Archives for August 2009

Pianist Ashley Wass talks to me about his sugar intake post-performance!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:53 UK time, Monday, 31 August 2009

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I catch up with pianist Ashley Wass after his marathon performance in PCM 15 & 16, playing both Stravinsky and John McCabe in one morning! Ashley reveals how he is able to recover from one performance to go on and play another. Listen to our conversation.

Ashley Wass is a member of Radio 3's New Generation Artists scheme.

Listen!

Cellist Claudio Bohórquez tells me about his schedule

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 17:46 UK time, Monday, 31 August 2009

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I managed to snare cellist Claudio Bohórquez after his fantastic performance in PCM 17 today at Cadogan Hall where he performed in  Schubert's String Quintet. Claudio tells me how he finds time to prepare for his many performances. Listen to our conversation.

Or listen to the PCM 17 performance.

Listen!

Photo of the day: PCM16 at Cadogan Hall

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Eight cellos and the self-styled "I've been Tangoed!" soprano take the stage to perform Proms Chamber Music 16 at Cadogan Hall, Villa-Lobos!

I'm biased of course, but there aren't many things that sound better than massed cellos... (Editor's note: Peter is a cellist!).

View from the Q: Prom 60

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 15:27 UK time, Monday, 31 August 2009

Johann_300.jpgI arrived at 17:00 and the Q was already very substantial, so for a change I decided to focus on the person who'd been here the longest. Johann, from South Africa, has been braving today's chilly weather since 9am.

"I very much wanted to hear Martha Argerich, but seats sold out immediately," he told me. "I knew it was a Sunday and lots of people would be queueing up, and I wanted to make absolutely sure I got in! Perhaps I was a little over-zealous, but I'm officially Number One!"

Shellshocked cellist

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 13:43 UK time, Monday, 31 August 2009

DanjuloI Shizaka

Cellist Danjulo Ishizaka greets a very enthusiastic fan club outside the stage door at Cadogan Hall yesterday. If Danjulo looks a bit shellshocked in this photo, it's probably because he's just performed the Kodaly Sonata - surely the cellistic equivalent of running a marathon. Once he'd escaped his groupies, Danjulo gave me his take on the unique challenges of this piece:

For starters, there's the scordatura, in which the G and C strings are tuned down a semitone. That takes a lot of getting used to. Then the piece is just so challenging technically. But not just technically - it's extraordinarily difficult musically too. The mood you have to create all on your own...it can be so spiritual, especially the second movement, but if you get the tempo wrong some passages can actually be quite boring... But after all that, in the concert you just forget all of these challenges and just become the music.

Much-travelled Jennifer Stumm after the Spohr nonet

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 17:48 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009

Jennifer Stumm

Jennifer Stumm is a Radio 3 New Generation Artist and a member of the Aronowitz Ensemble. She played violin in Spohr's Nonet at The Cadogan Hall this afternoon for Chamber Prom 9. I caught her in the sunshine outside the stage door for a quick chat.

Listen!

Anna Starkey, Producer of last night's Tchaikovsky Prom

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 17:31 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009

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I met up with Anna yesterday evening and asked her what a television producer needs to do to prepare for a prom.

Watch last night's TV coverage produced by Anna.

Listen to our conversation below.

Listen!

MaestroCam on the messageboards

Roland Taylor Roland Taylor | 07:39 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009

I've just been reading a few people's views on the Radio 3 Messageboards. Some are keen on the service, some not. I've had my say. I like it.

What are your thoughts?

If you've never contributed to the messageboards why not join the debate or have your say by commenting on this blog.


Looking ahead ...

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Abigail Appleton Abigail Appleton | 11:56 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

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Nine o'clock in the morning and the playwright David Greig is flattering us. He's sure an audience that turns up for theatre at breakfast won't mind stepping in to play the hundred-strong chorus the production budget wouldn't stretch to. Sure enough, we rise to challenge - even singing when the projected script prompts us - coffee cups in hand. Clearly I'm not blogging from the Proms - though perhaps we could bring some drama into the Proms Literary Festival next year - but from Edinburgh. Radio 3 is already broadcasting lunchtime concerts from the Edinburgh International Festival and busy recording other musical highlights for the post-Proms Performance on 3 strand in September. However I've been here for a couple of days primarily to catch some of the new writing. Whether or not we eventually commission any of the productions for Drama on 3 or The Wire, the sheer concentration of new work is exhilarating and sometimes a window on wider cultural preoccupations.

Participation and interactivity in their many different forms are some of the most dynamic cultural trends of our time, a greater permeability between artists and audiences, for example, and collaborations between professionals and amateurs - whether it's a thousand people with ukuleles at the Proms or a hundred of us in a studio theatre at the Traverse. Broadcasting of course has been revolutionised by the voices and views of the listeners, though as the techniques and technology of interaction develop we're constantly reviewing the ways it may or may not enhance the experience for audiences in different places (I don't think anyone wants to return to the early days of broadcast emails when it sometimes seemed, yes I admit even here on Radio 3, as if programmes were in competition to request listener engagement).

The audience involvement in David Greig's play was nothing to do with finances and everything to do with humour and texture and meaning, and so for me it provided a model of creative participation. On Radio 3, I'm looking forward to the return of our Pianothon and can vividly remember some of the stories and performances from last year's line-up of amateur pianists, and with the countdown to this year's Free Thinking festival of ideas under way we're thinking hard about the development of the different forms of participation that have become such a distinctive feature of the festival. Sometimes of course it's the simplest form of interaction that's the most effective. For the three years Free Thinking was based in Fact in Liverpool, the audiences at the events got used to plastering the walls with post- it notes like so many brightly coloured butterflies flying ideas around the building. I hope theSage in Gateshead, where we're moving this year, is prepared for the invasion.

Clement lets his guard down for a minute

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 22:16 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

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This is Clement's third year working as a security guard at the Proms. He's off on holiday tomorrow so I persuaded him to tell us something about his job and about the music.

Listen!

Proms Interactive Services

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Roland Taylor Roland Taylor | 08:27 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

Well, we're up to Prom 56 already. How do you think it's going? And what do you think of the interactive services we've been offering this year? I'd love to hear your thoughts. What works for you and what doesn't?  

Just a quick re-cap of some highlights:

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There are now 4 MaestroCams to study. Watch conductors with expert commentary. These are available here until the end of the Proms. Please let me know what you think about this service by commenting on the blog.


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This year we've select 8 Proms-Plus event for filming. These are permanently available on the website. Speakers include Sir Roger Norrington, Philip Pullman, Andrew Motion and broadcaster Christopher Cook. 


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This year the Proms publication team have given us the opportunity to enjoy a virtual copy of the programme to read as we listen. I think it's great. What do you think? 


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Are you having your say? Do you value other's opinions? I find reading these reviews really valuable.  Here's an example from Prom 45. You can review and comment on every Prom this year. 


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If you, or a friend, came to take part in one of our events then you'll know that we've created a web page just for you to keep as a memento of your day. Have you seen these? If so, is this valuable to you? 


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We launched the Radio 3 Blog several months ago now. The Proms season has generated lots of content for us. Again, I'm really interested to hear your feed back. What kind of content would you like to see more of less of? 


Please do let me and the Proms team know what you think by commenting here. 

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Not created by us but by Proms fan Jon Jacob. These are some of my favourite pieces of content and I had absolutely nothing to do with them. 



Elsewhere on the web...
Other people are creating great content.
Here are a few suggestions - please do feel free to post your own.

