Oh, I do like to stroll along the Proms Proms Proms...the launch party is one of the schmoozing highlights of the musical calendar. This year's was held at Tate Britain yesterday evening. I had alarming visions of someone missing a step and a glass of wine zooming rather too vigorously towards a priceless Pre-Raphaelite, but it didn't happen; instead everyone seemed very mellow and unusually up-beat. Proms director Nick Kenyon cracked some jokes that actually made people laugh and declared his optimism for the future of classical music: Proms audience figures were up last year, while this year the harnessing of various technologies will make them even more accessible than they are already. The lunchtime chamber music series got too popular for its own good and has been shifted from the V&A museum to the larger Cadogan Hall. Here's the full website for the 2005 BBC Promenade Concerts!
I came the closest I have ever been to embracing 'Old Nick' when I turned to the very last page of the listings. There, under the heading LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS, I saw a magic word I never expected to see: KORNGOLD. Yes, they are doing Korngold at the Last Night - the suite from The Sea Hawk! And they are starting the second half with it, which means that it will be broadcast live on BBC1 and all over the world to an audience of millions if not billions. It would have been very undignified to turn a cartwheel in the middle of the Proms launch, but I can't say I wasn't tempted.
As if that wasn't enough, Philippe has his Proms debut on 9 August, playing the Coleridge-Taylor Violin Concerto, which, if I'm right, is getting its first Proms airing since its British premiere in 1912. About time too - for both of them. Paul Lewis is also in an overdue spot: he'll be playing Lambert's The Rio Grande on the Last Night, something he was scheduled to do in 2001 but was bumped out by the replacement programme that was put on after September 11.
Otherwise, plenty of goodies to tempt us all to Kensington through the summer: 'themes' include Fairy Tales, especially Andersen (why couldn't they have told me this 6 weeks ago?!), The Sea, the End of the War (they'll be playing Gorecki 3 for the first time) and some Big Stuff including a Royal Opera prom of Die Walkure, complete (and oh my, it stars Placido Domingo and Waltraud Maier). The first night features Tippett's A Child of Our Time. New(ish) works by Turnage, Ades, MacMillan and Sørensen, to name but a few, and prime-time soloists include Leif Ove Andsnes, Christian Tetzlaff, Viktoria Mullova, Manny Ax and Anne Sofie von Otter.
No doubt there'll be complaints from everyone else about why there isn't more of this, that or the other, but I reckon the Proms team, generally speaking, is doing a fantastic job against all the odds.
ADDENDUM: 10pm. I knew it: here we go, here's what Norman Lebrecht has to say about English music or lack of it. And it's a darn good read: I for one never knew that Alan Rawsthorne got together with Constant Lambert's widow... Stormin' Norman asks why everyone else has forgotten about these guys' centenaries falling this year and, of course, blames British orchestras for ignoring them. Isn't it more the case, though, that Certain Bigwig Composers, even long-dead ones, now have entourages rooting for them with guns blazing, while others aren't so lucky? Or didn't build the appropriate power-base while alive? Or upset the wrong people in the wrong way (drinking like a fish and getting sacked for it doesn't help). The truth is that composers need someone to fight their corners.