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Jessica Duchen
Tuesday 27th April 2010
Play It Again, Roger

While I was away, I missed the Proms launch, which was annoying because it's one of the best music biz parties of the year. To find out what's going on, I waited for the prospectus to plop onto the mat. And my goodness, it was worth waiting for: this year's season is one of the most delectable in years, to the point that it would be easier to choose the ten concerts I don't want to hear than the ten that I do. Out of 76 events there are very, very few that I'd be content to miss. Time perhaps for a tent in Kensington Gardens and a season ticket...

First, Roger Wright seems to have applied the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' principle: if it works, do it again. After the smash-hit Dr Who Prom, there's another. And there's a second Last Night, too, with a recreation of the Last Night's programme from 100 years ago shortly before the up-to-date one. Wagner has gone over rather memorably in the past, so let's have some more: and it's Meistersinger complete, starring Bryn Terfel (start queuing now). I'm sure people will find things to grumble about, but I can't even complain that there's no Korngold, because there is: the Violin Concerto, with Kavakos.

And there's even some overlap with my Fantasy Proms list, those ideas about using the space of the RAH effectively: we do indeed have the Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, complete with hot architectural antiphony. Not to mention Mahler 8 to open the celebrations on 16 July. 

Here's my Top However Many It Is, which still omits too many top choices.

17 July: Meistersinger, as trailed above, with Terfel. WNO is conducted by Lothar Koenigs and Amanda Roocroft sings Eva.

19 July: Royal Liverpool Phil with Petrenko and Trpceski - features Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Manfred. Yes please.

Five concerts, starting with 21 July (this is cheating - five Proms taking the place of one...): Paul Lewis plays all the Beethoven piano concertos, one at a time.

21 July: Late-night Prom: Maria Joao Pires plays Chopin Nocturnes.

3 August: English music Prom played by a Scottish orchestra! BBCSSO with Donald Runnicles in Foulds (yes, Foulds!), Vaughan Williams 'Serenade to Music', Lark with Nicola Benedetti and Elgar 1st Symphony. And they're doing Mahler 3 the next night, so let's count both together as one choice. We need to hear more in London of Runnicles, whose career here may possibly have been hampered unfairly by the fact that a character in No Sex Please, We're British shares his surname.

7 August: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain with Semyon Bychkov: to include a Julian Anderson London premiere and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Given the sparks that normally fly from the NYO, this should be unmissable indeed.

10 August: DSO-Berlin, Metzmacher and Kavakos in a programme of Schreker (yes, Schreker!), the Korngold violin concerto and Mahler 7.

15 August: LPO/Jurowski, featuring Julia Fischer in Shostakovich 1st Violin Concerto, plus Musorgsky. Scriabin and the rarely-heard Prokofiev Symphony No.3. Julia is back the next lunchtime for the Proms Chamber Music series at Cadogan Hall, where she'll play Ysaye and Franck. And let's make this a Great London Orchestras single selection by adding 16 August LSO/Gergiev, Scriabin Symphony No.1 and Stravinsky The Firebird and 20 August, Philharmonia/Salonen with the UK premiere of Arvo Part's Fourth Symphony 'Los Angeles', Ravel Left Hand Piano Concerto with Bavouzet and Scriabin Poem of Ecstasy. Scriabin is quite 'in', it seems - and about time too. Why not throw in the Glyndebourne Prom on 31 August here: it's Hansel & Gretel conducted by Robin Ticciati.

23 August: Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard and Nina Stemme singing Berlioz's Les nuits d'ete.

3 & 4 September: Berlin Phil/Rattle, Beethoven 4, Mahler 1; then Parsifal Prelude, Strauss 4 Last Songs with Karita Mattila, and Schoenberg, Berg and Webern to close.

5 September: Last Night of the Proms 1910. Brilliant stuff with BBC Concert Orchestra/Paul Daniels, featuring Jennifer Larmore, Sergei Leiferkus and Steven Isserlis. Includes pieces we just don't hear enough of in concert these days, including music from Bizet's L'Arlesienne.

6 September: RSNO/Deneve give, amongst other things, the London premiere of three interludes from James MacMillan's searingly wonderful opera The Sacrifice. (Please could someone put on the whole thing at Covent Garden?)

10 September: Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, as above. JE Gardiner & co do the honours, complete with His Mejesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts.

11 September: Last Night of the Proms 2010, starring Renee Fleming in some gorgeous Strauss and Dvorak, viola heart-throb Maxim Rysanov in Tchaikovsky, and with the usual singalong amplified by 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

That was a lot more than ten, but hey, I was never any good at maths. Box office opens on 4 May at 0845 401 5040 - yet as ever, the best acoustic is in the arena with the promenaders at just £5 a pop. Season tickets - that includes every single RAH BBC Promenade Concert from 16 July to 11 September - are only £190 for the arena and £170 for the gallery. People sometimes pay that much for one night at the opera.

I'm not sure that here in London we really know how damn lucky we are. If this doesn't prove it, nothing will. And all you need to bring is comfortable shoes, water, chocolate and open ears.

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Gene De Lisa
April 27th, 2010
4:04 PM
Yes, you guys over there are very lucky indeed.

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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