Elizabeth Layton, leader of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 19:57 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

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Earlier I met up with Elizabeth Layton the leader of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. I asked her what, as leader of the orchestra, her role entails. Listen to our conversation below.

Listen!

It may rain but the notes will pour...

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 19:52 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

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It's a rather drizzly evening here at the RAH as a huge crowd of slightly bedraggled prommers congregate behind the outside broadcast vans as they wait to buy their tickets. It's a cracking programme tonight, including my favourite Mozart piano concerto, and I for one can't wait for the first downbeat.

Marvin the engineer on tonight's Nyman Prom

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 00:09 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Roland and Marvin

And to finish tonight's on-the-spot coverage of the Michael Nyman late Prom, here's a minute of Marvin Ware (on the right in the picture. On the left is Roland Taylor, tonight's producer) - tonight's sound engineer - talking about the challenges of balancing the big sound of Michael Nyman's band:

Listen!

From the Radio 3 loggia

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 23:26 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Radio 3 Loggia

The fancy boxes at the Royal Albert Hall aren't called boxes. They're called loggias and in one of them (number 2, in fact), packed so tightly that there's barely room for producer and engineer, is Radio 3's 'gallery', the control room for all of the Proms transmissions and recordings. I squeezed into loggia 2 tonight to eavesdrop on the production of tonight's late Prom and made a short recording of the proceedings. You'll hear tonight's producer Roland Taylor and various other BBC people talking into their walkie-talkies from other tight corners of the Hall in the final countdown to the performance:

Listen!

Clive Anderson, Proms presenter

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 22:09 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Clive Anderson

Clive Anderson has been presenting the Proms on the TV throughout the festival. I stopped him in 'the bull run' (the backstage corridor where the musicians meet to tune up, gossip and get their evening dress straight) and asked him for his Proms highlights. He told me about 'the magic of television'. Listen to our chat below.

  • Clive Anderson was at the Hall to present Prom 53 which will be broadcast on BBC Two and BBC HD on 5 September.
Listen!

The Great Frieze

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Rick Jones Rick Jones | 14:56 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

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During the Proms interval, one wanders over to the Albert Memorial. All four anniversary composers are represented in the amazing Frieze of Parnassus at the base. It was carved by J Birnie Philip and features 169 life-size sculptures of those whom the Victorians considered to be the most important artists (including architects) since civilisation began. The musicians are on the south side facing the Albert Hall. Purcell is the most prominent as he has a corner spot. A shapely leg is protruding from his robes, his bewigged head is slightly bowed and he has his right hand to his ear as if there is a bee in it. Unlike, the others he is not in conversation with anyone, but alone with his inspiration.

Handel, meanwhile, who is bursting out of his frock coat, has put down his score of Messiah and seems to be having an argument with Bach. Haydn is seated and is ignoring Mozart's begging gesture which may be aimed more at Mendelssohn behind them. Dear Felix may have been added as an afterthought as he is in bas-relief and not long dead. Anyway, Victoria probably insisted on having him represented. His exact contemporaries Chopin and Schumann did not make the cut, as it were, though such lesser composers as Mehul and Gretry are present. Auber too is considered worthy of the honour though he died, aged 90, only the year before the memorial's unveiling in 1872.

Rick Jones lectures in the history of music at Morley College.

Read the rest of this entry

Celia Sheen and her Theremin

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 09:02 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The original score for Schnittke's Nagasaki Oratorio, the first work in last night's Prom 52, calls for a musical saw. In subsequent performances, though, a Theremin was substituted for the saw. Last night's Theremin player was Celia Sheen - Britain's leading exponent. In the remarkable video she plays the theme from long-running ITV whodunit Midsomer Murders and in her interview with Samara she explains how the instrument works and how she came to play it (which, spookily, has quite a lot to do with John Landis, director of Michael Jackson's Thriller).

Listen!

A stage door chat with Joshua Bell

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 16:21 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

Joshua Bell and Samara

I button-holed violinist Joshua Bell at the The Cadogan Hall stage door after his Chamber Prom appearance with Steven Isserlis (cello) and Dénes Várjon (piano) this afternoon. Listen to our chat below.

Listen!

Mendelssohn in Leipzig and Verbier

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Jessica Duchen Jessica Duchen | 10:32 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

Leipzig Gewandhaus at night

The Mendelssohn celebrations in Leipzig are getting underway in earnest this month, and my old friend Brendan Carroll is off to sample the scrumptious offerings. Brendan enjoys scrumptiousness, being a great bon viveur and a true gourmand as befits Korngold's greatest devotee, so he's in for a treat. If I ask him very, very nicely, he may share his impressions with us on his return.

The Mendelssohn-Festtage Leipzig offers concerts in Mendelssohn's own salon and in the Thomaskirche, Bach's old stamping ground not far away; piano recitals and choral works feature as appropriate. And at the Gewandhaus, the modern home of the orchestra that Mendelssohn used to conduct, the month from 21 August to 19 September is packed with unmissable events if you are within beam-me-up-Scottie distance. Performers with the orchestra include Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with violinist Daniel Hope (22 August), Riccardo Chailly with Maurizio Pollini (30 August), a recreation of Mendelssohn's first concert at the Gewandhaus, conducted by Trevor Pinnock (5 September) and of course Elijah under Kurt Masur (17 & 18 September).

The series also includes a farewell concert by the Beaux Arts Trio (23 August), an idea which brings such a lump to my throat that I don't think I could bear to go even if I could - I should be in Berlin then, but that's another tale. I learned the Mendelssohn trios (by ear, that is) in my teens from the Beaux Arts recordings and the ensemble's pianist Menahem Pressler - who is the Beaux Arts Trio, really - is one of my great musical heroes. I was overjoyed to meet and interview the current ensemble, with Daniel Hope and cellist Antonio Meneses, in Berlin a few years ago, and discovered that Pressler had more energy at 82 than most of the rest of us rolled into one.

Their classic Mendelssohn D minor Trio recording featured, of course, Isidor Cohen on the violin and Bernard Greenhouse on the cello - the trio's longest-serving line-up. And the other week I encountered Greenhouse in Verbier, where he was giving masterclasses at the festival academy. Wow. If we thought Pressler was energetic at 82, well, that was only the beginning. Greenhouse is 93. And if I had been the young cellist playing Bach to him that morning I'd have been quaking in my sandals. The rigour, the sharpness of ear, the unstinting devotion to getting it right... Fierce, determined and unsparing, all of it in the service of Bach. Well, no wonder he is still going strong.

In Verbier some very rare Mendelssohn works also had airings in the best performances you could imagine... but more of that next time.

@minifig on today's Literary Prom

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:35 UK time, Sunday, 23 August 2009

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My Twitter stalking skills, as documented on August 19th's Prom, aren't actually getting better - I'm getting luckier.

I jumped on a couple walking across the road after the Literary Festival talk, and asked if they'd have a chat with me. It turned out that Thom was, in fact, the chap I was tweeting with this morning. Anyway. I recognised him from a few other pre-Proms events, and was interested to know if he found them useful before the concert - have a listen to our chat!

Listen!

Samara catches up with presenter Christopher Cook

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 09:55 UK time, Sunday, 23 August 2009

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I caught up with Radio 3 presenter Christopher Cook during the interval of last night's Prom and discussed the amazing atmosphere there's been during the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's short residency at the Proms.

Listen!

The Q for Fidelio

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 18:27 UK time, Saturday, 22 August 2009

It looks as if it's going to be another packed house for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's Fidelio tonight.Fidelio_queue.jpg

Samara chats to the musical charity collectors

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 20:16 UK time, Friday, 21 August 2009

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In the first interval of Prom 48 Samara chats to the musical charity collectors for the Proms collection that happens each year. So far the fundraising is going well, they are ahead of where they were this time last year, with a present total of £41,000. As always they're completely amazed and astounded by the generosity of the audience. Great work!

