BBC Proms

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by michaelab, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. michaelab

    Herman

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    Bartok or Kodaly? If it was Bartok the suite would be Mikrokosmos, wouldn't it?

    Kodaly wrote a great big sonata for Cello solo.

    Herman
     
    Herman, Jul 25, 2003
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  2. michaelab

    HenryT

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    Hi Herman - Just dug out the book of sheet music that I had to learn from for my Grade 3 exam. The piece was by Kodaly "Children's Dance No. 3 (From Children's Dances)". No opus or catalogue numbers quoted, so hope that means something. I've not heard of any more pieces from that set so Kodaly is still very much a novelty as far as his music is concerned for me.


    Listened to last night's Prom on the radio. The Bartok showed a bit more appeal to me and I was able to get lost in the emotional sweeps of the music (in a postive way). Still left me a bit :rolleyes: though, found myself enjoying it in bits and losing interest in others.

    Did enjoy the Tchaikovsky though. Played with real wearing heart on sleeve feel as the orchestra launched straight in with a stern and tragic feel to the intro.

    The newly commissioned percussion concerto I thoroughly enjoyed too. Lots of nice ethereal textures with laid back chiming percussion sounds, constrasted with furious polyrhythmic drumming and jazz reminicent textures evoked by mute trumpet towards the end. Now if only more 20th centuary classical could be like this, or is there more, just that I haven't heard any of it?
     
    HenryT, Jul 26, 2003
    #22
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  3. michaelab

    Herman

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    sexing up Tchaikovsky

    Unfortunately all I got to hear was the Tchaikovsky. Too bad about the Bartok. However the first thing that struck me about this concert was how good the Bournemouth is, these days. This was easily the best orchestral playing I'd heard yet in the Proms.

    The Francesca d R is a weird piece. The middle piece is great Tchaikovsky, the best he can do (there's a couple of tricks there he used in later, bigger works), the outer parts are rather iffy at times. I have heard some pretty chaotic performances of FdR, but Allsop did a great job holding the piece together, and coaxing beautiful playing from the band.

    I was rather disturbed by the BBC presenter's attempt to "sex up" the pre-talk by saying Tchakovsky commited suicide because of his passionate homosexual feelings or something. This is a myth. Tchaikovsky drank contiminated water and that was it. This has been conclusively researched, and I don't understand why there's people who think Tchaikovsky's music will get even better if you talk about his tragic suicide.

    Herman
     
    Herman, Jul 26, 2003
    #23
  4. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Re: sexing up Tchaikovsky

    Sorry for a bit of disagreement here, but this orchestra was quite a disappointment. Last year they did one of the best concerts of the year (according to one of my friends - I missed it) under Paul Daniel, doing RVW 4, but yesterday they really didn't convince. The most committed playing overall was in the Tchaik, but I felt the wind section in particular really didn't know the Bartok (e.g. most entries took a few very tentative notes before settling to the articulation and dynamic of the rest of the contribution). The brass was mostly right, but didn't really inspire confidence they weren't going to collapse. I wondered how much of this was due to Alsop; she's clearly more a broad-brush emotive conductor rather than a precision/detailed one like e.g. Previn or Boulez. It was impressive that she conducted both the Tchaik and Bartok from memory, but I did get the suspicion that at times she was following the orchestra rather than the other way around (i.e. there were rather too many gestures for instrumental entries after the entry rather than just before it). I have a recording of the National Youth Orchestra under Chailly at the Proms in about 1980, and they were far more convincing (and that's necessary as I agree this is pretty ropey Tchaik - about 5 minutes of music stretched to fill over 20). I was impressed by the strings though - there were loads of lovely subtle stresses and swells, and the last movement scurrying was beautifully precise. I also think their leader/concert-master is excellent - I've seen him guest-leading the LSO a couple of times, and he does seem to project an immense level of authority (I much prefer him to Nikolitch).

