Sunday, 22 April 2012

Proms 2012

The programme for the season is at

There are some as will cavil at the inclusion of such populist events as the "My Fair Lady" prom (14th July), the "Wallace and Gromit" afternoon event (29th July), "The Broadway Sound" (27th August) or the celebration of Ivor Novello (9th August). However, they are all representative of orchestral music and they are not out of proportion to the rest of the programme. If there is an objection, it is that they celebrate the craft of the arranger almost as much as the original composer. At least we are to be spared the Tim Minchin love-in that was last year's "comedy prom", but maybe the "Desert Island Discs" prom (31st August) could prove to be an equivalent gimmick.

Collaboration is a feature of jazz, too, and I'm glad to see that not only is the National Youth Jazz Orchestra back (10th August) but that there is another late-night nod to a jazz great in "The Spirit of Django". There is only one "world music" event, sadly. It had seemed a few years ago that the Proms were ready to embrace permanently Indian music and accept contributions from Indonesia and China. (I had expected "Pliable" to put a case for the traditional music of North Africa, also.) Good to see, too, is the afternoon of French song and the continuing policy of chamber music proms.

It is largely a traditional mix of the core Western classical music repertoire (including the complete Beethoven symphonic cycle, a regular feature of Proms gone by) with nuggets of new music. Just how much of the specially-commissioned new stuff will survive is anyone's guess. Even such appealing music as Malcolm Williamson's "Wall" from many years back sank without trace. But the effort has to be made.

One post-Glock innovation which has gone too far in my opinion is the inclusion of so many complete theatrical works. Three hours of "Nixon in China", on top of four operas, including both parts of the mighty Trojans on one day, and what is probably Prokoviev's most boring score (though I believe John Amis has a soft spot for it), the Cinderella ballet, is surely stretching patience.

Prokoviev is however given his due this season, as is Ralph Vaughan Williams. But why programme both the Vaughan Williams fourth and sixth symphonies on the same evening? RVW rejected suggestions of a programme for any of his symphonies, but for this listener the fourth is violent (almost literally diabolical, because it has a lot in common with Satan's music in "Job") and the mood of the sixth is one of desolation. Better to pair the fourth with the more pastoral fifth symphony, as Andrew Manze's recent Scottish programme has done, and the sixth with the more joyous seventh.

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