Arts and Entertainment

First seen as part of a 1912 double bill, Ariadne auf Naxos was revised and reshaped as Europe plunged into the carnage of the First World War. Strauss was profoundly relieved when his son, Franz, was declared unfit for military service. But his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, had already served as a reservist when the now familiar version of their backstage comedy on high and low art premiered in Vienna in 1916, four days after the assassination of the prime minister in the dining room of a hotel a few minutes' walk from the opera house.

London Philharmonic Orchestra / Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

As if it wasn’t enough to open a new London Philharmonic season with a simply tremendous performance of Mahler's 3rd Symphony, Vladimir Jurowski could not resist adding a preface. And the music he chose not only reminded us of the intriguing connection with Mahler's younger contemporary, Alexander Zemlinsky, in that both men loved the same woman, Alma Schindler, it also looked at life, love, and destiny from an obliquely different perspective.

Prom 66: Berlin Philharmonic / Rattle, Royal Albert Hall, London

The Mahler had come the night before – this second Berlin Philharmonic Prom imaginatively chronicled the before and after.

First Night: Simon Rattle / Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Albert Hall, London

A rapturous response to Rattle's return

Benjamin Lees: Composer who eschewed modernism in favour of a gritty, muscular clarity

The American composer Benjamin Lees had the bad luck to reach his stylistic maturity at a time when contemporary composition was besotted by modernism; more traditional idioms were regarded as passé. But Lees stuck to his guns, writing music he could be proud of, and when the serialist hegemony fell away he had a substantial corpus of solidly crafted works to show for his perseverance, written in a style that married gritty muscularity with formal clarity. The critic Steve Schwartz described it as "a dramatic neoclassicism, free of Stravinskian pastiche, darker than Piston, more direct than Diamond".

Prom 58: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Gardiner, Royal Albert Hall, London

If you didn’t know who was playing, the second theme of Dvorak’s Carnival Overture – clarinet in songful counterpoint with the homeliest of tunes in the violins - would have thoroughly given the game away. Only the Czech Philharmonic could phrase this music with such unassuming charm.

How we learned to start worrying and love Mahler

The Austrian composer is more popular than ever, with a host of anniversary concerts planned. Yet at first his work was overlooked because his sense of doom was out of tune with the times

Prom 52: Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Ashkenazy, Royal Albert Hall

The prospect of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra getting down under and dirty with Strauss and Scriabin got off to a frenetic start with Vladimir Ashkenazy’s body language perhaps telling us more than we needed to know about the heated carnality at the start of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier prelude. And what you saw was what you heard: all sex, not much love-making.

El Niño, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

The Edinburgh International Festival, which this year explores the exchange of cultural influences between Europe and the Americas and beyond, opened with John Adams's nativity oratorio, El Niño, a piece that is as striking for its complex orchestral sonorities as for its often luminous vocal and choral writing.

Prom 35: Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Kraggerud/Dausgaard, Royal Albert Hall

If some musical exhumations were better left underground, others rectify injustices, and thus it was with Rued Langgaard’s ‘Music of the Spheres’, which has now, after a 92-year wait, had its British premiere.

Proms 24 and 25: BBC Proms: BBC SSO/ Runnicles/ BBC Singers/London Sinfonietta/Atherton

Musical time-travel can often spring surprises, but the three-hour experience represented by Proms 24 and 25 was a uniquely strange journey.

Prom 23: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Runnicles, Royal Albert Hall

Questions may be raised in the Scottish parliament about the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra bringing an all-English programme to the Proms (one dear soul even felt compelled to wave the Scottish flag) but no one is likely to be arguing about the quality of the music making. Predictably Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending pulled in a massive crowd but it was the concert opener by John Foulds (a Proms first) that really raised curiosity levels.

Mitch Miller: Producer, composer and conductor who made an enduring impact on American popular music

As a recording manager and record producer, Mitch Miller nurtured the talents of some of the biggest names in American music – Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney – and he made the US Columbia label the biggest in the country. For several years in the 1950s, he was the most important figure in the record industry and many younger talents followed his example and learnt how to produce records.

Prom 9: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra / Sinaisky, Royal Albert Hall, London

It’s the highlight of every “Last Night”, the nation’s unofficial National Anthem, but for its composer Hubert Parry Jerusalem has proved as much of a millstone (as opposed to milestone) as Land of Hope and Glory has for Elgar.

Prom 5: WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne/ Bychkov, Royal Albert Hall

It was Semyon Bychkov’s last concert as principal conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne, and reaching the summit of Strauss’ Alpine Symphony could and should have been a big deal – the Albert Hall is a natural environment for this musical blockbuster.

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