Classical Music

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The new season of Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, which opened on Friday, is a largely retrospective affair, surveying the changing musical fashions of the past 100 years preparatory to the more forward-looking centenary celebrations planned for 1995 (with some 20 promised premieres, across the spectrum from Steve Reich to Sir Harrison Birtwistle). To lend an air of historical authenticity to this year's various re-creations of programmes past and themed tributes to major players in the concerts' evolution (from old 'Timber' himself to William Glock, revitaliser - or wrecker? - of BBC music in the Sixties and Seventies), some grand old-timers have been coaxed out of retirement.

Opening night saw Hans Hotter, reigning Wotan of the post-war years, making his long-delayed Proms debut, aged 85, as the summer-invoking speaker in Schoenberg's Gurrelieder. Tomorrow night boasts the return of Heather Harper, the much-loved Irish soprano, to sing Alban Berg's picture-postcard Altenberg Lieder with Sir Simon Rattle (who, young as he is always billed, has also always had a soft spot for the golden oldies), before returning next month to join 15 of her junior colleagues in Vaughan Williams's magical Serenade to Music, a salute to the 16 greatest voices of 1938.

And tonight, it's the turn of veteran violinist Ida Haendel (below), another of Sir Simon's regular favourites (they gave the Sibelius Concerto together last year), who holds an unchallenged record as the longest-serving Proms soloist, having made her debut under Sir Henry Wood himself at the old Queen's Hall in 1937. And the Queen herself will be making her first ever visit to the Proms after 40 years upon the throne. Nice of her to drop in but perhaps somebody had better explain that the Prommers aren't standing especially for her, they do that for the music - and even more, the musicians - anyway.

7.30 tonight, Royal Albert Hall, SW7 (071-589 8212) and live on Radio 3

(Photograph omitted)

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