CLASSICAL MUSIC / Remembrance of Proms past: The Proms are 100 years old. Well, almost. Michael White chooses his Top 10 concerts

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
THE THEME this year is looking back, and with a vengeance, at a hundred years of Proms performance history. The true centenary doesn't happen until 1995, but the BBC is not one to let an opportunity pass: it is calling this the 100th Season and compensating for the fact that there is only one commission (very safely from John Tavener) with a resume of major works which have been premiered in Proms of old. A bit like sorting through the attic and discovering what, with time, has turned out to be precious as opposed to junk. Choosing a Top 10 Proms isn't easy, but I'd go for:

Gurrelieder (Fri 15 Jul). As usual, a mighty choral work to launch the season: Schoenberg's luxuriant masterpiece of late Romanticism, performed here by Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra with massed voices and distinguished soloists - not least the great Wagnerian baritone Hans Hotter, making his Proms debut at the age of 85.

St Matthew Passion (Sun 24 Jul). Period-performance Bach on slimline terms from the maverick American conductor Joshua Rifkin - and at the unusual starting time of 11.30am, with a 60-minute break for lunch.

Scenes and Arias (Mon 25 Jul). A classic Proms commission from the 1960s, written by Nicholas Maw (his best orchestral score) and done here by the BBC SO under Mark Elder.

The Wreckers (Sun 31 Jul). A very rare performance of the opera by Dame Ethel Smythe: composer, feminist campaigner, Suffragette and (until recently, at least) figure of fun.

The piece is legendary, but is it any good?

A Tribute to Sir William Glock (Sun 7 Aug). A marathon programme (6-10pm) celebrating the man who ran music at the BBC (and effectively throughout Britain) during the 1960s. A reminiscence of former glories, with contributions from Sir Colin Davis, Pierre Boulez and Imogen Cooper, it's potentially unmissable.

Peter Maxwell Davies's 5th Symphony (Tues 9 Aug). The very first performance of Sir PMD's 5th, which makes it an Occasion. Played by the Philharmonia and conducted by Sir PMD himself. See How We Met, page 72.

John Tavener's The Apocalypse (Sun 14 Aug). A big new Byzantine choral work from Britain's most fashionable living composer, and the sole commission in the Proms this year. Richard Hickox, long-time champion of Tavener, conducts; with soloists including Ruby Philogene as the Whore of Babylon. Can't wait.

Eugene Onegin (Thurs 18 Aug). One of this year's two visits from Glyndebourne, semi- staged with the stunning young Kirov soprano Elena Prokina in the title role and Andrew Davis (who doubles as music chief of Glyndebourne as well as the BBC SO) conducting.

Mahler's 9th Symphony (Thurs 25 Aug). One of the glamour dates at this year's Proms in that it features the Berlin Philharmonic

under Claudio Abbado. Mahler's last completed symphony conducted by one who is now a distinguished Mahlerian.

The Cleveland Orchestra (Sat 27 Aug). Another glamour date, from what is arguably the leading US orchestra and its music director, Christoph von Dohnanyi. A rigorous apologist for new music, Dohnanyi's programme includes Harrison Birtwistle's magnificently abrasive 1980s masterwork Earth Dances. We can only hope that hecklers will have the grace to stay at home and disapprove by radio.

Albert Hall, SW7, 071-589 8212, Fri to 10 Sept. Key: - sold out; - a few seats still available; - plenty of seats left.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments