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August 20, 2010

Guest blog post: The BBC Proms from London's Royal Albert Hall, Part 2

My thanks to Mike for submitting Part 2 of his guest blog post about the great Proms Concerts presented by the BBC at London's Royal Albert Hall. For those of us who can't be there in person, the cool thing is the free streaming of the performances. I got quite addicted to them while at work (I'm on vacation now and less inclined to hang around computers), so I can heartily recommend the experience. It's almost -- I said almost -- like being there. Unfortunately, the video versions of the concerts provided on the BBC site aren't accessible online in this country; maybe next year. I've attached a video clip from the first night of the Proms to give you an idea of what the whole picture is like; it's the closing minutes from Part 1 of Mahler's Symphony No. 8, with Jiri Belohlavek conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Cheerio. --TIM

I thought a reminder might not be amiss that this year’s BBC Proms continue. The history of the Proms was given in my earlier blog, so I’ll just summarize some of the musical treats still available for listening, free of charge, via the BBC Proms site, and some upcoming highlights.

For only the next day, 2 concerts from the Proms smaller venue, Cadogan Hall, are available featuring Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists in the six Brandenburg Concertos by Bach - concert one features the Concertos 1, 4 & 6, while the second presents Concertos 3, 5 and 2. In addition to the bracing performances, the programs feature some entertaining conversations with Gardiner.

Also available for one day more are an organ recital from the Royal Albert Hall featuring David Briggs in works by Bach (some written for organ, some organ arrangements of Bach’s music). The fourth concert of this “Bach Day” at the Proms is just what one would expect from the Proms -- a program of Bach Transcriptions for orchestra that will leave purists sputtering with rage, but vastly entertains the public. Andrew Litton leads the Royal Philharmonic in

arrangements by Stokowski (the great Prelude and Fugue in D minor, featured in the film Fantasia), Walton (The Wise Virgins Suite), Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir Henry Wood, Percy Grainger, Sir Granville Bantock, and Ottorino Respighi plus newly commissioned pieces based on Bach’s music by composers Tarik O'Regan and Alissa Firsova.

Available for another 2 days are a concert of Russian music by the London Philharmonic led by Vladimir Jurowski, featuring violinist Julia Fischer in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto # 1, and one has 3 days left to catch another all-Russian program with Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Scriabin’s First Symphony and Stravinsky’s ballet, the Firebird.

Further concerts available for listening now include Edward Gardner leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony, a performance of Avro Part’s St. John Passion (don’t hold your breath waiting to hear this at the Meyerhoff), pianist Nicolai Lugansky in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (a piece premiered at our own Lyric Theatre), Rimsky-Korsakov’s ever-popular Sheherazade, and violinist Julia Fischer in recital.

Future concerts feature the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director designate of The Philadelphia Orchestra; a Celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein; Helene Grimaud playing the Ravel G major Piano Concerto with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Sydney Symphony Orchestra; Gil Shaham playing Samuel Barber’s gorgeous Violin Concerto; the Minnesota Orchestra playing (in separate concerts) the Bruckner 4th Symphony and the Beethoven Ninth Symphony under music director Osmo Vänskã (a too little known conductor of the absolute top-rank), the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir John Eliot Gardiner (I imagine this concert was planned for the late Sir Charles Mackerras, with a program including music of Janacek, Martinu and Dvorak), a concert performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and Beethoven and Mahler played by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle.

Happy Listening!

-- Mike

Posted by Tim Smith at 7:37 PM | | Comments (1)


Minor correction on Prom 58, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra concert, where that concert had always been scheduled with Sir John Eliot Gardiner as the conductor. Sir Charles Mackerras was signed on for two Proms earlier, with the BBC Philharmonic and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but of course things sadly did not work out there. It would have been a treat, however, to see Sir Charles conduct the Czech Philharmonic in that program.

Also, the last 3 nights of the Proms, including The Last Night, may get scuppered if a British TV workers' strike takes place next month:

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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