Sunday, 9 September 2012

Last Night of the Proms 2012

Some of my friends were at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Others like me were at the Wigmore Hall, and others at the Proms in the Park where they had a completely different programme (photo by Neil Rickards). We all had fun in different ways.

One of the advantages of watching the Last Night of the Proms on TV is that the cameras see more than anyone else. Close-ups of friends in the Arena! The sillier the costume, the more likely the cameras will focus on you, but a lot of the"real" Prommers just don evening dress (which for them is fancy dress). I' won't forget Nick in a suit, or Sam's top hat (this year in a straw boater). Ruth always looks good but at the Last Night she's a diva, even when she's drinking a bottle of water. This year the traditional bobbing up and down was marred by a toy horn which threw everyone off beat but when it stopped, the bouncing was better. Thankfully, this year's audience cared about music. No vuvuzelas !

The first part of the Last Night usually delivers real music,  which we had in ther form of arias from Puccini and Massenet sung by Joseph Calleja, Delius Songs of Farewell, and Bruch's Violin Concert no 1. Calleja is a natural showman, joining in the Last Night spirit with his red white and blue hoodie and Malta T-shirt !  Gosh, does he know how to work an audience. This is a true artist, no dumbing down.  He sings well - of course - but he does the common touch with natural ease. He shone with sincerity. It must have been as good an experience for him as it was for us. As a violinist, Nicola Benedetti is fine, but can't quite let rip as Our Nige (Nigel Kennedy) might. but she played nicely. Danielle De Niese was a delight. She's intelligent, another natural communicator, not a bimbette.

 Jiří Bělohlávek conducted the BBC SO and BBC Symphony Chorus. A particularly beautiful Josef Suk Towards a New Life. Unidiomatic singing but genuine feeling. Bělohlávek  is much loved. In his years with the BBCSO, he has made Czech a feature of his work. We've had groundbreaking performances of  Janáček, Dvořák. Josef Suk and Martinů in London. We've been greatly enriched.  Last year after the First Night of the Proms, Bělohlávek was attacked for reasons unknown. Surely anyone in a position to judge would know that Janáček comes in different forms? I don't speculate why, but Bělohlávek decided to spend more time in Prague, where he's much respected. Our loss, for Bělohlávek is in a unique position to teach us repertoire we can't claim to know better than he.

So the warmth with which he was greeted at the 2012 Last Night was valedictory. He's looking much thinner, (has he been unwell?) but his command of the English language is greatly improved. In the past, he's struggled to read from a script. This year, he ad libbed comfortably, joked and led audience and performers like a seasoned Master of Ceremonies. LNOP conductors always make a speech, but this year Bělohlávek "was" part of the experience in every way. Olympic athletes paraded their gold medals. Bělohlávek put on his honorary CBE medal with reverence. Affectionate applause. Maestro, know that you're appreciated. This was the best Last Night of the Proms I've ever experienced. Less antics, more genuine heartfelt sincerity, emotional  and musical truth.

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