Listen!

Photo of the day: BBC Arabic filming a report

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 18:58 UK time, Friday, 21 August 2009

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BBC Arabic films a report just before the Prom 48 concert as a massive queue of Prommers files into the hall. Tonight's queue is the biggest I've seen so far this year - all the way to the end of Prince Consort Road and round the corner - and I've learned that the first Prommers arrived at 6.55am. Now that is dedication.

Let us know what you think of the concert. Send us your Proms reviews.

View from the Q: Prom 48

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 18:03 UK time, Friday, 21 August 2009

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It's 5.15pm and the queue for Prom 48 is already past Holy Trinity Church.

Barenboim on the West-Eastern Divan

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 11:57 UK time, Friday, 21 August 2009

West Eastern Divan Orchestra

On Radio 4's Today Programme this morning, Ed Stourton interviewed Daniel Barenboim about the history and achievement of his remarkable West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, performing at the RAH tomorrow in a sold-out performance of Fidelio (you'll still be able to obtain arena and gallery tickets tomorrow if you've got your Prommer's head on). Here's a gripping extended (9:21) version of the interview:

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View from the Q Prom 47: we're going in..!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:35 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

handelq.jpgThe queue is really short for tonight's 4 hour Handel epic, Samson. To illustrate this sad fact, I made it from the pre-prom talk AND made it to this prime queue position in time to go in with everyone else - a Proms Social Media Elf first!

Maestros drawn

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 18:16 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

Sir Charles Mackerras

Rhonagh O'Donnell, a producer at BBC Audio & Music Interactive, is responsible for the Maestrocam experiment. As you'll have read before, Maestrocam is a fascinating, educational project that points a camera at the conductor for the whole of a concert performance and provides an expert commentary - for fans and wannabe conductors and anyone interested in the job of the conductor.

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Alyson Zuntz, a player in one of the participating orchestras took Rhonagh aside a couple of weeks ago and handed her a bundle of lovely drawings of various important conductors, including Sir Charles Mackerras who was in charge on that occasion. Sir Charles is the conductor in the picture at the top (click the picture for a bigger version). The small picture shows Vassily Sinaisky and if you click here you'll see half a dozen more of these lovely illustrations.

Dr Berta Joncus talks about OTT audiences

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 17:46 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

joncus.jpgAfter the Proms Intro talk, I borrowed musicologist Dr Berta Joncus to talk about an issue I've been having recently - namely, audience reactions.
We hear about scuffles and battles erupting from a single performance, but never actually see it happening today..! Can we trust the sources that say it happened?
She was clearly the right person to ask; listen to our chat below and find out what was happening at the time of Handel's Samson!

Listen!

Which Haydn edition?

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Denis McCaldin Denis McCaldin | 13:10 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

Haydn Seven Words Sitio score

I've just come across this message from an informed listener on the Radio 3 message boards, and thought it appropriate to discuss here.

When presenting Haydn's Symphonies, why can't Radio 3 provide us with recordings of the original scores? In the case of No. 63 (in the morning of 7th August) we were given the feeble revised version - notable for the rewritten movements 3 and 4 - both immensely inferior to those of the original version. Additionally, this revision leaves out trumpets and timpani and in this Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performance the easy option was taken by putting the horns in the lower octave for most of the time.
The original score was published back in the 1960s edited by Harry Newstone (Eulenberg edition) and H. C. Robbins Landon (Universal/Philharmonia edition). Both editors came to almost identical conclusions in matters of detail. Some time ago this original version was broadcast using the old Leslie Jones version (the only recorded version in my recall to get the horn parts right).
Jones used the Newstone edition and this year at the English Haydn Festival at Bridgnorth, Anthony Halstead also got everything right in an exciting performance of the original version (using the Landon edition I believe). The Orpheus performance was dreary (what a soggy trio to the minuet) and it made the revised finale sound so uninspired that I began to wonder whether Haydn did the rewrite or if the publishers had got a house composer to do it.

I'm inclined to agree, though should perhaps note the times when the producers have got it right by using rare recordings by Max Goberman which few, if any of us, possess.

Anyway, it would be good to know what other people think.

Denis McCaldin is Director of the Haydn Society of Great Britain.

After tweeting us from the Q, @benanial is found in the gallery!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 06:54 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

Ben_300.psd.jpg With the help of the gallery stewards I managed to track down fellow twitterer Ben who works for the English Chamber Orchestra as concerts manager and librarian. He's already been to the late night Philip Glass Prom and is coming back for more Shostakovich on Monday. Listen to our conversation.Listen!

View from the Q: Prom 46

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 06:45 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

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It's a perfect day here in South Kensington, and I've infiltrated the gallery queue for Prom 46. Topping up my tan whilst reading the programme notes - perfect!

The Sleaford Uke Orchestra talk and play for us!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 12:03 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

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At the stage door after Prom 45: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain  I managed to catch up with the Sleaford Uke Orchestra - world record holding, international ukulelists. They've come a long way for tonight's performance. Their verdict: the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain absolutely rock! Listen to our conversation and to the Sleaford Uke Orchestra play their ukuleles.

Listen!

The Radio 3 Pianothon 2009

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Sarah Walker Sarah Walker | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Piano Mosaic

Last year's Radio 3 Pianothon was one of the most fascinating events I've ever been involved with. Since hosting the Manchester event last September, I've been trying to figure out what made it so special. I don't think it was to do with the scale of the event, although we had wall-to-wall piano playing for an entire day: a marathon indeed. And the human interest! Every pianist had a story to tell, a fascinating way in which music had threaded itself into their lives. It was a documentary-maker's paradise, a novelist's dream.

I think for me, the real fascination was to witness how the art of piano playing exists quite independently of the professional musical world (or any professional world!). No pay, no manager, no agent, no teacher-mentor, no recording deal, no audience adoration, no critical acclaim, no time to "practice till perfect", no Steinway-endowed studio... just the love of music. It almost felt a bit subversive - people doing things for no commercial reason whatsoever! And without the need for the approval of others! Whatever next?

I'm certainly impressed by the bucket-loads of self-motivation shown by these amateur pianists. And I hope that taking part in the event will bring some well-deserved encouragement and affirmation. Join the Pianothon community - sign up now!

  • The Pianothon web site is here and the application form here. The closing date for applications is 5pm on this Friday 21st August 2009.
  • Photographs of pianos used under licence. Credits here.

Robert talks about his ukulele and his story!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 21:33 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Robert_300.psd.jpgUkulelist Robert tells me the story about his road trip to Timbuktu and his new mango wood ukelele replacement. Listen to our conversation.Listen!

View from the Q: George and Anthony strike a pose...

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:50 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

ukeque.jpgIt's a ukulele heavy day today... George and Anthony are getting some
last minute (much needed) practice, ahead of tonight's Prom 45: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Jez, Alan, Meredith & Colin play and talk uke's!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:10 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

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An impromtu queue ukulele... ahead of tonight's Prom 45: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain where the audience are invited to play along. Jez, Alan, Meredith & Colin describe how they all got into playing the ukulele. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Iván Fischer talks to me about getting kids into music

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:30 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

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I caught up with tonight's conducter, Iván Fischer, after the pre-prom talk where he had the audience (predominantly children) hanging on his every word! Back in Hungary with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, they call their family concert "cocoa concerts", because they have a cup of cocoa for every attendee afterwards - sounds like a great idea in the winter!
A little known fact about Iván Fischer is that he and I share a birthday. You learn something new every day..! Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Photo of the day: Newsround does the Proms!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 20:06 UK time, Monday, 17 August 2009

photoofday2.jpgFour first time Prommers have been invited  tonight by  Newsround - they've had an afternoon learning about the music and playing things. I'm going to speak to them before their  pre-concert sandwich!

