Proms

The great cellist Yo-Yo Ma at 60 is still phenomenal

Six thousand-odd people in the Royal Albert Hall certainly seemed to think so on Friday night. The roar of joy that greeted the Great Gustav’s Symphony No.1 as delivered by the Berlin Philharmonic and Starry Sir Simon was an experience in itself. Anyone who has never attended a Prom needs to imagine the scene: this vast round hall packed out, the arena crammed with promenaders yelling for music and the musicians who play it. Anyone who doubts the value of the BBC and publicly funded arts needs to imagine it too, by the way, because this just wouldn’t be possible without them.

“I don’t work out the synthesis between different styles. I just write the reality that is already there.”

I had a wonderful chat with the Israeli composer Betty Olivero (above) the other week about her piece Neharot, Neharot, which is to be performed in the Proms chamber music series tomorrow. Here’s the article, from this week’s JC.

I’d hoped, on Monday, to bring you my review of the entire opening weekend of the Proms via the Indy. But there’s a Sod’s Law whereby the only time in your life you can hear Domingo and Terfel within 24 hours of each other, you end up being horribly sick in the Piccadilly Line instead. I don’t know if it was the heat in the hall, which was considerable, or food poisoning; still, I fainted towards the end of act 1 of Meistersinger, spent half an hour in the Albert Hall’s First Aid room and then headed back to the tube station… Hmm.

Some of those on Twitter are reporting that it was the best Prom they have ever experienced in 40 years of attendance. Another tweet declares that the Proms are “what our nation should be celebrating, not our overpaid footballers” – and I couldn’t agree more!

The Proms kick off tonight! These opening few days are an ear-boggling prospect, involving as they do a) Mahler 8, b) Die Meistersinger, with Bryn Terfel, c) Simon Boccanegra, with Domingo, and d) heady Russian stuff with Petrenko and Trpceski. If you spot people in anoraks carrying sandwiches walking upside down on the sky in Kensington Gardens, that’ll be the season-ticket holders who’ve gone to the lot.

Someone who has to swallow extra doses at the Proms this year is pianist Paul Lewis: he’s playing all five Beethoven piano concertos in four concerts (nos. 1 & 4 will be back-to-back in one evening). I’ve written about the task facing him for the Independent today. And I thought you might enjoy the full interview transcript, so here it is.

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…

Here’s my review, in today’s Independent, of Martha Argerich’s Prom. Oh…with the RPO and Dutoit. If I’d been subtitling the review it would have read “A sublime solo in a night of otherwise forgettable stuff” but there we go.

I have a piece in today’s Independent about Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky production of the Ring Cycle that’s coming to Covent Garden next week. It’s not often we have a chance to hear the whole Ring in 4 consecutive days – maybe it’s only Big G who’d attempt that – and I bet it’ll be a knockout…