Opera + Classical Music Features

BBC Proms 2007: Week Five preview

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall (Photo: David Levene/Royal Albert Hall)

The Scandinavian anniversary composers get more of a look-in as the Proms, now fully into its stride, begins to extend a welcoming arm to European visitors.

And yet the headline for the fifth week is undoubtedly the climax of the festivals four year Ring cycle.

Late afternoon on Sunday 12 August will be the time to experience Gtterdammerung, under the direction of Donald Runnicles.

Its a BBC affair where the support is concerned, the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus joining with the BBC Singers. But a look at the cast confirms this should be one of the crowning glories of the season. Soprano Christine Brewer will be Brnnhilde, Stig Andersen Siegfried and Sir John Tomlinson Hagen. With such a formidable trio of Wagner specialists it will be interesting to note how the supporting cast respond. They too have considerable pedigree, with Gweneth-Ann Jeffers as Gutrune, the promising Karen Cargill as Waltraute and Alan Held as Gunther. Conductor Runnicles has achieved much in his performances at the New York Met, and previous Prom outings with the BBCSO have received favourable coverage, so the die is cast.

A rather different stage work gets a rare outing in Prom 42 on Wednesday 15 August, as Sibelius specialist Osmo Vnska marks the fiftieth anniversary of the composers death with a complete performance of the incidental music for The Tempest. Sung in Finnish, this late work (prior to Sibeliuss extended retirement) was recorded by Vnska back in 1992, and sees him rejoining the Lahti forces from Finland with whom he has made such a name as an interpreter of this music.

The Tempest will form an extended first part, with seven songs after the interval followed by the Seventh Symphony, the composers single movement work of unusual yet highly effective formal design that represents a final victory in the form.

The other anniversary composer to finally make his mark is Edvard Grieg, and the visit of the Bergen Philharmonic conducted by Andrew Litton in Prom 43 on Thursday 16 August ought to be a season highlight. Griegs Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak will get a brief outing alongside the beloved Piano Concerto, where Boris Berezovsky will be the soloist. Interestingly this will be coupled with Waltons First Symphony, where subtle parallels with Sibelius may come to the fore in this big boned, positive work.

The Proms ventures from the West at last on Friday 10 August, as Nitin Sawhney is the subject of An Evening With Nitin Sawhney and Friends. The friends, in this case, are a varied bunch of vocalists and instrumentalists, assembled to mark the sixty year anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan. Vocalists include the familiar names of Natacha Atlas, Fink, Tina Grace and Imogen Heap, while the instrumentalists are led by Anoushka Shankar on sitar, cellist Ian Burdge and flautist Ashwin Srinivasan. Choreography from Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will complement the music of the London Under Sound Symphony Orchestra, specially created for the event. A later start, this will run from 9.00pm.

While Sibeliuss masterful essay in symphonic compression gets its say from Osmo Vnska, his towering Fifth Symphony will form the main work in the European Union Youth Orchestras program in Prom 38 on Saturday 11 August, under another Sibelius specialist in Sir Colin Davis. With two big Brahms works occupying the first half in the Tragic Overture and the Third Symphony, this will be an ideal vehicle for Sir Colin, so long a champion of youth orchestras.

Week fives chamber music concert brings an interesting juxtaposition of Schumann, Elizabeth Maconchy and Britten, sung by tenor Philip Langridge accompanied by David Owen Norris. Winter Words in particular will be worth the admission price, an evocative piece of music even on a hot summers day.

Later that evening, Monday 13 August, conductor Paavo Jrvi will sneak in a guest appearance to Prom 40, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. At first glance the program could be said to be somewhat academic, but the feeling persists this could be one of the unexpected gems of the season. Jrvis recordings for Telarc and Virgin are generally praised, so it will be interesting to see how he unites the common threads of Weber, Mahler, Brahms and Schoenberg. The latter two will feature in the same piece, a rare performance of Schoenbergs orchestration of the Brahms Piano Quartet No.1. Not a small venture this, and the selection from Des Knaben Wunderhorn to be sung by Matthias Goerne is hardly on the frugal side at forty minutes. Weber keeps the fantastical theme alive with the overture to Oberon.

More late night Birtwistle is on offer for Prom 44, on the late night of Thursday 16 August. In a concert of works commissioned under the festivals directorship of John Drummond, Martyn Brabbins will conduct Lutoslawskis charming Chantefleurs et Chantefables, sung by the soprano dedicatee Solveig Kringelborn, preceded by Colin Currie, who will be the soloist in James MacMillans successful percussion concerto of 1992. Inevitably Panic will finish the program, though I suspect the audience will be rather smaller and less offended than in 1995!

Last but not least will be an attractively jazz-inflected concert for Prom 41 on Tuesday 14 August. Robert Spano will conduct the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Stravinskys Petrushka, following this with Bernsteins three dance episodes from On The Town. Then, joined by the Marcus Roberts Trio, Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue will be virtually doubled in length with extra improvisation from the jazz pianist and his crew. It epitomises a week where the musical styles vary dramatically from one night to the next, from gigantic opera to nifty overture. Something for everyone, Id wager.

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