Leah Gooding from Newsround tells me about her day's filming

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:43 UK time, Monday, 17 August 2009

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After the composer profile, I rushed to the Albert Hall, where I saw the familiar Newsround logo... In I step, and see a small group of invited children meeting members of the orchestra!
I managed to grab presenter Leah Gooding for a quick chat about their day filming - in the background, the budding reporters tuck into their well deserved sandwiches before taking up their seats in a private box! Here's our conversation -

Listen!

Prommers get their groove on

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 16:07 UK time, Monday, 17 August 2009

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I had the time of my life yesterday afternoon thanks to the fabulous Sita Thomas, the Bollywood Brass Band and the Proms Family Orchestra directed by Lincoln Abbots. I'm the one at the front in the Proms t-shirt! There was a nun shaking her booty at the back who sadly did not make it onto the clip!
Watch the video

The Proms Family Orchestra gets ready for action

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 22:09 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

family2.jpgThe Proms Family Orchestra and Chorus gets ready for action. It's youngest member today is just two years old!

Sita Thomas talks to me about Bollywood dancing

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 16:43 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

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I caught up with dancer Sita Thomas who has been leading a Bollywood dance workshop in Kensington Gardens at the Indian Voices in the Park event this afternoon. Sita has just initiated a group of 60 to a Bollywood dance routine, no small task. Listen to our conversation

Listen!

Indian Voices at The Proms

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Fiona Talkington Fiona Talkington | 09:47 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

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Editor's note: Fiona submitted this post yesterday afternoon - SB.

This afternoon I've had the great pleasure of meeting the legendary Pandit Ram Narayan who has brought the sarangi to the attention of the world. It was so nice to meet him with his daughter Aruna who brings, as she says, a female slant to her own sarangi playing.

I've just about signed up for lessons with the fabulous young khyal singer Manjiri Asnare Kalkar, a truly inspirational young woman, and we've all had a smile on our faces listening to the group Asima who've got a surprise planned for the start of tomorrow morning's Prom. Not to mention of course the fabulous Mishra brothers who've developed their own approach to traditional Indian singing over, well, many years.

We're live on air from the Royal Albert Hall from 1030 and don't forget to come along to Kensington Gardens in the afternoon for a touch of Bollywood. Bring your dancing shoes!

Fiona Talkington is a presenter for BBC Radio 3

Purcell well-oiled

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Rick Jones Rick Jones | 09:16 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

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Editor's note: Radio 3's Purcell expert Rick Jones has been at The Proms again. He attended Chamber Prom 4 - SB.

I cycled to London's Cadogan Hall for today's chamber music prom at which our man Henry Purcell was represented. The Scottish Ensemble under Jonathan Morton played his Chacony in G minor at a respectable speed and free of much baroque ornamentation. They are not baroque players and one missed the colourful whine of gut strings.

Still, their straight rendition had plaintive appeal which became urgent and impassioned as the variations grew in complexity. The two cellists were doubled by double -bass, but their potentially thick bassline did not overpower the ensemble and rather purred gently like a well-oiled bike chain through the 18 revolutions. The upper strings shared the interest equally, the violas taking their turn on the Gallic dotted rhythms with the same dancing fluency as the first fiddles, while inner dissonances flashed in the midday heat.

The Ensemble's pure, conventional tone was better suited to the rest of the programme. Mozart's Divertimento in F K138 span out two quick movements around an uphill andante featuring a recurrent semitone clash like a juicy itch. The dashing rondo had the harmony of a Scottish reel.

The programme attracted the curious for the world premiere of John Woolrich's Capriccio for violin solo and string ensemble. Morton stepped to the fore. The rest of the group, all females, fanned round him as if waiting to be picked. The piece has much capricious pizzicato playing, not least when the soloist is delivering ruminative lines in his unflappable middle register. Occasionally the group takes to a note he has held like a good idea or answers a phrase with a coy reflection. Morton played with modest allure a part which in others might invite considerable self-aggrandisement.

Stravinsky's Concerto in D brought the players back to parity. Solos all round. The group took flight on a jaunty melody while the elfin viola player scrubbed assiduously at a single note as if at a patch of dirt. The out-of-place perfect cadences in the rondo suggested the cleaning operation had succeeded and brought smiles all round. When I came out, I found my chain had fallen off, which brought a curse to my lips especially as I had just oiled it and it had been spinning really smoothly on the way up.

Rick Jones lectures in the history of music at Morley College.

24 hours in Oslo

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Fiona Talkington Fiona Talkington | 08:32 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

Jazz Jazz Jazz Jazz Jazz Jazz 00 kr by mrjorgen

Editor's note. Fiona Talkington is having a busy weekend. Yesterday she returned from Oslo and today she's at the Albert Hall for the Indian Voices Prom. We're having trouble keeping up with her movements here on the blog, so here's her post from the Oslo Jazz Festival. Bollywood later - SB.

A trip to Oslo for the Norwegian capital's annual Jazz Festival finds a city on a glorious summer's day overflowing with music. There are parades, bands in the parks and streets, the distant throb of the Oya rock festival just outside the city centre, and the heady sounds of Bollywood and Bhangra from the Mela down by the waterfront.

The afternoon takes me to Herr Nilsen, which reminds me of a more compact Ronnie Scott's, just a bit more daylight! For me it's a chance to hear the legendary guitarist Jon Eberson who brings smiles to the faces of the grey-haired vintage jazzers, he plays alongside bassist Carl Morten Iversen and vibes player Rob Waring who delights the young musicians in the packed crowd.

For me though the star attraction of the day was a late evening concert at Mono, a venue so called perhaps because it feels as though there's only room for one person to sit comfortably! A strangely endearing space with bakelite radios hanging from the ceiling.

It's a double bill, inspired programming from the Oslo Jazz Festival, partnering one of Norway's most inventive, creative and inspiring musicians, singer Sidsel Endresen with a young experimental guitarist whose name is on everyone's lips, Stian Westerhus. Sidsel's vocalisaions, her technical skills combined with passion and humour were, as ever, a joy.

Stian's 50 minute set takes us to a world beyond these boundaries, dark and challenging, brilliant and invigorating. And when he finally smiles and bows we're suddenly back on planet Earth.

As I leave Oslo the chamber music festival is getting under way, but for me Bollywood beckons, this time not on the Oslo waterfront but back home at the Proms!

Fiona Talkington is a presenter for BBC Radio 3

Special View from the Q: Prom 40

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:16 UK time, Saturday, 15 August 2009

qmerge.jpgThe gallery and arena queues have just about merged! Crazy!

Writer Philip Pullman talks to me about Orpheus and why words win every time

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:54 UK time, Saturday, 15 August 2009

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I catch up with Philip Pullman, author of the award-winning trilogy His Dark Materials, after the Proms Plus Literary Festival event. The conversation is around the powerful myth of Orpheus ahead of tonight's performance of Stravinsky's Orpheus. Listen to our conversation!

Listen!

First time prommer James chats to Samara post concert

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 11:44 UK time, Saturday, 15 August 2009

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James gave me his reaction to the varied programme this evening of Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Stravinsky and Birtwistle. Listen to our conversation:

Listen!

