BBC Proms 2017 - listening from across the Pond.

August 4, 2017, 3:42 PM · We are currently in the midst of the BBC Proms 2017! This is particularly exciting for me who has always loved this great British music festival unlike any other. Since discovering and listening to a ton of concerts last year on BBC Radio 3, I opted to do the same this year, starting with the First Prom, and though I haven't listened to loads of concerts, I have experienced lots of music I probably would not normally go out of my way to listen to.

Here's one example that made it onto Youtube, Daniel Barenboim conducting "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations, with the Staatskapelle Berlin from Prom 32 (recently, this theme was used in the score for the new film "Dunkirk"):

I just thought I'd give a recap of some of the highlights of the season so far from what I've heard. Oh, the day I can go to London and see the Proms live will be probably one of the greatest experiences of my life, especially if they play Ravel that night, but for now, tuning in from across the pond will have to do.

I'll start with the one I listened to today, Prom 13, celebrating the great conductor (alongside Henry Wood) Malcolm Sargent and his 500th (final) Prom in 1966 by having the same program here in 2017.

The second half featured lots of English music - I loved Elgar's "Cockaigne (In London Town)" overture and the chipper atmosphere it contained, like a jolly crowd enjoying a festival on the streets. Holst's "The Perfect Fool," a miniature ballet to open the opera about a magician, was full of some characteristic Holst techniques and was a nice piece to listen to as well. I loved Walton's "Fa├žade Suite No. 2 - Popular Song" - like a British version of Gershwin, just the opposite of jazz! Finally, Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is always a treat - and is a piece I feel like I should know better than I do.

Actually, there was a lot of British music that I listened to - Prom 14, which I listened to while going for a nice walk in the sunset, started the BBC Scottish Orchestra with Vaughan-Williams' Ninth Symphony, a deeply personal statement that was just so wonderful to hear, and then Holst's "The Planets," and, for me, memories from three summers ago writing "Birds of Prey" and being inspired by "Jupiter" and "Venus" - the latter of which will always be my favorite movement of that work. Elgar's Second Symphony (I also heard his First at a different concert) was also featured with a UK premiere of Harrison Birtwisle's "Deep Time," a wonderful sonic array of colors and a "cosmic clock" at the end. I love hearing the premieres as well during these concerts, because I can see what some of the world's leading orchestral composers are working on or the BBC commissioned them to do.

Prom 12 was actually pretty interesting - it involved a little theatre. It was a children's show that had a story throughout the concert, and this plot revolved around Mozart's "The Magic Flute." There were some funny speaking bits and lots of great excerpts and little works, such as Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Gnomes" from "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Oh, and how could I forget Prom 8, celebrating John Williams! Of course I've been a big fan of Williams, even now, so this was really special. Starting with "Raiders of the Lost Ark!" While it was really cool to hear some of his more obscure films and concert pieces (a cool use of the violin for one was when he treated it like an erhu for an obscure film that took place in Kyoto), it was also cool to hear some of his new music in concert form - "Rey's Theme" and "March of the Resistance" from 2015's Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and a suite from 2016's "The BFG." That was a great concert that helps to get me excited for Williams' score this Christmas for Episode VIII!

Sibelius' Violin Concerto and one of his symphonies was neat to learn about his Finnish nationalism within them. And finally, ending with the start, Prom 1 featured a great performance of Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto, and really cool strings effects in "St. John's Dance" by Tom Coult (world premiere)!

Overall, I've listened to tons of great music this season thus far, and I can't wait to continue listening. I can't say I've been disappointed by anything, the Proms are all excellent - they also talked about trying out some new "surround sound" listening experience that I don't know much about, but that could be something to give a try. You can click here to access the BBC Radio 3 website and check out the available concerts right now - this link will probably not be valid in October once the season has officially ended!

Thanks for reading this "list" of music... I realize that's all it is. I'm going to still hold off on my composition updates for right now - I'll share my productivity of the summer before I go back to school. Also today, I changed my G string on my violin - oh man, does it feel great to change strings and play on the new ones! I'll have them all changed by the end of the summer as well. Musical projects like crazy though for me, both with practicing, listening, and composing! Oh, as well as playing some Zelda from time to time. :)

Replies

August 6, 2017 at 03:31 PM · Nimrod is one of those pieces that never fails to give me chills.

August 8, 2017 at 05:47 PM · The weekend just gone, on BBC4 TV, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain gave their annual Prom concert ending with a performance of The Rite of Spring which made my hairs stand on occasion. I was listening on HD 'phones, so it was almost like being in the Albert Hall. During the interval there were interviews with former conductors, all of international standing, one of whom said he had yet to find the limits of that orchestra. Similar praise from the other conductors.

Given the ability of those teenagers, the future of British music is in very good hands.

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