MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

BBC Proms 2022: Guest Report

Guest contributor Thomas Luce on the recently concluded BBC Proms season:

The British Broadcasting Corporation’s 72 Promenade Concerts, which started in mid-July, ended two days before the Last Night of the Proms originally scheduled for 10 September. This is because such hugely joyful and triumphant public events would be inconsistent with the National Mourning following Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s deeply and widely grieved death on 8 September. 

The 2022 edition of the Proms very successfully delivered the gigantic and demanding variety of classical, modern, and some populist music summarised in my post here on 3 May. All of the programmed orchestras turned up, including those from Australia, Ukraine, Berlin, Finland, Norway, Cologne, and Philadelphia. And, generally, there were huge audiences in London’s Royal Albert Hall, which in the Promenade season can accommodate nearly 6,000 people.

All this year’s Prom concerts remain available on BBC Sounds until 10 October. Of the concerts we attended or heard, I would especially recommend the huge and powerful choral and orchestral programmes — which, until the end of Covid pandemic-related public restrictions (though not, of course, of the pandemic), were not allowable in public. So, for the first time in a couple of years, there were huge choruses with full orchestras: on Verdi’s Requiem(14 July), Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (24 August), 29 August (Bach’s B minor Mass), Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (31 August), Beethoven’s Choral Symphony (2 September) performed by the ethnically diverse Chineke! Orchestra supplemented by English choral societies, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (7 September) in a phenomenal performance by the Monterverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. Also very worthwhile were the two evenings by the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic on 3 and 4 September, which included Mahler’s Seventg Symphony, Schnittke’s interesting Viola Concerto, and Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, as well a the superb performance by Sir Andras Schiff on Sunday morning (4 September) of Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas.

In addition to its recently broadcast public concerts, BBC Sounds makes all of its musical programmes available for a month or so. These include regular daily or weekly programmes, such as each day’s 24-hour playlist. Each Saturday morning also presents interesting record reviews. And each week a different composer is featured in hour-long discussions each day, which are informative and educational. Recently featured composers have included Dieterich Buxtehude and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Another advantage of the performances available on BBC Sounds is that they are not interrupted by advertisements. The intervals usually contain musically illustrated and informative discussions of the programme and its performers. A good recent example was the interval discussion during the Prom of 5 September, which included works by the Franco-American Betsy Jolas and Mahler’s First Symphony, which provided fascinating information on the music as well as on professional performances of both composers.

The last of the dozen Proms that my wife and I went to was by the Philadelphia Orchestra on 8 September. We reached the hall a short time after the Queen’s death was announced. The orchestra was on the stage, but it was announced that because of her death the intended programme would not be performed and there would solely be the National Anthem and the Nimrod Variation from Elgar’s Enigma Variations: a sombre and subtly sad piece that beautifully reflects public grievance, just as Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings comparably does in America. It was very movingly played by the Philadelphia musicians, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Filed under: BBC Proms, review

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