    As for orchestral playing so far, I would place Budapest out in front (even though the interpretation was quite different from my preference) along with the AAM/ECO/RAM forces on Tuesday, and the Hickox's City of London next.

    Henry - give the Bartok another try sometime. The best recordings are Solti/LSO and Fischer/Budapest (and I also like Karajan/BPO, although most critics think that too German) - they really believe in it and bring it alive in a way I'm afraid Bournemouth didn't. There's also the 3rd Pf conc on Sunday - one of my favourite 20th cent pf concerti (after Rach 3, 2 and Ravel Left Hand). Grimaud should be pretty good (she's certainly got enough body of tone), and the BBCSO always play really well for Adams in his own music, although it remains to be seen whether his conducting is up to it. If you have cable it should also be on BBC4 (as have all of this last week's and next week's concerts) - Grimaud's also quite gorgeous.

    I really enjoyed the Duddell (apparently he's composition lecturer at Exeter Uni, and has been a drummer in a few bands) - seemed a typical last-half-hour-Late-Junction piece. If you liked this you should try some John Adams (the first half of the last movement was pure Adams), Steve Martland (Duddell's mentor) or Graham Fitkin.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 26, 2003
    GrahamN, Jul 26, 2003
    #24
  5. michaelab

    Herman

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    Re: Re: sexing up Tchaikovsky

    Well, I don't mind a little disagreement, but my guess is we agree largely, since all I heard last night was the Francesca da Rimini, so I missed the progressive collapse of orchestral discipline later on. Unfortunately we don't receive BBC 4 out here in the lowly lands so I couldn't tell about Alsop's directing - and I won't be able to see Grimaud up close come Sunday (though I did see her in Concertgebouw concerts a couple times).

    So who is the current Bournemouth leader? My remark about the Bournemouth being being the best orchestra so far, is on second thought fairly meaningless (hey, this is the internet!), since I missed out on the Budapest and the other one's you mention. I guess I meant to say I really liked what I heard, compared to the BBC orchestras I'd been hearing, and compared to the recordings I have of FdR. I'm ready to be banned for my sins though.

    Herman
     
    Herman, Jul 26, 2003
    #25
  6. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Evidence for banning you....

    ...would seem as clear as that for 45-minute deployment of WMD in Iraq ;)

    The leader last night was Duncan Riddell - looks American, but with a name like that I would guess is Scottish. Henry may know more about him, as they're his local band. If the critics have not been entirely on the whacky-baccy, tonight should also be really good; Elder has really pulled the Halle out of their doldrums (he was in charge of ENOpera in their glory days in the early '80s), and his Elgar is supposed to be superb.

    Off topic - how do you rate the Concertgebouw ATM. I've seen them in a few concerts over the last year or two (although none with Chailly - he was ill last year) and they've generally disappointed too, sounding like a once great orchestra with a bit of an identity-crisis. OK, Inbal had only flown in that afternoon (as a replacement for Chailly to do Mahler 3), but they really didn't gel with Rostropovich (in Shosta 5) - I missed their Haitink concert here in May. The view from London ( ;) ) is that with Rattle/BPO still finding their feet (and we'll see how well they're doing next month) the current world order is 1) VPO 2) LSO 3) BPO 4) the rest!!
     
    GrahamN, Jul 26, 2003
    #26
  7. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Wey hey!!!

    Well if they were on the whacky-baccy, so am I - at last a world-class full-orchestra concert :banana: . I'd forgotten that Alice Coote was singing in the first half. Her Berlioz had everything that Frittoli's Strauss was missing - beautiful tone, and a deeply felt interpretation wonderfully communicated :respect: . Now someone really ought to sort out her wardrobe - she appeared to be wearing a bright orange beach-towel and had clearly lost her hairbrush :confused: . And the Elgar was played with gravitas, passion, and consummate skill - I'm sure Lordsummit would absolutely hate it (such a shame they're his local band :p ). For one glorious example, just listen to the last two clarinet notes of the slow movement - there's a beautiful legato transition between the two, elevated by an aching hesitation, followed by a passionate bloom to the second note :notworthy . (Such a shame the Classic FM audience was in the seats clapping at every possible occasion - although even they couldn't ruin that moment.) It's repeated on BBC4 even later tonight at 01:30 BST, and on Radio 3 at 14:05 on Thursday - ignore the commission the concert starts with - it's only 4 1/2 minutes long (and completely pointless, as far as I could see).
     