Samara talks to Julia Barber about her piece

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 19:57 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

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Julia talked to me after the premiere of her piece 'After the Shock' for violin and electronics, performed by Alexandra Wood at the Royal College of Music. The inspiration came from a book about an earthquake. Listen to our conversation:

Listen!

The halfway mark

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 18:30 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

Albert Hall at night  by Ben Dodson

We are halfway through the 2009 Proms festival today - in days if not in number of concerts!

I'm always intrigued by the variety of responses to the concerts, not least those from the music critics.

The same concert can receive widely differing responses from the critics - and concerts which are very much enjoyed by audiences (loud cheering and long applause) can sometimes be those that don't resonate so powerfully with those who write about them. The first ever Philip Glass Prom was a good example of this.

A large audience turned up for this late night Prom and the warmth of welcome shown to Glass when he appeared on stage at the start of the concert might have been a surprise to some. But to those who have followed Glass and his audience it was no surprise. I suspect many there were attending a Prom for the first time and were ready to hear his orchestral work with open ears and minds.

Go to the Your Proms Reviews page for a flavour of the widely differing opinions and thanks to all who have taken time to file reviews.

We all have valid responses to music and performances - there are no absolute rights or wrongs - and it is to breadth as well as quality that I hope the Proms remains true. (The sold out ukulele Prom next week is an example of both - so queue early for your promming place!).

How good it has been to have the chance to hear and contrast the work of so many new young conductors in close succession - Petrenko with the NYO, Nelsons and the CBSO, Karabits and the BSO and Nézet-Séguin with the SCO to name but a few. How lucky we are in the UK to have such great talent working with our orchestras as well as the strong line-up of British conductors.

Now I'm back to the Royal Albert Hall for Apollo and two takes on the Orpheus myth - courtesy of Birtwistle and Stravinsky!

View from the Q: Proms Plus 39


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In a departure from our usual location, the buzz so far this evening seems to be around the Royal College of Music, where we're about to hear the winning entries of the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers Competition.

Dr Johnson at the Proms Literary Festival

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Abigail Appleton Abigail Appleton | 17:23 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

Dr Samuel Johnson

Dr Johnson is one of my literary heroes so Wednesday night at the Proms Literary Festival it was a joy to hear Lynda Mugglestone and Matthew Parris share their enthusiasm for the great man of letters celebrating his 300th birthday this year. Johnson is primarily remembered for his dictionary with its brilliant if idiosyncratic definitions but what came through on Wednesday was a man of wide-ranging literary interests, of great wit and compassion who was deeply serious about language and the meaning of life.

The dictionary was expensive compared to its rivals (the price of a very good suit of clothes, Lynda Mugglestone told us) but though it became a huge success Johnson often found himself in financial difficulties. We don't know the full story of what happened to the money he made but we know he gave much of it away and Matthew Parris recalled a description of Johnson going around London putting coins in the hands of sleeping children and the other homeless on the streets. (If you ever get the chance to visit the fascinating Johnson house and museum in Gough Square in London you can climb the steep stairs to the garret where Johnson laboured on the dictionary for so many years with his assistants whom he often employed to rescue them from poverty).

The discussion of Johnson was one of sixteen Proms Literary Festival events in this the second year of the festival. From the beginning we took the decision to programme it quite broadly, exploring the wider cultural world of which music is a part. Sometimes of course, as in Tuesday's focus on W. S. Gilbert, the subject relates very directly to the evening Prom. I loved the story we heard from Gilbert expert Ian Bradley that Gilbert's original plan for Patience was not to write a satire on the aesthetic movement but on the church including a character called the Reverend Lawn Tennison - what would Dr Johnson have made of Gilbert? Samuel Johnson was in the spotlight just before an evening of Handel and though both became big figures in London society Johnson was no great lover of music - indeed he found opera rather frivolous, describing it as an 'exotic and irrational entertainment'.

One of the highlights of the festival to date has been Fiona Shaw and Andrew Motion on Tennyson - Lord not Lawn - the event was filmed and will be up on the website through the whole season so do take a look. (And on the subject of Tennyson we've a decidedly off-beat celebration of Tennyson's love for Skegness, and the townspeople's love for Tennyson, coming up in this Saturday's Between the Ears.) There are also several more Proms Literary Festival events to come - I'm particularly looking forward to hearing the climber Stephen Venables and Chris Smith, former Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, on their choice of mountain writing (August 27th) to be broadcast before An Alpine Symphony.

After each Literary Festival recording it's a race backstage to get them edited for the twenty minute interval slot. Unfortunately there's no time to broadcast the audience questions which is often a shame as they're almost invariably interesting. Audiences in the Royal College of Music seem to be enjoying the Literary Festival hugely and this year it feels to me a natural complement to the concerts across the road. But it would be great to get some feedback on the broadcasts, particularly as we'll soon begin planning for next year...

Abigail Appleton is Head of Speech Programming and Presentation for BBC Radio 3

Proms: What the world says...

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Tina Spear Tina Spear | 11:10 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

rahatnight.jpgWe are mid-way through Proms 2009 and there is still plenty of chat around the Proms. Here are a few blogs and reviews. Enjoy!

You can post your reviews to Proms Reviews or Radio 3 messageboards

Samara chats to fellow cellist Alban Gerhardt in the interval

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 22:47 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

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Alban Gerhardt has just performed the world premiere of Unsuk Chin's cello concerto. I managed to catch up with him and talk about the technical pyrotechnics involved. Guidance warning: this clip contains strong language:

Listen!

Millicent Hodson talks to Samara about the riot at the Rite

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 20:23 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009


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At the pre Prom talk, I was privileged to talk to choreographer, Millicent Hodson (who has reconstructed Nijinksy's original choreography for the Rite), about Jean Cocteau's description of the riots at the premiere of 'The Rite of Spring' on the 29th May 1913. Listen to our conversation:

Listen!

View from the Q: Prom 38

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 20:10 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

queue_300.jpg The weather seems to be holding up this evening, which is just as well  - this is by far the longest queue I've seen so far this year!

Samara chats to harpsichordist Ben Bayl before Prom 36

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 12:56 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

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I managed to catch up with harpsichordist Benjamin Bayl who will be playing in tonight's Prom 36. As well as playing harpsichord with the Saraband Consort he is primarily an organist and conductor. He was the first ever Australian organ scholar at Kings College Cambridge, and he's currently the assistant conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and the assistant artistic director of the Gabrieli Consort. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

After the storm... before the concerto

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 21:12 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

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There is a great sense of anticipation for the late night prom after heavy rain. The queue is getting longer quickly with an hour to go until Philip Glass's first major orchestral score, the 1987 Violin Concerto.

View from the Q: Prom 36

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 17:45 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

qbanner.jpgPrommers of all ages congregate outside the royal Albert hall for tonight's Handel marathon Prom 36.

View from the Q with Brett, Grahame, Stefan and Harry

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 23:02 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

cake_300.jpg I caught up with Brett, Grahame, Stefan and Harry in the queue this evening. I had a great chat with them, about the experience of Promming. It turned out Brett had only met the others the previous night, proving that the Proms is a great place to make friends! Brett was particularly enthusiastic about being there: 'I couldn't believe what an amazing night out I had last night for only £5. Normally you'd pay top dollar for a show like this, but it's only £5!'.

For Harry, the informality was as much a pull as the low ticket price: 'You don't have to plan it in advance, you don't have to worry about booking tickets, you just turn up and queue. I really appreciate that - you can decide at the last minute to go to an amazing concert.'

Grahame revealed that since he's only in London for three days, he's going to be spending every night in the arena at the Albert Hall.

