Saturday, 14 July 2012

Maximum Impact First Night of the Proms 2012

MAXIMUM IMPACT for the First Night of the BBC Proms 2012. My review of the First Night of the Proms 2013 is here.  Big choirs, big orchestras, Four big name conductors and the cream of British composers. No flag waving, except for someone waving an Olympics flag to upstage things. It was a sorry sight, since the BBC Proms stand for everything the paranoid, sponsor-obssessed Olympics are not. Fortunately thousands in the Royal Albert Hall and listening on the net/radio  had their minds and ears on less squalid things. Glorious music, glorious Britishness in the finest sense, genuine, sincere pride. Listen to the interval commentary on i-player which describes the difference between a plodding Land of Hope and Glory and the much more sophisticated version we heard tonight, freer and more positive. My mother was a destitute refugee liberated from camp in 1945, who attended the Last Night of the Proms in 1946. For her it was an overwhelming, cathartic experience which banished sufferings past in a blaze of genuine Hope and Glory. This Coronation Ode shows that bigots can't hijack the idealism Elgar and his contemporaries must have felt 110 years ago. Utterly stunning performance led by Edward Gardner. . Listen and read more about the cast HERE

What does being British mean, after all. Frederick Delius's UK connections were so tenuous that he'd fail the Immigration test questions. Born German, he left Bradford as soon as he could get away, fathered a child with a Florida black woman, partied in Paris and paid homage to Grieg in Norway, and wrote music that recalls Debussy. But "British" he became because the nation needed an icon. And when British music circles have heroes, they're fanatical about them. Delius Sea Drift is for me beautiful as abstract music, since I find the poem mawkish even though it's by Walt Whitman. Fortunately Bryn Terfel gives it vigorous, even gruff treatment which lifts it above sentimentality and gives it extraordinary power. Boyo Delius works well! Mark Elder conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Elgar's Overture Cockaigne (In London Town) is a regular Proms perennial, but it was good to hear  Roger Norrington's warm hearted, lively account, perfectly in tune with the good natured Coronation Ode. Martyn Brabbins conducted Michael Tippett's Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles, which fitted the mood of optimism at the time the Prince was born. God Save the Queen, Long May She Reign!  Even to age 116. Couldn't they have chosen something to praise a woman who has done more for the monarchy than anyone else? Including Princess Diana, who deserves much more attention than she's had this Jubilee year. Mark Anthony Turnage Canon Fever (note one "n", it's a pun) was a reminder thast British music is alive and well. Much quirkier and original than he's been for a while. Some First Night Fanfares disappear without a trace. This one will stay fresh.

Speaking of Britishness, the Olympics and British music, there was some discussion on the BBC Proms site, which I can't track down (might have been pulled). Someone objected to having Beethoven 9 at the Proms on the opening night of the Olympics, because Beethoven wasn't British. "Would the Germans have played British music at the 1936 Olympics opening?" someone asked.  But Beethoven transcends national borders. Alle Menschen werden Bruder. That's the real spirit of the BBC Proms and should be of the Olympics, too.

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