Friday, 18 July 2014

Prelude to Elgar The Kingdom First Night of the Proms

Edward Elgar The Kingdom at the First Night of the BBC Proms, hot ticket in more ways than one. My review is HERE.  I shall brave the heat of the Royal Albert Hall and make the pilgrimage. As I predicted before this year's Proms were announced The Kingdom is an ideal blockbuster with which to start the Proms season. Oddly enough it was last heard at the Proms in 1999, though it's been done 8 times since 1930. Andrew Davis conducted the BBC SO  then - it will be interesting to hear him conduct it fifteen years later  The Kingdom is big, grand and appeals to those who like pomp and circumstance. Absolutely the stuff to capture national pride and what Teddy Roosevelt, Elgar's contemporary, called "Viggah". As long as they don't really listen. Once I was scolded by an "expert" who knew everything because he'd heard of "Elgar's two symphonies". Heard of, not heard, methinks.

But I love Elgar because I intuit something very different in his music, something much more complex, even more contradictory. Like Benjamin Britten, Elgar reveals himself once you get past the mask that's been imposed upon him by his public status.

The Kingdom is a counterpart of The Apostles, about which I've written HERE. In The Apostles, Jesus describes the Beatitudes to his followers.  In The Kingdom, Jesus's followers are moved at Pentecost by the image of a dove, reminding them of  his message "Lo,  I am with you always, even unto the end of the world". Ideally it would be nice to hear The Apostles and The Kingdom together but that would be a logistical nightmare, and wear everyone out, listeners as well as performers.  So I'm thrilled about hearing The Kingdom tonight and hearing The Apostles again at the Three Choirs Festival this year in Worcester, Elgar's birthplace. There will be lots oif Elgar-related excursions and activities, as well as music. It does help to get The Spirit of Elgar via The Spirit of England, in the form of the places Elgar knew and loved. Long ago, I used to traipse round the Malverns, in the footsteps of Elgar, Gurney, Howells and so on, getting a feel for the landscape that inspired them. . Maybe I'll do the circuit again in autumn with its mood of melancholy.

As a taster for tonight's The Kingdom at The Proms two historic recordings, the first Elgar himself, the second, Isobel Baillie singing "The Sun goeth down".

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