View from the Q: Prom 35

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 20:28 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

wedding_300.jpg While the Prommers are gearing up for the Gilbert & Sullivan Prom, the fashion world has cottoned on to the fact that the Royal Albert Hall is the place to be this summer. At a first glance, I thought that this couple had just got married and were posing outside the RAH for some wedding shots, but on closer inspection, it turned out to be a fashion shoot! And believe it or not, our glamorous model was actually wearing rubber flip flops under that gorgeous dress.

Proms Family Music Intro: how to play the scraper!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:34 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009


family_prom600.jpg On the left: this is what a scraper looks like (also known as a güiro, calabazo, guayo, ralladera or rascador). To the right: being told when to hit, play and scrape by members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra!

Proms Plus: Here's a quick listen to the family prom, listen out for my scraper!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:58 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009

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Earlier this evening at the Family Music Intro, hosted at the Royal College of Music, I joined in the performance with young members of the audience. By the way, I'm on the scraper. Listen to the music we made with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Listen!

PCM4 - percussion be gone!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 13:28 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009


Scottish_Ensemble_300.jpgThere's no percussion in today's chamber prom (with the Scottish Ensemble) so marimbas and timpanis were loaded up and sent on their way!

Martin Suckling talks about the pianola, Tom Poster and orchestration before Prom 33

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:13 UK time, Sunday, 9 August 2009

Pianola Man

Composer Martin Suckling talks about the pianola, its mechanical qualities and its influences on Stravinsky. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

View from the Q: Prom 32

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 16:38 UK time, Sunday, 9 August 2009

prom32_300.jpg These people have numbered tickets and they're lining up to get into Prom 32... I think this one's going to be packed!

The making of the Radio 3 piano duets video

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 09:31 UK time, Sunday, 9 August 2009

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A video mash-up of BBC staff playing the music used as a signature tune for radio classic "Listen with Mother" was an opportunity too good to miss. There was an orchestral arrangement of the music from Fauré's Dolly Suite scheduled for inclusion in the Proms and wouldn't it be interesting to see how the people who work on the 'world's biggest classical music festival' fair performing as opposed to organising?

What none of the sterling contributors realised when they agreed to the project was that an ability to play the piano wasn't the core requirement. The video was about having fun, with the very deliberate intention of showing that important and vital BBC people weren't averse to having a bit of a giggle and showing themselves to be quite real and normal.

The other main reason for getting these contributors together was personal. I did rather want to meet them.

So, Oliver MacFarlane - Series Editor for the Proms - works in TV and so would I; Sara Mohr-Pietsch - BBC Radio 3 Breakfast presenter - works in radio presentation and so would I; Catherine Cook - from the Proms office - works in marketing and it's always important to have 'marketing' on your side.

I had some aspirational rivalry to sort out with Radio 4 newsreader and casual Proms TV presenter Zeb Soanes (and what better way to deal with that than on camera). John Shea is a pleasure to have around anyway. Roland Taylor is the editor of the Radio 3 website so did rather need to be involved anyway given that the video was going on the website. And Roger Wright is the boss (so avoiding him would have been professional suicide) thus his involvement is crucial in everything.

Two days were set up in studio 80a on the top floor of Broadcasting House in London, utilising the services of sterling assistants Dean Craven and video journalist Louise Walter to set up four fixed cameras (3 on the piano and 1 providing a wide-shot for interviews) for two sessions spanning 7 days.

Editing was a slightly more long and drawn out process. Each contributor's three takes needed to be strung together into one single sequence, with the tasty stereo audio track laid underneath. At the end of this preparatory stage there were seven interviews and seven sequences, each sequence having three takes of the duet.

After that we edited each contributor's performance according to the audio and dropping each editing segment onto a timeline before going back to the beginning and making sure the video shots changed sufficiently for visual interest. Given the chances of different speeds which a variety of different performances might result in, it seemed like a miracle there were hardly any tempo changes in the finished piece, all the more remarkable given we didn't use a metronome or a click-track either.

There was one missing part to the finished video however. Radio 4 newsreader and continuity announce Charlotte Green had originally come into the studio on the first day of shooting to record the immortal line "Are you sitting comfortably, then we'll begin."

Sadly, however, an issue over the record button not being pressed as firmly as it might have been meant Charlotte's contribution was lost. A tube strike the following week prevented her from joining us for the second day of shooting. Still, at least we got some photographic proof of her attendance the first time around.

Jon Jacob is Web Site Manager at the BBC College of Journalism

View from the Q: Prom 31

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 19:59 UK time, Saturday, 8 August 2009

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It's the National Youth Orchestra prom this evening, and along with the usual prommers, former NYOers chomp at the bit to support their alma mater.

Zeb Soanes talks about his day and his evening to come!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:34 UK time, Friday, 7 August 2009

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Radio 4 presenter Zeb Soanes talks to me about his day. This evening he will be talking to music critic (and poker player) Anthony Holden and tonight's horn soloist Martin Owen. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Composer Fraser Trainer talks to me about the composers competition!

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I bumped into composer Fraser Trainer after the pre-prom composer profile today, at the Royal College of Music, which was about the Young Composer Competition 2009. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Radio 3's RAJAR boost

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 16:36 UK time, Friday, 7 August 2009

Grove at Radio 3

Good to see Radio 3 and the BBC Proms this morning being talked about in the press after yesterday's RAJAR quarterly audience figures were released. RAJAR is the body which measures Radio audiences and we get our listening figures every three months.

Radio 3 has an audience of just over two million listeners a week and has had its fifth consecutive quarterly rise.

So many commentators over the last 24 hours have picked up on the idea of classical music and the arts being turned to in times of difficulty. There is indeed enough evidence over the years that people still want to be entertained in hard or uncertain times. Of course the Proms ticket prices also represent great value for money.

The growth of Radio 3's audience and the strong audiences at the Proms are indeed encouraging signs for the health of classical music. This is not, though, just about needing to relax at times of stress, as some would have it.

Music is a richer experience than that. It certainly has the power to console but it can also inspire and has the strength and potential to transform our lives not just offer aural balm.

For example, the response to the MGM Prom last weekend has been overwhelming - audiences were clearly energised and blown away by the sheer exuberance of John Wilson's orchestra as well as enjoying the magic of those wonderful melodies and panache of the orchestrations. We were flooded by positive feedback.

This week's Proms promises plenty more transforming opportunities.

The National Youth Orchestra (Saturday night) always receives a warm welcome - what better symbol of hope for our classical music world than the dedication and skill of those young players?

Jaffer, James and Lydia talk to me about their prom history!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 19:31 UK time, Thursday, 6 August 2009

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Just after I left the pre-prom talk (with Gianandrea Noseda and Peter Maxwell Davies and as the rain started up again before the queue moved into the hall, I caught the only prommers without an umbrella. Lydia, who has never been to a prom before, is in for a treat - tonight's programme should be an excellent introduction to the Proms! Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Photo of the day: Prom 29

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 17:29 UK time, Thursday, 6 August 2009

couple.jpgAs the rain continues to fall here at the Albert Hall, the well informed Prommer opens his or her umbrella. Preparation is key, and regrettably, I forgot my rare BBC Proms umbrella, so am hiding in the Royal College of Music before finding people to interview! 

Jon Jacob has been focussing on the wrong thing

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 16:40 UK time, Thursday, 6 August 2009

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Editor's note: we sent Prommer and roving Radio 3 correspondent Jon Jacob to cover Prom 26 on Tuesday evening. He became distracted - SB.

