The 2010 season of Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall – that confection of imperial grandeur – is in full flow. My first Prom when I was in my early teens, was in 1944, the last year when their founder, Sir Henry Wood was still conducting, but also the year when he died. Sadly he wasn’t conducting the night I was there. It was a Beethoven night as was every Friday in those days. That custom has long gone, although I see when Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic play Beethoven’s 4th. Symphony it will be on Friday 3rd. September. The Beethoven connection remains however, as Paul Lewis (see my blog 05/04/08) is playing Beethoven’s entire piano concerti during the season, with three different orchestras. (He has recently recorded the five with the B.B.C. Orchestra under its chief conductor Jiri Belohlavek.)
Tonight (a Friday!) he performed the third concerto with the Halle orchestra under its conductor Sir Mark Elder, and they made an excellent partnership in this work, written in 1800, bridging, as it were, the classical and romantic tradition –honouring the purity of Mozart but Beethoven inspired by his distinctive, mellifluous but robust and constantly inventive genius.
Its was a beautiful performance much applauded by the audience and approved of by the programme’s presenters, of whom we can sometimes get too much in these televised programmes, which otherwise are much appreciated.
As with the Beethoven concertos, the Proms are much given to serial programmes. For example this year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahler, and so six of his symphonies and three of his song cycles are being performed. Some of our U.K. concert halls are marking the anniversary by playing all of the symphonies. Similarly Schumann is being remembered, for this is the bi-centenary of his birth and all of his symphonies are being performed.
The practice makes an interesting link through the season, more so for those who attend or who listen to all the concerts.
Two years in the far distant past I had a season ticket, and was there with the promenaders night after night – home at midnight and up in the morning at 6.0 for the next day’s work. Not now, though I still share the enthusiasm and commitment to good music and superb performance as I did then.