Opera + Classical Music Features

BBC Proms 2007: Week Four preview

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall (Photo: Christie Goodwin/Royal Albert Hall)

BBC orchestras feature heavily in the Proms festival’s fourth week, which has a distinctly bread and butter’ feel to it in terms of repertoire. Don’t interpret that as a criticism though, as each day still features a world class artist and Wednesday 8 August sees the first radical departure from the classical form.

Add to that some late night Bach, big Russian symphonies from Shostakovich and Rachmaninov and late Romanticism from soprano Rene Fleming and you still have a formidable week of music making.

And the departure from the classical? It’s ‘From Bards To Blues’, an evening with John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, that promises much with the BBC Concert Orchestra in attendance. Jacqui Dankworth will sing alongside Laine, and both will be accompanied by saxophonists Soweto Kinch and Tommy Smith, trumpeter Guy Barker and the John Dankworth Quintet. Dankworth’s music will feature heavily, along with Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder and a new arrangement of Strayhorn’s Take The ‘A’ Train.

The BBC Concert Orchestra’s appearance at the Proms will be most welcome, sandwiched between their Philharmonic and Welsh cousins. The National Orchestra of Wales are busy at the Proms this year, and return for a third concert, this time with David Atherton in charge. An intriguing Prom takes on two of the Proms premieres, headed by Walton’s Viola Concerto, introduced by Hindemith back in blahd but here with Lawrence Power as soloist. Rachmaninov’s vibrant Symphonic Dances will wrap up a concert that begins with a new work from Guto Puw. Puw is unlikely to be a household name yet – the intriguingly titled … onyt agoraf y drws … (… unless I open the door …) may put a change to that.

As for the BBC Philharmonic, they will be accompanying Ms Fleming in a programme indulging in varying degrees of Romanticism (Prom 32, Monday 6 August). Two bright eyed and bushy tailed symphonies will bookend Gianandrea Noseda‘s program, with Beethoven’s Eighth first up and Schumann’s Second sending the crowd home happy. In between Fleming will sing the ravishing early songs of Alban Berg, returning after the interval for two arias from Korngold.

In fact, lovers of late Romantic music are in for a treat this week. Noseda is back the following night with the same orchestra in Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, using the accepted completion of Deryck Cooke. An inspired coupling pits this against Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, where the composer’s love of Mahler is made most plain.

In his anniversary year it could be felt that Elgar has been more than a little short changed, with no performance of either symphony at this year’s festival. Daniele Gatti will lead the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in redressing that balance somewhat in Prom 31 (Sunday 5 August) when they perform the beloved Enigma Variations, coming off the back of Brahms’ Variations on the St Anthony Chorale. Gatti’s second half will concentrate on the music of Richard Strauss, with two very different sides to the composer – the relative classicism of the Oboe Concerto, with promising soloist Alexei Ogrintchouk, and the heady Romanticism of the Der Rosenkavalier suite to finish.

Earlier that afternoon will be the customary opportunity to see the organ of the Albert Hall in action, with Iain Farrington in two finales – Julius Reubke’s Psalm 94 sonata and Elgar’s great sonata. The BBC Symphony Chorus will flank these with part songs and sacred music, including a world premiere in Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s Four Poems of Thomas Campion, commissioned by the Proms. If you blink you might miss anniversary composer Grieg’s contribution to this concert – a pity they could only fit in two of the Op.74 Psalms to this program.

The second Proms Saturday Matinee will take place at the Cadogan Hall on Saturday 4 August, in a charming program for strings. And what was that about Grieg? His Holberg Suite, a real breath of fresh air, will form the culmination of the Scottish Ensemble’s program under Jonathan Morton. Michael Collins will be the high calibre soloist in Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto, while two works for strings will highlight anniversary composers – Elgar’s restful Serenade opening the concert, and Elizabeth Maconchy’s Music for Strings marking her centenary.

Strings again at the Cadogan Hall on Monday 6th as part of the Proms Chamber Music series – only rather fewer players are involved this time. It’s a fine programme, too – the Sibelius quartet Voces Intimae and Janacek’s Kreutzer Quartet providing two high powered musical works for the Henschel Quartet to play.

All of which leaves two concerts – but they’re hardly left-overs. As is traditional for an August Saturday, a youth orchestra will take to the stage in Prom 29 on Saturday 4 August – and Mark Elder will be conducting the National Youth Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Leningrad symphony, Prokofiev’s ebullient first piano concerto and the London premiere of the short New Era Dance from Aaron Jay Kernis.

Finally the late night Bach prom with Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan, on the night of Tuesday 7 August (Prom 34). This will feature a stella grouping of soloists in soprano Carolyn Sampson, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Gerd Trk and bass Peter Kooy – with two cantatas topped by a setting of the Mass, the less familiar G major example.

Music OMH will take on Magnus Lindberg and Rachmaninov, tackle Walton and Guto Huw, marvel at the NYO in Shostakovich and revel in Rene Fleming’s singing. With these and John Dankworth, we’re in for a whistle stop tour of Western music over the next week. For week five, however, expect to move even further afield!

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