Thursday, 24 April 2014

BBC Proms 2014 - safe, bland but not bad

PSYCHIC POWERS! I guessed the First Night of the BBC Proms 2014 - Elgar The Kingdom, Andrew Davis BBC SO (the BBC house band). Read more HERE  It pays to be "forward thinking". So follow my site - I cover 40 or so Proms each year.

A surprisingly safe Proms season otherwise, as if it's been designed to placate the vociferous lobbies who need to find something to complain about in order to be happy  I for one will miss Roger Wright who did know his music and did have vision but who was hamstrung one one side by dumbed-down bean counting and on the other by self-appointed "Friends". So there are plenty of British composers, a number of women, sports events,  kids events, musicals, youth orchestras etc. Nonetheless there's enough real music to look forward to.

Glyndebourne's all-new Strauss Der Rosenkavalier arrives in London on 22nd July right at the start of the season when excitement is still high - good programming and a great way to  integrate serious opera into the Proms, as was done last year with the Wagner marathon. Strauss Salome on 30/8 (Runnicles, Nina Stemme) and Strauss Elektra on 31/8 (Bychkov, with Christine Goerke!) plus songs and other pieces incl. Ein Heldenleben.

The much missed  Jiří Bělohlávek  returns on 23/7 with a meaty programme of Bartók and Shostakovich, and  Gergiev will conduct a new edition of Janáček Glagolitic Mass on 24/7, thankfully not with a pick-up orchestra but with the LSO.  Roger Norrington conducts Bach St John's Passion with James Gilchrist and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, which should be interesting. Simon Rattle conducts St Matthew Passion with the Berliner Philharmoniker on 6/9.

This summer marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, so there'll be themed events, and for good reason. 1914-18 changed the world forever.  So naturally, Butterworth, Gurney, Elgar -- and Mozart's Requiem on 3/8 but more unusually Gareth Malone's "War Horse Prom" with "Life-Size War Horse Puppets by the Handspring Puppet Company". Most of the 1914-18 commemorations so far are so bland as to be almost risible. But the Proms are hardly the place for more incisive contemplation. I'll be doing more on the impact of war on music over the next few years, God willing. Fortunately, Andris Nelsons conducts Britten's War Requiem on 21st August - he's so good that nationality becomes irrelevant (as it should be).

More of a challenge will be Prom 28 on 7/8 when Sakari Oramo conducts the UK premiere of Luca Francesconi 's Duende the Dark Notes together with Stravinsky Oedipus Rex and Beethoven Egmont Overture. What an intriguing programme! Francesconi is one of the great modern European originals  -- do not miss his opera Quartett at the Linbury, ROH from 16/6. 

Watch out for the Cleveland Orchestra (7/9 and 8/9) , The Berliner Philharmoniker's all-Russian Prom (5/9),  Ivan Fischer's Budapest festival Orchestra (25/8, 26/8)  Three seriously good Mahler Proms coming up - Mahler 4 (16/8) with Bernard Haitink, LSO and Camilla Tilling, Mahler 2 (29/8 Daniel Harding) and Mahler 3 on 11/9. That's probably the best pick of the season - Riccardo Chailly conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. And Chailly is back on 12/9 with Beethoven 9.
And the Last Night of ther Proms 2014?  No gimmicks this time but genuine music values.

As always, every Prom will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 online, internationally and on demand for 7 days. 

photo Yuchi Morioka

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