Prom 1: Terfel/BBCSO and Chorus / Gardner / Elder / Norrington / Brabbins, Royal Albert Hall, London
This flatulent farrago is no way to begin the Olympic Proms
Sunday 15 July 2012
The opening Prom is always goods-in-the-window time, and Mark-Anthony Turnage was not backward in coming forward with his. Subtitled ‘Fanfare for BBC Music Magazine’s 20th Birthday’, his ‘Canon Fever’ would deploy games with the canon technique, taking a theme and multiplying it, turning it upside down, and inside out.
The funny thing was that, as performed by a posse of horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, and percussion - and brightly off-key like one of Hindemith’s joke pieces for village band - its chugging pulse allowed none of this subtlety to be discernible to the innocent ear. It came and went like a puff of wind, and at three minutes lasted just long enough for us to register that it was conducted by Edward Gardner.
This being Olympic year, four different British conductors were to pass the baton in this evening of resolutely British fare. Next up was Roger Norrington with Elgar’s ‘Overture “Cockaigne” (In London Town)’. If my heart sank at the prospect of this hackneyed piece of populism, it rose at what Norrington and the BBC Symphony Orchestra did with it: instead of the usual jaunty banality we got Viennese elegance, thanks to gentle tempi and the lovingly-rendered textures of strings and woodwind.
This being Frederick Delius’s 150th , we are due for a repeated dunking in his music - which I take as a threat rather than a promise - and with Mark Elder on the podium we got his ‘Sea Drift’, a tear-drenched oratorio on a poem by Walt Whitman for baritone (the new slim-line Bryn Terfel), chorus, and orchestra. Whitman’s verse has a haunting tentativeness, but Delius’s word-setting is both clumsy and oddly unmelodic: although Terfel called on every ounce of his considerable artistry, not even he could bring this turgid piece to life.
Next up was Martin Brabbins with Tippett’s ‘Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles’: with its pleasingly intricate games with Irish jigs and medieval carols, this made a charming relief. But we ended with Gardner back on the podium for Elgar’s ‘Coronation Ode’, a display of cod-Beethoven and imperial oompah delivered with four brilliant English soloists, who deserved something better than the tune of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ which this flatulent farrago sent its audience out on. Enough already.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Best underrated Christmas movies from Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga