Prom 2015 - Week 4

Prom 31 was the annual outing of the National Youth Orchestra which is a Prom always to be cherished - the enthusiasm of these musicians is always especially infectious.  We heard them in two senses in Tansy Davies' new piece Re-Greening which spirits us to the woods. It wa made for a orchestra of young people playing and singing.  The piece seems to me to be a wonderful hymn to that mystical element of the backwoods, the wild and tangled.  It was also good news that the orchestra continues not to shirk the challenge of new music - these musicians are eminently capable of tackling the toughest scores.

Mahler 9 followed with Elder admitting that he didn't know what the piece is about and that was so pleasing, it's a twentieth century masterpiece with I think a huge scope for different interpretation from the death angst of Bernstein to the objectivity of Karajan and Pesek.  The reading was deep and intricate and had the occasional surprise such as Elder's subtle twist on the third movement which marched to a frenzy without much hint of a dance in there.  There was a great deal of beautiful playing and finesse in the ensemble.

Prom  33 had Sir John Eliot Gardner leading his other orchestra in Beethoven and Berlioz which was to my ear neither as revolutionary or romantic as it might have been.

Prokofiev 's Fifth Symphony got a another run with Krill Kababits conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Prom 34.  I say another run because like the works in the preceding Prom, Prokofiev 5 seems to be up virtually every season.

In fact a bit of research showed that there's a gaping hole of Proms performances of all the other Prokofiev symphonies bar the first:

No 1 (Classical)  - 26 perfs
No 2 - 2
No 3 - 4
No 4 (rev version) - 2
No 5 - 25
No 6 - 4
No 7 - 4
Concertante - 1

This shows the way the Fifth symphony has grown in the decades since the 1960s.

Karabits has built a formidable orchestra in Bournemouth - a bolder brassier vehicle for Prokofiev you wouldn't want for.  And his light touch lead to a reading which smoulder and occasionally blazed to great effect.  It had an unusual element of menace, shadowy but shimmering, an uncertain presence.  I liked it a lot,  But please proms planners - No 6, and the rest all need more stage time.

Karabits began with a lithe and atmospheric performance of sth Britten Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.  Understandably Nicola Benedetti stole the show with a bold and ravishing account of the Korngold concerto followed with her party piece (and I was very glad to hear it) – Marietta's Lied from "Die todt stadt" also by Korngold.  Benedetti pause before the encore and said a few words about the proms.  Her tone was just right and got great applause.  She is becoming the class act in UK Classical music - a top rank performer but a national voice too.

Prom 36 was packed with fiendish music.  Francois Xavier Roth put the BBC Symphony Orchestra through it's paces and there weren't found lacking.  Boulez first orchestral work  "Figures - Doubles - Prismes" was delivered with aplomb and with urbanity - the orchestra benefitting from Roth expertise in these scores of the French master.  His ease in French repertoire of every era is well known but it came to the fore again in his control of the powerful Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by Ravel.  Marc Andre Hamelin was pianist and having heard Aimard play the work in the Spring I was please to feel the Canadian's further embrace of the power of the work.  It was a reading of virtuosity too.  The Firebird - French by birth - was a fantastic reading of the original score which mirrored the recording by Roth and Les Siecles which is my touchstone amongst recordings. The BBC Symphony don't have the sound of the original instruments band in the recording but they made up for that with biting precision and a great deal of bravura.  A classic Prom that left you wanting to explore more with these artists who are thrown together by happenstance.

A more regular coupling of Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra gave us the Three Mantras by Foulds in Prom 38 - a piece which I really can't get my head round though each movement has marvellous levels of invention they also feel slightly borrowed.  I certainly don't feel a great deal of spirituality from them.  Technically the BBC Phil were as good if not slightly better than the last orchestra I heard do them - the City of Birmingham Symphony under Oramo.  They came out in the second half to deliver Messiaen's orgiastic masterpiece Turangalîla with pianist Steven Osborne - these forces recorded the work for Hyperion a couple of years ago.  For this this concert the Ondes Martinet was played by Valarie Hartmann-Claverie.  Men'a reading dances more than most and if doesn't have the concentrated good and evil drama of a number of versions, it certainly has sensuality in abundance - a great seductive odes I think.  And great to see that this work is more or less as normalised as any big Mahler symphony into the orchestral repertoire. Any orchestra that has the resources should play it.


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