Thursday, 14 April 2011

BBC Proms 2011 - solid !

It would be hard to surpass last year's Proms. But the BBC Proms 2011 season has winners and may well turn out to be more solid, once you eliminate the gimmicky kitsch.

This year's First Night of the Proms on 15/7 features Janáček Glagolitic Mass, a spectacular blockbuster by any standard. Jiří Bělohlávek conducts, and he's one of this composer's finest exponents. Excellent singers too - don't miss this one.

Then Havergal Brian's Symphony No 1, the "Gothic",  his "Symphony of a Thousand". It's massive, almost impossible to stage properly other than in a place like the Royal Albert Hall, so grab the opportunity.  You may never have another chance. Martyn Brabbins conducts a thousand players, singer and choristers. Brian has a relativelty small but fanatical following so this high profile international exposure might change things. The other big choral Prom this year is Mendelssohn's Elijah on 28/8.

This year's big operas are Rossini William Tell as Prom 2 on 16/7. Antonio Pappano conducts his other orchestra, the Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome. Often, I've found his work with this smaller orchestra more satisfying than his main job, and he's good at Rossini.  Good soloists! This year's Glyndebourne at the Proms (25/8) is Handel Rinaldo, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and also a strong cast. I'll be hearing it first at Glyndebourne, so it will be fun to compare with the Proms version. Weber's Der Freischütz on 9/9 will be an absolute must for me, because it's the French version, arranged by Berlioz in 1841. Under the baton of John Eliot Gardner it will be fascinating, because if anyone can handle the change in sensibility, it's he. Red Letter Day for me, because this is definitely off the beaten track. Verdi's Requiem on 24/7. Marina Poplavskaya, Calleja, Furlanetto, Ganassi, and Semyon Bychov. Speaks for itself!

Lots of solid repertoire in this year's Proms. British composers, but with a livelier take than usual Havergal Brian, of course, but also Frank Bridge, whose music runs like a thread throughout the whole season. He's underrated because he wasn't into the Three Choirs aspect of British music. But no Bridge, no Benjamin Britten.

Lots and lots of French music this year, too, again not just the usual big names. Henri Dutilleux music surfaces many times in this year's Proms, much like Frank Bridge, Dutilleux tends towards chamber than big orchestral pieces, so it's good to hear him in mixed programmes.

Really significant is the focus on Pascal Dusapin, one of the most original and refined of avant garde composers. On 18/7, Myung-whun Chung conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Everyone will go for Martha Argerich in Beethoven. I'm going for Dusapin's Morning in Long Island a new work jointly commissioned by the BBC and Radio France. It's a concerto for large orchestra, again using the unique resources of the Royal Albert Hall.  Havergal Brian and Pascal Dusapin - so very, very different but getting maximum coverage.

More "typical" Dusapin on 27/7 with the Arditti Quartet, long specialists in his music. It's a new piece, String Quartet no 6 "Hinterland" (Hapax for String quartet and Orchestra).  Not your average concerto! It's set in the context of  Stravinsky, Berlioz and Fauré which is perceptive. There's alot of really top class, upmarket new music this year for discerning ears. Berliner-Philharmoniker fans will enjoy Emmanuel Pahud, flautist at Berlin and Lucerne. On 28/7 he's playing two premieres, flute concertos by Elliott Carter and Marc-André Dalbavie. More Pahud at the Cadogan Hall on 22/8.

Oliver Knussen conducts another eclectic programme on 29/7 where he mixes Frank Bridge , Debussy, Alban Berg and Arthur Honneger. In fact, the famous Pacific 231. For me the high point may be Nicola Castiglioni's Inverno in Ver. Knussen loves Castiglioni. They both share the same esoteric whimsy and inventiveness. Watch out too for Simon Holt's Centauromachy on 9/8. It's coming to London conducted again  by François-Xavier Roth. Great atmospheric piece, please read my review of the premiere.  More adventure on 20/8 at the Cadogan Hall - Birtwistle and Maxwell Davis on the same programme! Fortunately seperated by George Aphergis's new Champ-contrechamp which might put both of them in the shade.If it's ever possible to outclass Birtwistle.

More Bělohlávek at what he does better than most anyone else, live or dead. Smetana's Má vlast on 20th July. On August 7th Edward Gardner conducts Mahler's Das klagende Lied. Good soloists - Melanie Diener and Miah Persson. It will be interesting to hear what Gardner, with his dramatic flair, does with this. Everyone will be queueing for Dudamel's Mahler 2. Since it will bring in so much income, I can't complain. I'll take a night off!  Mahler 9 conducted by Roger Norrington will be different but Mahler 6 conducted by Semyon Bychkov on 26/8 will be a good bet. But what I won't miss is Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Mahler 5 on 6/9. Partly because they're doing Wolfgang Rihm Gesungene Zeit with Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the Lohengrin Prelude, Interesting combination.

The Philadelphia Orchestra returns on 8/9 with Janine Jansen is a programme of sure fire classics. Also, Gergiev and the Mariinsky, Swan Lake, which he does so well, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with perennial Zubin Mehta.  Plenty more! Search on the BBC Proms
Please come back to my site - every year I write about 40 different Proms and do previews. website.

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