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Proms: The first week

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 11:52 UK Time, Monday, 27 July 2009

I've just been into the Radio 3 Breakfast studio to talk to Rob Cowan about this week's Proms.

It has made me realise how much music I've heard in the last ten days and how time flies. It seems ages since the First Night already! So many fantastic performances and great audiences (and so little coughing and extra noise!).  I had forgotten how many of the performers express their wish to take the Proms audience with them. One of the constant themes back stage is that the audience is unique. The Partenope and Fairy Queen casts particularly said how responsive and attentive the Prommers were.  
As a lover of British music I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few days, not least hearing two works I have long admired but never heard live - Delius Songs of the High Hills and the Moeran Symphony.  Sir Charles Mackerras (who, on Saturday, gave the finest account of The Planets that I have ever heard in concert) told me that one of his early engagements as an oboist, at the age of 20, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was to play the Moeran in a festival of British music.

There are some pieces which seem to suit the Albert hall perfectly - for example the Delius Song of the High Hills sounded magical there and the first entry of the wordless chorus was spine-tingling.

It was a joy too to hear the Holst Song of the Night, beautifully played by Jennifer Pike. Surely this piece must find its place into the regular repertoire - let's move beyond just Massenet Meditation, Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending and those other shorter violin works - the Holst would be a gorgeous addition to any violinist's repertoire.

It is one of the aims of the Proms to take an audience further  - this also involves taking performers further and finding those who are prepared to learn new pieces. So thanks, among others, this week to Leon McCawley, Jennifer Pike, David Atherton and Vassily Sinaisky for learning Holst, Moeran and Finzi specially for this year's festival - from what they said, it seems that those works will now form part of their repertoire.

During the Proms Plus discussion on Thursday night there were various suggestions from the panel (and the audience!) about the British works they'd like to hear - I hope that more performers will show willing and look at neglected works and give them new life in the concert hall.


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