    GrahamN, Jul 26, 2003
    #27
  8. michaelab

    themadhippy seen it done it smokin it

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    oo you snob:D watched a bit of it on bbc4 (whoever was doing the front of house calls needs some lessons on politness:mad: )anyway they were interviewing the conductor , i belive ,and they asked him about the claping and hes all for it,recons its olny a british thing, that started after the second world war.
     
    themadhippy, Jul 26, 2003
    #28
  9. michaelab

    Herman

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    Yeah, the way Elder and Ms Coote did Nuits d'Eté was very very enjoyable (and isn't a beach towel just fine for that kind of music?); and I have to snobbily agree that the applause was a bit intrusive. Obviously it's a mark of appreciation, but also of nervousness.

    I didn't mind the opening piece either. Elgar, again, was performed wonderfully. Personally I find the 1st a bit of a snooze, but, hey, I'm not a red-blooded Briton.

    I'll try to respond to the (guest) conductor / orchestra question later in the day. Just let me say your World Order of Orchestras is a little Londini- and Eurocentric. You'd need at least the Cleveland there, and the Concertgebouw - but that goes without saying.

    Herman
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2003
    Herman, Jul 27, 2003
    #29
  10. michaelab

    cookiemonster

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    Thicko question alert:rolleyes:

    I watched it on BBC4 last night, and for the life of me can't remember the name of the encore piece that Elder/Halle performed. I'm familiar with it, but not sure what it is called?

    thank you
     
    cookiemonster, Jul 27, 2003
    #30
  11. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Not at all - there were many experienced concert-goers in the Arena who couldn't name it. At least I guessed the composer correctly (Eric Coates - of Dambusters' March fame) - unlike one 'authority' who thought it was a "Pomp and Circumstance" March :newbie: . The closest on-the-night identification I know of was "Knightsbridge March", the theme to "In Town Tonight".

    It was actually a march called "Calling All Workers", written in 1940, and frequently used for newsreel films showing the doughty resilience and industry of yer' averidge Brit in the face of adversity.
     
    GrahamN, Jul 28, 2003
    #31
  12. michaelab

    cookiemonster

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    Thanks Graham. I didn't have a clue what the piece was. I remember now though that it was Coates, from the commentary that evening, now that you have mentioned the name. Will have to hunt for that somewhere, very enjoyable

    BTW - did you saunter on down last night. I thought Grimaud (sp?) was excellent - probably some may disagree - really fiesty on the ivory - loved watching her play the energetic concerto - nice piece. (Pretty too :) but Janine Jansen is still my fave:MILD: )

    I'm curious to find out about the 'Transmigration of Souls' piece by JA if anybody went down last night - Graham? - in particular what the 'surround sound' was like and whether it 'worked' or not? Regarding the music - my mother rang after the first 2 mins, so i ended up missing the bloody thing - after i'd sat there all night watching the others, in anticipation of that one. I suspected before and was inclined to think after those 2 mins that i would not like it - but i just wanted to check it out anyway, being a fairly 'important' recent commision. What was the general audience reaction?

    cheers
     
    cookiemonster, Jul 28, 2003
    #32
  13. michaelab

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Naxos do quite a nice CD with Coates's stuff. Speaking of that era, I once employed a South African girl in Oz as a trainee patent attorney. She was married but on her application form, her maiden name was given as "Ketelby". "Aha," said I, "like the composer." "Aha, " she said, "great uncle Alfred [or was it Albert?]" She regretted that none of great uncle's mullah had come the way of the South African branch of the family.
     
    tones, Jul 28, 2003
    #33
  14. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    There's quite a revival in respect for British light (and film) music going on now - maybe now that there's so little of it on R2, snobs like me ( ;) ) are allowed to enjoy it a bit more. Seem to be a number of recordings of Coates around (Hyperion are keen on this as well as the Naxos Tones mentions) - googling brings up a fair bit of info. It also appears that "Calling All Workers" was played at least twice a day during WW2 in motivational music progammes.

