With innovation, anniversaries, late-night solo Bach and Sherlock Holmes, the 2015 Proms tick every box
News: The BBC Proms go clubbing: 2015 lineup includes Ibiza dance night
I’m afraid I give up. Every year at about this time, I look at the new Proms season programme and, being a cynical journalist, every year I look for an angle to criticise what’s on offer. And every year I fail.
Take this year’s programme, revealed today. It’s got practically everything. Lots of dependables who bring in the punters, not least Beethoven, Mahler and Shostakovich. But lots of new music too, including world premieres by Tansy Davies, HK Gruber, James MacMillan and Hugh Wood. Plenty of star conductors – Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Andreis Nelsons and Semyon Bychkov. Glitzy soloists including Daniil Trifonov, Nicola Benedetti, Bryn Terfel and Jonas Kaufman. And Marin Alsop back for the Last Night after her brilliant success as the first woman to conduct the shindig in 2013.
Related: The BBC Proms go clubbing: 2015 lineup includes Ibiza dance night
A Radio 1 dance night and a Sherlock Holmes celebration are among the more unusual proms in the 92-concert season – which feature more matinees this year and put the piano centre stage
Martin Kettle comment: ‘It’s a season with practically everything’
Finally, a chance to cut some moves, to “stack some shelves”, at the 120-year-old BBC Proms. Organisers of the world’s largest and longest-running music festival have announced the first ever dance Prom.
Details of the 2015 season were announced in London and while the Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong will be the host for Prom 16, organisers also promise plenty of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Sibelius as well as a celebration of the piano with nearly 30 soloists performing this summer.
Related: BBC Proms 2015: It's a season with practically everything
Related: In praise of Pierre Boulez at 90
Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff
Four different takes on creation myths made for a mixed-bag of a concert in which the radio audience perhaps had the better experience
The studio version of The Magic Flute that Otto Klemperer made for EMI in 1964, with a cast including Nicolai Gedda, Gundula Janowitz and Lucia Popp, remains one of the finest ever recorded. Two years earlier, Klemperer had conducted and directed a new staging of the singspiel at the Royal Opera House. The two previous productions there had been sung in English, but this one, though the cast were predominantly Anglophone, was in German. It was not the success his Fidelio the previous season had been; the designs (which were by Georg Eisler, son of the great composer) were much criticised, the singing was thought uneven and the conducting seen as uninvolved, even dull. Yet this mono recording of the opening night, remastered from BBC tapes, shows how much higher vocal expectations must have been half a century ago, for by today’s standards much of it sounds very good indeed.
Klemperer’s conducting is certainly rather staid and heavyweight. We have become used to faster tempi and more transparency in Mozart, and perhaps even some ornaments in the vocal lines. Some passages here are very slow indeed. But there’s an honesty about the performance that’s totally convincing; nothing, you sense, is being done just for superficial effect. Later, in his studio recording, Klemperer would insist on omitting all the dialogue; here it is included, though it sometimes sounds stilted and self-conscious from cast members whose first language was not German, and there is a certain amount of clattery stage noise, too.
Even if the 2015-16 season’s focus and concentration are the direct result of financial body-blows, this could be a year to remember for the right reasons at the Coliseum
News: ENO announce cloth-cutting new season
Six new productions and five revivals attest to English National Opera’s current troubled circumstances, while artistic director John Berry hails ‘exciting and challenging’ times
Tom Service comment: ‘Smaller is beautiful’
“I wish it was easier at times,” admitted the embattled artistic director of English National Opera, perhaps with understatement, as he revealed a cloth-cutting season with fewer new productions and more revivals. “Maybe it is a smaller season,” said John Berry, “but in terms of artistic adventure it feels extremely exciting.”
ENO staged 11 new productions last year and 10 during its 2013/14 season. This year there will be six, including Calixto Bieito directing Verdi’s The Force of Destiny, Benedict Andrews directing La Bohème, and Daniel Kramer directing Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. There will be five old favourite revivals and no new writing.
Related: Smaller is beautiful: ENO's new season offers invention and ambition
Royal Festival Hall, London Barenboim brought a very special sense of occasion and affirmation to Elgar’s second symphony, while Tchaikovsky’s violin concert with Lisa Batiashvili had gutsy grandeur and soaring lines
Daniel Barenboim’s talents and confidence are so prodigious that sometimes he can seem happier just to wing it. In this performance with his Berlin orchestra of Elgar’s second symphony, however, that was never the case for a single moment. Barenboim has said recently that Elgar’s credentials are universal. And, right from the first bar, with the crescendo thrillingly elongated, Barenboim seemed on a mission to prove the point.
It was a mission in which the Staatskapelle were equal partners. Their playing was luxuriant, whether in the surging tuttis of the opening statement, or the hushed intimacies that are such an essential recurring part of this symphony’s texture. Brass and woodwind were outstanding, while the string playing, audibly urged on by Barenboim at times, was richly committed in quiet and loud passages alike.
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