Last Night of the Proms

London’s Promenade concerts are an easy victim for criticism (see July 3rd!). My couple of moans this year are the almost total absence of British 20th century music and the massive 250th. Anniversary tribute to Mozart. Never my favourite composer, it seems really over the top to perform so much of his music, including eleven of his symphonies, ten of his concertos, three Serenades, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, two Masses, extracts from some of his operas and numerous other works. Programming anniversaries have become a trade-mark of the present B.B.C. Director of Music, and perhaps it’s a good idea to keep listeners up to date with musical history, but this is excessive. Recognition in the Proms this year of the Shostakovich centenary has been helpful to me in reappraising a composer I have always found difficult, but Mozart isn’t exactly a stranger to the concert hall and the air-waves.

The violinist Phillippa Ibbotson has a different criticism. She writes in today’s Guardian about her reservations with the entrenched ‘ indulgence in public-school jingoism’ of the Last Night (September 9th) .

Many will share her feelings. She writes of the internationalism of music and yet ‘the very label of anachronism that classical music might wish to avoid, is here being perpetuated. It is the insularity of our lives that music helps transcend. And on this night, listened to by millions around the globe while the Middle East rages, we continue to celebrate our home-bred insularity’.

I sympathise with her view. Each time we watch the Last Night on TV, I say it will be my last, weary of the flag-waving enthusiasts, many of whom are party extroverts competing for the attention of the camera. Much of it is good fun, but the ‘Rule Britannia’ nonsense –drowning all sensibilities in a tidal wave of soggy nostalgia – has nothing to contribute to the national consciousness.

The brilliant conductor, Mark Elder, who has returned the reputation of his Halle Orchestra to the remembered excellence of John Barbirolli, conducts the last night this year and must surely have reservations about the concert’s second half carnival. But I see that the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky is the soloist. How will he cope with the jingoism; or is this a sign that there are changes a-foot? We will see.

…meanwhile, I guess I shall be giving the Last Night just one more chance!