Opera + Classical Music Features

BBC Proms 2007: Week Six preview

Royal Albert Hall

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

Another week, another starry collection at the Proms – and this without Maxim Vengerov, who has sadly had to pull out of his scheduled late night Prom.

No short changing on the part of the BBC though, who have replaced his scheduled world premiere of the intriguingly titled Tango Rock Concerto of Benjamin Yusupov with a Latin Fiesta Night, taking in a blend of youth and experience. The Simn Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela are in town to make their debut under conductor Gustav Dudamel, and the brass section, the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble, have stepped into the breach with the London Symphony Orchestra to fill Vengerov’s shoes (Prom 47, late night Saturday 18 August).

The choice of repertoire is intriguing, and sets up a fun, light-hearted occasion. Tangos from Piazzolla will follow Copland’s El Slon Mxico, with conductors Thomas Clamor and Xavier Roth also presiding over works by Richard Strauss, Bach and Gershwin. Eclectic is the word!

The Simn Bolivar orchestra are a hot ticket. Conductor Dudamel’s previous visit to the Proms was at short notice, standing in for an indisposed Neeme Jrvi with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 2006. Here he gets plenty of notice – and he will have needed it, to rehearse a first half of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony and a second half of Latin American orchestral works, venturing pleasingly off the beaten track to perform the music of Mexican composer Revueltas and the Argentinean Alberto Ginastera.

This treat rounds off an extremely busy weekend for the Proms, with no fewer than three performances on Saturday 18 August. The first is a matinee at the Cadogan Hall, dipping once again into the theme of Shakespeare, as the English Concert perform English baroque music. Boyce, Arne and Thomas Linley Jr are all composers well worth an acquaintance, and the latter pair served the Bard well in their word settings, which will be performed by the highly rated tenor Mark Padmore, who has already made a brief appearance at the Albert Hall this season.

Elgar’s time is upon us in the second Saturday concert, Prom 46, where Sakari Oramo brings his acclaimed interpretation of The Apostles from Birmingham. An early start (6.30pm), this concert features a strong cast, with soprano Amanda Roocroft joined by mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, baritone Alan Opie and basses James Rutherford and Peter Rose. A less obvious choice than The Dream of Gerontius, this is a fine example of Elgar’s immense sensitivity when writing for choir and orchestra.

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited orchestral prom of the season will take place in Prom 51 on Wednesday 22 August, when Claudio Abbado brings his self-assembled Lucerne Festival Orchestra to the Royal Albert Hall. Having already received rave reviews for their recording of Mahler’s Resurrection symphony a couple of years back, the orchestra will take on the monumental Third Symphony, with soprano soloist Anna Larsson. Not a seat in the house for this one, so get there early if you’re looking to prom!

The soloists of the Lucerne orchestra will be giving their own concert as part of the Proms Chamber Music series at the Cadogan Hall, and the real draw will be a performance of the second Brahms string sextet. Jacques Zoon will be heading the accompanying work, one of Mozart’s charming Flute Quartets.

And there’s more. John Adams returns to the Proms on Tuesday 21 August, conducting the world premiere of the BBC commission, the Doctor Atomic Symphony. This is quite a coup for the corporation, especially with the pleasingly eccentric pianist Olli Mustonen joining the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the piano concerto Century Rolls, making up the first half with Copland’s suite Billy The Kid. Although some may feel Adams appears too much at the Proms, an opportunity to hear the world premiere of a major work should not be discounted lightly.

Another concert of Baroque themes marks the appearance of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Prom 52 on Thursday 23 August. Rarely does an orchestra play with so much verve and enthusiasm, so their performances of Handel, Purcell and Telemann should be well worth watching. All the more so as tenor Ian Bostridge and soprano Kate Royal will be appearing in arias and duets by Handel.

Finally an all Hungarian opera affair – composer and conductor, that is. Bartk’s only opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle will be conducted by Christoph von Dohnnyi, part of a program that includes the suite from Thomas Ads’ opera Powder Her Face and Webern’s arrangement of the Ricercar from Bach’s Musical Offering. Quite a week then – make sure you take in some of it if you can!

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