances - this one has two works by Steve Reich
Prom 38 I’m sure will be a corker - though the second half could have been so much more interesting - but the choice of Sibelius Sym No 2 may seek more CDs. The first half has Peter Maxwell Davies’ Fifth symphony - which I heard debuted at the Proms in 1994 Storgårds.***
Prom 42 is billed as the “Lest We Forget” Prom as remembrance seems to be branded nowadays. Andrew Manze will be conducting Vaughan Williams Pastoral Symphony - it’s a fine reading already heard in Scotland and follows on from his magnificent Prom of RVW 4, 5 & 6 two years ago. It will be worth the cost of the ticket alone.
Alice Coote singing Strauss and Wolf in Proms Chamber Music 5 will be a treat. I’m looking forward to it greatly.
Prom 43 has at last a great programme and great performers to boot. I’m not one who sneers at Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture - though I will want cannons! The other works include Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique and his violin concerto with Skride as soloist. Sandwich between them Rachmaninov’s The Bells - with Orgonasova, Petrenko and Skelton as soloists. Ed Gardner conducts ***
Barenboim is back in Prom 46 with his West East Divan Orchestra - with new music by Roustom and Adler and a second half comprising four pieces by Ravel. Delicious
Prom 47 has Andris Nelsons conducting Britten’s War Requiem - his Coventry Cathedral performance converted me to the piece, I found him surprisingly emotionally involved. Let’s hope that’s repeated.
Sadly another Late Night Prom performance which will be for Londoners only but this one worth booking a hotel for or staying up all night. Beethoven’s Missa Soleminis given by Sir John Eliot Gardner with fine soloists including Jennifer Johnston and Lucy Crowe. One for the radio definitely - but Johnston must be heard.
Prom 55 has the Proms debut of Seoul Philharmonic (currently pulling up trees under Myung-Whun Chung - the first half grabs my attention. Chung conducting La Mer is a must hear I think and there’s a new piece by Unsuk Chin Šu a concerto of sheng and orchestra. Sadly Tchaikovsky Symphony No 6 continues to get Proms platform time. In the 1900s it would be played repeatedly in a season and so got 20 airings in a decade. In the 2000s it was played 4 times (that seems more like it). We’ve already had it 4 times in the 2010s.
The Proms Saturday Matinee is devoted to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies - in his 80th year - with a welcome rerun of Sian Edwards to the podium. Three substantial pieces will fill the space of the Cadogan Hall.
Prom 58 and Prom 59 are two must see Proms. A weekend of Strauss at his most innovative and telling - the twin grotesques of his operas Salome (with Nina Stimme, no less and the forces of Deutsche Opera Berlin) under Runnicles. Followed the next night by Elektra sung by Goerke with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Semyon Bychkov. Both I have no doubt will be supremely well prepared and promise a weekend feast for Straussians….though not many laughs in either! ***
Prom 63 has a John Adams premiere, his new Saxophone Concerto but sadly another unwelcome coupling, Mahler 1 - I will enjoy the presenters trying to make links between the new work and that great slug of a symphony.
Sir Harrison Birtwhistle is also 80 years old this year and his Prom Saturday Matinee promises 3 pieces with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group under Oliver Knussen. It promises to be a highlight of the season ***
Tickets for Prom 66 will probably sell very quickly for the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle giving Bach’s St Matthew Passion. The real stars of this ensemble are the singers especially Mark Padmore - go see him if you don’t mind the choppy waters of Rattle’s Bach conducting. ***
Prom 70 is another all-nighter and another concert devoted to Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies. Great to have his favoured ensemble, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Ben Gernon on duty for this one.
And finally Prom 72 another great programme - Andrew Litton conducts the BBC SO in Birtwhistle’s Exody, the Walton Viola Concerto and Vaughan Williams explosive Fourth Symphony.
There’s a lot more besides - including visits by ensembles from the Middle East, Greece and Turkey, some interesting cross-over proms (and some dull ones too) and some fascinating Chamber proms - these latter proved to be real ear-openers last year.
The visiting orchestras get a raw deal I think - The Berlin can play Bach very well - but whether you should waste their energies doing it in the Royal Albert Hall is another matter, especially when one senses that it’s the semi-staging and the singers which have brought great success in Berlin. The rawest deal must be poor old Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly stuck with behemoths of Mahler 3 and Beethoven 9 when what they probably want to do is sell their new Brahms CDs. That pleasure goes to the Cleveland Orchestra - pairing three Brahms symphonies and an Overture with modern works by Widmann. I’m sure Welser-Möst will do a decent job but pot-boiler symphonic cycles must be more exciting than this. Barenboim’s Beethoven and Boulez cycle in 2012 is surely the model of choice.