CLASSICAL MUSIC / On Classical Music

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The season's two most provocative Proms should get everybody heated in case the bank holiday turns out cool and wet. Saturday night must have been planned with a very dry sense of humour. What kind of music is odium to the Birtwhistle brigade? Dvorak's sweet, timeless melodies have to be at the top of the list. And what would be the biggest turn-off for lovers of the New World Symphony? That's right, Sir Harrison's ferocious Earth Dances. So congratulations to the Cleveland Orchestra and Christoph von Dohnanyi (right) on thinking up a programme with something to outrage everybody.

It makes a good reason for going if you want to know what all the fuss is about - or just to listen to some contrasted music from a high-class visiting band. The best way to come to terms with Birtwhistle is to confront one of his more eruptive pieces head on. It's meant to shake you up - fright, warped jokes, gross outbursts, are all in there - so there's no point in being cautious. After all, we'll happily go to films that do the same things. The live experience beats radio like cinema beats TV. You may not like it, but you can't avoid the impact. At the other extreme, this concert might even make hard-line modernists listen to Dvorak with fresh ears, and that would be about the biggest achievement in tolerance since the Race Relations Act.

Sunday afternoon is called a Young Persons' Concert, by another comical turn of the imagination. It features just about the most adult piece in the entire repertoire, Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, alongside sophisticated morsels by Britten, Chabrier and Malcolm Arnold. David Atherton conducts the BBC Symphony. Concerned parents should treat this music as though it had a PG certificate attached. Slightly older young persons who already know high camp when they hear it should have the time of their lives.

The Cleveland Orchestra plays at the Proms Sat 27 Aug, 7.30pm, pounds 4-pounds 21 (also Sun 28, 8pm). 'Young Persons' Concert', Sun 28 Aug 2.30pm, pounds 4-pounds 17; both at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 (071-589 8212) (Photograph omitted)

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