You wait for years for a helicopter and then... four come along at once, in Birmingham as in Edinburgh. What a whirl!
Formed in Aldeburgh only a few weeks ago, and drawing in musicians from four continents, the Aldeburgh World Orchestra is the newest youth band to grace the Proms, and under Mark Elder’s direction it gave a noble account of Britten’s "Sinfonia da Requiem".
Books: I read all the time. I recently read a big book on the nature of seeing and believing by Pylyshyn. I've also been re-reading a book that has been an influence on me: 'Frame Analysis' by Erving Goffman, about how we make sense of things. There's also a whole series of philosophical books by Donald Davidson – particularly 'Essays on Actions and Events' (1980). It's difficult and you need to read it again and again to get it straight. Hand movements are something I'm always thinking about when directing an opera or theatre production. I also read a very good new translation of 'Madame Bovary' by Lydia Davis.
It's a well-kept secret that the Bergen Philharmonic is one of the world's oldest orchestras - 246 years old and counting. Norway's most famous son, Edvard Grieg, was himself artistic director from 1880-1882. Now, and for the foreseeable future, an American is at the helm.
The latest instalment in Vasily Petrenko's highly acclaimed cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies offers a telling flashback to the composer's youth.
Rudolf Barshai was one of the last surviving members of the cohort of great Russian musicians who came to prominence in the middle of the last century, among them Gilels, Oistrakh, Richter and Rostropovich. Barshai will be remembered chiefly as a conductor, but he first made his mark as a violist, and for two decades was as predominant a player as Yuri Bashmet in more recent times.
Written for Rostropovich, Britten's Cello Symphony is a concerto in all but name.
Decades later and we've grown to love Birtwistle's rich and strange sound world. A concert to celebrate the composer's 75th birthday is met with shock and awe – as well as affection
The raw immediacy of Yossif Ivanov's tone is the first thing to strike in this pairing of two of the mid-20th century's most pungent violin concertos.
Edward Downes spent more than 50 years of his life at Covent Garden Opera House, as prompter, répétiteur, translater and, of course, conductor. He spent four years as the music director of Australian Opera, but returned at least once a season to Covent Garden where, in 1992, he was appointed assistant music director and principal conductor of the Royal Opera. He had been knighted the year before. He was one of the finest Verdi conductors of his generation, and in 1995 he launched an ambitious plan to perform all Verdi's operas at Covent Garden by 2001, the centenary of his death, a plan which unfortunately foundered from lack of funds. Downes's other great strengths were in Russian opera, especially Prokofiev and Shostakovich, though he did not neglect Tchaikovsky or Mussorgsky, and in 20th-century opera: he conducted several premieres and British premieres.
Boris Pokrovsky dominated Soviet opera for over 50 years and his productions – lavish, traditional, even sometimes staid – defined the Bolshoi style. But his chamber opera company often moved in a very different direction.
Many have lost relatives, some no longer have homes, but they all put on their best evening dress and flocked to Tskhinvali's central square to see one of the world's most famous conductors lead an emotional concert in support of his people – and Russian military action.