Arts: Friends, countrymen, lend me your ears
Proms: THE LAST NIGHT; BBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS BBC SINGERS ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Monday 14 September 1998
As was the sudden appearance of Terry Wogan, fresh from Hyde Park where 40,000 more mad dogs and Englishmen, with umbrellas, had gathered for Proms in the Park. Andrew Davis urged us (he can be so strict) to chant "Hello Park" before accepting a platinum disc to mark 1.2 million sales of "A Perfect Day". His yearly report, received in relative silence this year (the odd kazoo blast notwithstanding), chronicled the ever-growing success of the world's greatest music festival. We no longer need to put that in quotes.
Where else would Henry Wood rub shoulders with Hugh Wood (no less a showman on the evidence of his Variations for Orchestra)? Where else would Gershwin show songs nestle up to a contemporary premiere? Thomas Ades wrote These Premises Are Alarmed for the opening of Manchester's Bridgewater Hall. In four fantastic minutes, it's constantly reinventing itself. Ades seemingly never reproduces the same sound twice. He has a dazzling future. So did Gershwin, only he never lived to fulfil it. Enter Thomas Hampson, opera singer turned lounge singer and sometime American hunk to lend new meaning to familiar Ira Gershwin's lyrics. "Dozens of girls would storm up, I had to lock my door", he sang, while girls in several private boxes frantically indicated that their doors were wide open.
Earlier, the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, his scarlet jacket and socks almost as natty as his playing, made Variation 18 of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini sound just like a Gershwin tune. But even he, sartorially speaking, was no match for Hampson whose half Stars-and- Stripes, half Union Jack waistcoat was fitting attire for "Rule, Britannia!". She and Uncle Sam got along just fine.
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