    I've now seen Grimaud three times, and each time it's been the same. A rather lacklustre first movement has woken up during a deep/emotional 2nd to lead into a pretty good 3rd. Maybe the audible heavy breathing, grunting and general groaning in which she indulges in the slow movements does something to her (or would that be to me :) ). I have to say though that overall this was probably the least lively performance of this concerto of the 3 or 4 I've heard. While I'm a great Adams fan, I have to admit that while he's great at conducting his own music, he really has little to nothing to say in that of other composers (the Haydn was mind-numbingly tedious) - although he may be tolerable in Ives and his successors.

    The Adams? - probably one of the least successful pieces of his I've heard, considered purely as music. Was pretty good as an experience though. The surround stuff works very well in the RAH, with speakers up around the gallery. With the victims' roll-call, I was reminded very much of the Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem, the quotations from Ives' "Unanswered Question" were quite evocative, and the ranks of the choir stacked up way above the orchestra is always effective. So - fair effort, but not expected to have a long shelf-life - certainly not Pullitzer Prize material. General reaction from the regulars? - mawkish, sentimental trash. Germaine Greer was very noticably not applauding - but she'd made up her mind it was rubbish even before hearing it.
     
    GrahamN, Jul 28, 2003
    #34
  15. michaelab

    HenryT

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    I didn't realise that there is now a universally accepted version of events behind the cause of Tchaikovsky's death. I was surprised, as you were, to hear the presenter talk with such non-doubting authority as the cause of the maestro's demise. There are various sources I've heard which claim that Tchaikovsky drank the water "knowing" that it was contaminated - hence why suicide is cited as the cause of death by some?



    Missed most of Saturday's Prom, but managed to make it home in time to catch the whole of Elgar's 1st. I've not heard many performances of this piece to date, but it was a work that instantly appealed to me when I first heard it a few years back performed by William Boughton and the English Symphony Orchestra. Seems like quite a difficult piece to bring off effectively, as in some performance I've heard it seems a bit too drawn out and protracted, something to do with keep the tension at just the right level before the release at the last moment in the finally, but not going too over in the middle?

    I couldn't name the Encore that Elder and the Halle played either until I heard the radio commentator say what it was. Strangely enough I thought of the Knightsbridge March too. The encore should be familiar to all avid attendee's of the Halle's concerts under Elder this year, according to our friendly Radio 3 announcer, because they have played the Coates as an encore at the end of most of their recent concerts. Which rather might explain the excess of cheering and applause in between the movements of the Elgar, an expectancy and appreciation by over-committed Halle-ans?!

    The Bartok Piano concerto in Sunday's Prom was much more to my taste, so first point to Bartok at last. Interesting that I found the first movement less interesting (I found it a bit too chordal in texture), and Graham commenting that it wasn't such a good performance. The piece did seem to improve as it went along, again I thought it was just my appreciation rather the quality of the performance. Despite listening to the concert on Radio 3 for the majority of the time, I did just switch on BBC4 out of curiosity to check-out Ms Grimaud so that I see what the fuss was all about! ;) By the way, was it me, or was there a somewhat obvious clanger in the form of a somewhat unintentionally discordant wrong note during the 2nd movement?

