The wide-eyed wait is over, anticipation satisfied and rumours confirmed or quashed. (Actually, they’re invariably confirmed, simply because any orchestra, conductor or classical artist that publicises a scheduled appearance at a “major British/London summer festival” has invariably been booked for the Proms but simply isn’t allowed to say so, which, in this day and age, is a bit silly really). But it all kicks off on 18th July, and there are proms for families, proms for poets, proms for singers and proms for children; there are midnight proms, chamber proms, proms in the park and proms for stage and screen. If none of this creeps into your ears, you have no soul. Continue reading →
The world has lost one of the greatest musical virtuosos of our time. The renowned and charismatic conductor Claudio Abbado died on Monday. You only have to contemplate his Mahler 9, Bruckner 9 or his Brahms 3 to appreciate the breadth of his interpretative capacity and the profound grasp he had of musical form. Listen intently to the pulse of his sound: the silences have a cavernous depth; crescendos soar in emotional ecstasy; and his adagios creep toward heaven almost in communion with the divine. He was as serene on the podium as he was silent in life: music was his worship, and that was the gateway to freedom – spiritual and political. For him, no movement should distract and no words deflect from the sanctity of sublime orchestral harmony. Continue reading →
The 2013 Proms season begins in just a fortnight. Every year since I was 14 and thoroughly captivated by counterpoint, I’ve eagerly awaited publication of the BBC’s lavish Proms brochure. Some years, of course, it’s more lavish than others. I used to open it up and quickly highlight all the Beethoven gigs, which usually determined the magnitude of my spiritual rapture and sublime ecstasy. Now I’m a bit more eclectic in my tastes, and embrace just about anything except Bartók.
There are some undoubted highlights this season, which marks the 200th anniversary of the births of Wagner and Verdi (1813 was a vintage year). 2013 is also the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the 50th anniversary of the creation of Dr Who (sorry to mention that in the same paragraph, but this column is very broadly about ‘culture’ and there’s bound to be a few ConHomies who prefer Time Lords and Daleks to latent Risorgimento and synthesised Gesamtkunstwerk). Continue reading →
Prom 18: Beethoven Symphony No.9 in D minor, ‘Choral’. Daniel Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (Royal Albert Hall)
“By assiduous labour you shall receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands,” mused Count Ferdinand Waldstein, as he packed the young Ludwig van Beethoven off to Vienna to fulfil his dreams. Little could Bonn’s great patron of the arts have known that Beethoven’s own hands would surpass those of Haydn, his tutor, or that his spirit would soar above that of Mozart, his inspiration and muse.
This evening marked the culmination of Daniel Barenboim’s complete Beethoven symphony cycle at the Proms – the first by a single maestro since Henry Wood conducted them in 1942. I have either watched them on TV or listened on Radio 3, and it has been a mesmeric, occasionally revelatory cycle. Continue reading →