The prospectus for the 2009 Henry Wood Promenade Concerts in London is now on sale and you can check on the programmes by looking them up on bbc.co.uk/proms. Each year the style of music is expanded to embrace many genres and performed in a variety of venues, more this year than before. But the classical repertoire is the mainstay of the concerts, and most of them – 76 in total – will be held in the spacious Royal Albert Hall. All will be broadcast and several televised either on the night or at some time later. I have decided to be an armchair concert-goer this year, although I shall miss the unrepeatable atmosphere that can only be experienced in the hall itself.
The programme planners bend over backwards to be different from previous years, the theory being that for a tradition to survive it mustn’t get stale. One novelty this year are concerts that employ the piano or is some cases more than one. All of Tchaikovsky’s works for piano and orchestra are being performed with Stephen Hough as soloist.
But for many the most unusual experience of the Proms will be when Malcolm Arnold’s A Grand, Grand Overture begins the second half of the last night on September 12th I have a recording of this on a compilation disc of his music on Conifer Classics, probably no longer available. It’s a crazy work employing a huge orchestra, organ, three vacuum cleaners, a floor polisher and rifle shots with surely one of the most delayed climaxes in all music to finish the work. The piece if full of spoof references to other composers, including Mahler and Saint Saens. It will be worth waiting for and the Promenaders will love it. My bet is that they will demand an encore.
Originally – and I think its only previous performance – the piece was composed for one of the three Festivals in London organised by the humorist, cartoonist and tuba player Gerard Hoffnung’; a highlight of the 1950’s.
The two were friends, both mischievous but Hoffnung’s humour less dark than Arnold’s. I wrote a blog on Arnold in October 2006. I still feel that although he is an uneven composer, he is seriously neglected. So it’s a bit sad that when he is featured in a concert programme its only as a joker, not a serious composer.
But do listen on September 12th if you can. It will be enormous fun.