    As for Adams's "On the Transmigration of Souls", I really enjoyed wallowing in this one. It was certainly more of an "experience" than an appreciation of a piece of music in the conventional sense. "Mawkish" and "sentimental" would seem to be apt words, but used in a totally non-derogatory context as far as I'm concerned. I don't know what the Promers in the hall or television viewers saw visually, if anything, but listening on the radio was certainly an almost un-nerving experience in the sense that as I listened, I was imagining the piece as being the soundtrack backdrop to a factitious documentary film showing mainly still images recounting the events of 9-11. In December of last year I spent a few days in New York, and visited Ground Zero out of a fascinated morbid curiosity. So for me I guess, the piece evoked a lot of just plain obvious connections and associations to the news coverage from September 2001 and the first hand experiences of the still evident signs of destruction at Ground Zero a year and a half on. The dissenters then were I'm guessing mainly complaining of the lack of deeper intellectual structure to untangle or some other aesthetic originality to tickle their grey cells with. I'm sure the idea was more to be able to convey a simply set of messages which could be understood by the many, this simple minded peasant enjoyed the ride anyway. :)
     
    HenryT, Jul 29, 2003
    #35
  16. michaelab

    Herman

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    Did anybody attend last week's Prom with the Youth Rochestra / Tortelier performing the Prokofiev Fifth? I happened to see it on TV, and thought it was ably played, however a little undercharacterized. They played the notes but not (always) the music. This is something to be hashed out in rehearsals. Aren't the youth orchestra and the conductor supposed to get together for an unusually long time to work on this Prom performance?

    Or am I just too harsh?

    Herman
     
    Herman, Aug 11, 2003
    #36
  17. michaelab

    GrahamN

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    Possibly a touch harsh. Remember that they do have a maximum age of 19 (so are a step below e.g. the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester). Because they are so good though, we do tend to treat them on a par with a reasonable professional orchestra.

    I believe they rehearsed for about 2 weeks before this concert (and one at Snape a day or two previously).

    I only caught the last part of the last movement, and from what little I heard, I would actually agree with you about some bits being a bit flat. The comment I've seen so far has been fairly evenly split between your view and the "weren't they fantastic" comments they normally get - although the adverse comments were probably more directed at Tortelier.

    Was at last year's Mahler 8 and the previous year's Turangalila and they were superb on both those occasions. Maybe they just needed a bigger symphony to really shine!
     
    GrahamN, Aug 11, 2003
    #37
  18. michaelab

    Herman

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    Oh yes, but I would blame the conductor for this lack of "Slavic sentiment" in the big string bits, comic notes in the wood winds and brutal accents in the brass. Not the orchestra. It's his job to ask for characterization, especially when the orchestra hasn't been exposed to this kind of material before. So I wonder what Mr T has been doing those two weeks. Practice his glare in the mirror? (Harsh again?) Incidentally I thought the flute girl was one of the best.

    Herman
     
    Herman, Aug 11, 2003
    #38
  19. michaelab

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Henry, I think the main problem with Pete was not his homosexuality, but the fact that he was a manic-depressive. Basically, part of him enjoyed being miserable. I'm no psychiatrist, but I've heard that this made suicide very unlikely in his case, as that would end the misery/enjoyment. Drinking the water was unwise, but I'm led to believe that it wasn't a deliberate attempt at suicide (there are, after all, many much more immediate ways to do that).

    It's intriguing that such a tortured soul could produce such wonderful music. I regard Tchaikovsky as the greatest writer of melodies that has ever existed.
     
    tones, Aug 11, 2003
    #39
  20. michaelab

    Herman

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    Justice for Pjotr

    Yes! He's certainly in the top five. (How about Dvorak, Schubert and Mozart?)

    Belle au Bois Dormant, aka The Sleeping Beauty is one of the greatest long pieces of music around. Lots of gorgeous tunes, fabulous instrumentation and great structure.

    People were going crazy when BBD premiered. They went every single night, and wept in the streets because of this astounding Russian Gesamtkunstwerk (admittedly Russians love weeping in the streets, same thing with the Shostakovich symphonies).

    Herman
     
    Herman, Aug 11, 2003
    #40
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