Isabelle Faust, soloist in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto may be a little disappointed to learn that she wasn't the main focus of my attention during the Prom Tuesday night (Prom 26) given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Thierry Fischer.

My attention was fixed on a lady sitting on the front desk of the violas who I hadn't seen in fourteen years. Helen Roberts, sub-principal viola for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Fresh out of University and in no way nursing failed aspirations to make it as a professional musician, I went for the next best thing - doing grunt work for an orchestra instead. My first job was an assistant orchestral manager for the English String Orchestra in Malvern in Worcestershire. The same orchestra in which Helen Roberts played principal viola.

I wasn't terribly good at the job, it has to be said. I crunched the big shiny new orchestra van against a red pillar box shortly after I started and succeeded in cracking at the first rehearsal which no one appreciated resulting in the management gently suggesting that I "wait for a while - or perhaps even forever" before unleashing any wit on the band.

My run of bad luck didn't end there - one of the reasons why during a subsequent tour to Germany with Yehudi Menuhin the orchestra hired in some professional stage managers, much to my relief.

It was one of these very incidents I wanted to catch with sub-principal viola Helen. The resulting interview snatched outside the Royal Albert Hall during the interval shows quite understandably how Helen didn't remember me quite as well as I remember her.

Still, it was rather nice to have a natter and find out about the BBC Training Orchestra. Many thanks to Social Media Elf Peter Gregson for excellent camera work and to Radio 4 Blog Editor man Mr Steve Bowbrick for overseeing proceedings.

Jon Jacob is Website Manager at the BBC College of Journalism

I caught up with presenter Rob Cowan in the interval

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 20:50 UK time, Wednesday, 5 August 2009

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I managed to catch up with Radio 3 presenter Rob Cowan in the interval of Prom 28. It's a very popular prom this evening, the arena is packed. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

View from the Q: Prom 28

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Samara Ginsberg Samara Ginsberg | 20:13 UK time, Wednesday, 5 August 2009

combo.jpg It's a lovely sunny evening here at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Prommers are out in force! Tonight's queue is already well beyond Imperial College Union and the atmosphere is buzzing. It's a particularly diverse audience tonight, from young women in pretty sundresses to old men with beards, young composition students scribbling furiously at manuscript pads, groups of teenagers, family groups and everyone in between. It's a big programme tonight - Stravinsky, Mozart and Mahler, played by the BBC Philharmonic - so it's no surprise that it's proving so popular. If you can't make it down to the RAH this evening, do listen on Radio 3 - it's going to be a corker!

Glyndebourne's production of The Fairy Queen at The Proms

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Rick Jones Rick Jones | 18:03 UK time, Wednesday, 5 August 2009

William Christie Glyndebourne

Editor's note: Radio 3's Composers of the Year blog has been running since the beginning of 2009. Its four expert authors (Rick Jones, Jessica Duchen, Denis McCaldin and Suzanne Aspden) have clocked up over 100 posts about Mendelssohn, Handel, Haydn and Purcell between them. We've now decided to merge the blog with the Radio 3 blog so, from now on, all four authors will post here. To get things started, we sent outspoken Purcell expert Rick Jones to see last week's semi-staged Fairy Queen at The Proms. Here's his review - SB.

Too little thought went into the presentation of Glyndebourne's touring production of Purcell's Fairy Queen last week. They tried to cram the whole production into four hours instead of five, but instead of cutting dialogue from the play, Shakepseare's Midsummer Night's Dream contained within the masque, they ditched the supper interval and made room for only one 20-minute pause in the whole four-hour evening so that I had to oblige my guest to wolf his picnic down.

The actors and singers were miked but not the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment which created an imbalance. The spoken word echoed horribly in the Royal Albert Hall and was indecipherable much of the time. They certainly didn't need so much of the Act I dialogue between the Athenian lovers and pompous gentry which tends to be tedious even when they can be heard. The rude mechanicals were as entertaining as they had been at the opera house (see Great Bottom), though Desmond Barritt was starting to sound a little hoarse.

Purcell's dancing score was still a thrill under William Christie's fluent baton and one longed for the relief the music brought, but by the time Carolyn Sampson sang The Plaint, even the cushioned swivel seats were starting to feel hard. Well done to the Prommers who locked their knees and stayed upright for the whole shooting match.

Rick Jones lectures in the history of music at Morley College.

  • Morley College, where Rick lectures on the History of Music, has confirmed that it will stage a performance of The Fairy Queen this December to celebrate the 350th birthday of the composer and also 100 years since Gustav Holst gave the first modern performance there.
  • Reviewers on the Proms web site were divided on the production. FraukeUhlenbruch said: "I don't think I've ever disliked something this passionately..." and Ken Patterson "This was a magical evening: an astonishing performance by dancers, musicians, singers and actors alike." We'd like you to review the Proms yourself: click the 'Your Proms Reviews' button on any Prom's web page.
  • Watch the complete performance of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream on the Radio 3 web site.
  • The picture shows William Christie conducting Prom 7, Glyndebourne's production of The Fairy Queen.

View from the Q: Prom 26

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:33 UK time, Tuesday, 4 August 2009

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An Italian contingent have started a non-season-ticket-picnic. This is a major development for the standard queue!

Rosie, Ben and Joe talk to me about promming and knocking the queue over the step!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 17:33 UK time, Tuesday, 4 August 2009

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Rose, Ben and Joe are all music students from Cardiff. They talk to me about promming and looking forward to the new piece by Heinz Holliger, to be premiered in Prom 26. Listen to our conversation

Listen!

My 30 sec thoughts on the first half of Prom 25

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 21:14 UK time, Monday, 3 August 2009

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A few words about the Michael Jarrell piece that I have just heard in the first half of Prom 25. It would be interesting to compare the performance in the Royal Albert Hall to the recording for Radio 3. Listen to my thoughts:

Listen!

A summery chat before Prom 25

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 18:15 UK time, Monday, 3 August 2009

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Walking through the queue as I do on a daily basis, I decided to speak with the most summery people I could find: the Setterfields (no relation to Ivor of Maestro and Goldie fame) and the Apleys.

After the interview finished, it transpired they were all in fact musicians of varying stage, and are also excited to hear the Jarrell tonight.

Listen to our conversation here!

Listen!

Music at the Museum

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 17:46 UK time, Monday, 3 August 2009

Natural History Museum Prom Panorama

Peter Gregson, one of Radio 3's 'social media elves', was at the Albert Hall all weekend and walked along Exhibition Road for a performance by the Proms Family Orchestra Saturday afternoon. He writes:

This picture was taken at the Family Orchestra event at the Natural History Museum. A bemused crowd of museum visitors were greeted with the sights and sounds of 150 or so singers and instrumentalists playing a newly composed piece based on Darwin and Evolution (the day's theme).
  • Peter took the photographs using his mobile phone and stitched them together to make a panorama. See the original at flickr.com.
  • Read more about the BBC Proms Family Orchestra here.

Reactions to Goldie's Prom 21

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 09:50 UK time, Monday, 3 August 2009

Goldie on the podium - Maestro

Sine Tempore, Goldie's composition for Saturday's Darwin-themed Prom 21, was bound to attract more attention than the average first composition performed on a Saturday morning in August.

Reviewers, in the main, were pleasantly surprised. Elisa Bray in The Independent wrote:

Goldie's drum 'n' bass could be characterised by its tendency to start off slowly and burst into high-energy sound. Sine Tempore, by comparison, was full of dynamics, and focused above all on rhythm and timbre.

and

You couldn't have expected Bach's counter-point and the composition, lacking harmony, benefited from its short length. However, it was remarkable how comfortably the piece sat alongside the other 20th and 21st century compositions showcased that day.

She gave Prom 21 four out of five stars.

Neil Fisher, in The Times, also awarded four out of five stars:

...solemn cellos give a voiceless chant, and a chorus (in this case the London Philharmonic Choir) emerges with a hazily declamatory response. Rattling percussion - deftly handled, though perhaps not as inventively as one might have predicted - underpins the progress to a sonorous climax.

and

The regret, perhaps because Goldie has had to rely on mentors to orchestrate and notate the piece, is that the remaining orchestral detail seems rather vague, and occasionally swamped by the choral and percussive climaxes.

Reviewing Sine Tempore on the Proms web site, listener musiccg, was sceptical about Goldie's contribution to the final piece:

Goldie's Prom piece was clearly far too well-produced to have been truly composed by him in its entirety, especially regarding the exact orchestration of the work. Why not acknowledge the co-composer(s)?

and

A big well done to BBC for raising the awareness of the art of composing, however.

Rosignoli, another Proms web site reviewer, disagrees:

I think it's brilliant that Goldie was given the opportunity to display his instinctive and intuitive musical ability at The Proms; in fact, I agree with the judges' opinion last year that Goldie should have been the "Maestro" winner.

and

I say a big well done to Goldie for having the courage to tackle such an undertaking and for composing such a thrilling piece of music.

In a reaction recorded using Audioboo, Proms diarist Jon Jacob likes the piece but comes close to damning with faint praise:

I've got to say. I really enjoyed it. I think it's quite good. I really enjoyed the piece. And I'm quite surprised about that. Because I just didn't think I'd enjoy it much.

Listen to the rest of Jon's review here and follow him on Twitter here.

  • You can review any Prom by clicking the 'Your Proms Reviews' button on any Proms page: for example, this one for last night's Prom 24.
  • You can watch Classic Goldie, a two-part documentary about Goldie's collaboration with Ivor Setterfield to produce Sine Tempore, on the BBC Two web site for the next twelve days.
  • Goldie's Prom, which also included works by Britten, Leifs, Williams, Brett, Pärt, Delius, Koechlin and Copland, is available on the iPlayer for the next six days (part one, part two).
  • The picture of Goldie was taken during the filming of Maestro and is from the BBC's picture library, which is called Elvis.

Penny Gore talks about tonight's contrasts at Prom 24

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 20:24 UK time, Sunday, 2 August 2009

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I met Penny outside loggia box 2, after the enthusiastic reception to the world premiere of Ben Foskett's new work 'From Trumpet'. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Photo of the day: Prommer's island

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 20:15 UK time, Sunday, 2 August 2009

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The season ticket holder picnic, prior to this evening's Prom, is being held on the traffic island by Stage Door. What a civilized thing to do!

Seth MacFarlane talks about the stage, swing and sweat..! Prom 22

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 07:11 UK time, Sunday, 2 August 2009

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The man of a million voices, Seth MacFarlane, agreed to speak with me last night after the incredible MGM Prom. Fans of Family Guy (and those who listened to my interview with the show's producer Kara Vallow) will know that this prom has given Seth plans for expansion... listen here!

Listen!

Kara Vallow from Family Guy talks about tonight's Prom

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 16:13 UK time, Saturday, 1 August 2009

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I met up with Kara Vallow animation producer for Family Guy. Kara is here to see Seth MacFarlane, best known for creating Family Guy, who is to perform in tonight's Prom 22, A celebration of classical MGM film musicals. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Goldie and Ivor talk about writing the piece for today's Evolution Prom!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 13:41 UK time, Saturday, 1 August 2009

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I managed to talk to Goldie before the Evolution Prom about his crazy working process together with Ivor Setterfield. Listen to our conversation.


Listen!

Photo of the day: Ethan meets Goldie

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 13:33 UK time, Saturday, 1 August 2009

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Ethan (of audioboo fame below) poses with Goldie for the film crews!


Ethan at the stage door of the Albert Hall, waiting for Barney Harwood!

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Peter Gregson Peter Gregson | 13:06 UK time, Saturday, 1 August 2009

ethan.jpg I met Ethan at the stage door of the Royal Albert Hall. He is looking forward to meeting presenters Barney Harwood and Gemma Hunt and seeing Sir David Attenborough and Goldie of today's Evolution Prom. He was hoping to get some autographs. Listen to our conversation.

Listen!

Reviews from week two of Proms 2009

Post categories:

Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 09:23 UK time, Saturday, 1 August 2009

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Peter Bradshaw, who reviews films for The Guardian, took his child to the first of the family Proms. On the Guardian's film blog, he writes about Britten's A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra:

For many music lovers, this piece was what started it all; this was their threshold experience of music - and also, some cynics suggest, a key cultural induction into the world of the British middle classes.

Richard Morrison reviews mezzo Susan Graham's first Chamber Prom at Cadogan Hall on 27 July in The Times (Chamber Prom 2, 27 July). He gives the concert 4 out of five stars:

Highlights? Poulenc's mini-opera, La dame de Monte-Carlo, was delivered so pungently that you almost cringed along with the poor lady shamed at the gaming-tables. And Graham and Martineau brilliantly characterised the dialogue between vain crow and sly fox in André Caplet's Le corbeau et le renard.

Stuart O'Connor, in The Guardian's US TV section, is surprised to learn that creator of Family Guy and American Dad, Seth MacFarlane, is going to be at The Hall singing show tunes tonight (Prom 22). O'Connor asks MacFarlane to explain how this came about:

The simple answer to that is somebody asked me. The setlist was full of songs that I know and love, and I figured what could be more fun than to sing them with a 92-piece orchestra.

Christopher Morley travelled down to London by bus for the Proms debut of the CBSO's Latvian principal conductor and musical director Andris Nelsons:

And all the talk on the CBSO Friends' coach driving down to London on Tuesday morning had been of Nelsons, his effect on the orchestra, and pleasure at the news that he has happily extended his contract with the CBSO to 2014 - this continued freshness of response from hardened veterans of already many Nelsons-conducted concerts is something gratifyingly remarkable.

Doundou Tchil, on his Classical Iconoclast blog, reviews the Hallé's evening of Berlioz and Mendelssohn. He loves Mendelssohn's big Symphony No.2 in B flat major, 'Lobgesang':

Despite the massed choirs and big orchestra, this wasn't the kind of "comfort music" we often get in big public places. The three parts of the first movement, the Sinfonia, evolve graciously. Elder doesn't let the theme of triumph (trumpets and trombones) become too obvious, even though it emerges near the beginning. Instead, he lets the airy Allegro mood prevail.

Reviewing the same concert on the Proms web site, 'pround Mancunian' grouchof, took the opportunity to pay tribute to the Hallé's departing Choral Director Jamie Burton:

Bravissimo Mark Elder.....your passion is infectious. And your passion for choral singing, from grass roots level is so essential if progress is to be made in our city of Manchester.

You can review any of the Proms for visitors to the BBC Proms web site to read by clicking the 'Your Proms Reviews' link on any Prom's web page.

Martin Kettle, a political writer as well as a music critic at The Guardian also reviews the Hallé (Prom 19, 30 July). He gives the Hallé's performance four out of five stars. Of the Mendelssohn, he says:

Elder took the symphony at a brisk pace, clearly determined that his momentum would carry the work through its more static pages. Steve Davislim's well-projected tenor stood out among the soloists and the Hallé Choir gave their all. The Albert Hall was the perfect venue for this hybrid symphony-cantata, and it should not be another century before it is heard again at the Proms.

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