My first Prom was almost ruined when Martha Argerich called off her performance this year. Fortunately, Philharmonique de Radio France and conductor Myung-Whun Chung compensated for the loss with a touch of French music.
The Prom started with Olivier Messiaen’s early work, Les Offrandes oubliées. The three movements created a mist – the melody having no have apparent rhythm, moving from slow to fast tempo, and finally ending in peace. Messiaen’s student, Pascal Dusapin, maintained the atmosphere with the UK premiere of Morning in Long Island. The trumpet, trombone, and horn echoed the stage from around the arena, inducing the orchestra on stage with solos. The music accumulated to a climax of discord with elements from Latin American music.
The three instruments echoed, competed, and came together in a celebration of music.
The second half of the Prom made a break from 20th century and contemporary French music, with Beethoven’s Concerto in C major for Violin, Cello and Piano. Pianist Frank Braley made his Prom debut as he stepped in for Agerich, alongside Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, the brothers who played violin and cello respectively. The three instruments echoed, competed, and came together in a celebration of music.
As a first-time Prommer this experience was certainly extraordinary for me – surrounded by music lovers in jeans, standing or sitting in the arena, all indulged in the melody.
Premiered at the Paris Opera in 1829, William Tell is the last and perhaps greatest of the thirty-nine operas Rossini was to write. His most revolutionary work broke new ground in music and was to resonate in the operas of Verdi and Wagner generations later. Epic, thrillingly dramatic and endlessly beautiful, it seems a shame that the score should be heard so infrequently.
His multi-faceted conducting skills brought out every colour and texture of its magnificent orchestral score…
Hats off then to Antonio Pappano, who with the Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra – of which he is music director – staged a concert performance at the Proms last Saturday. Bypassing the multitude of problems associated with its staging, Pappano brought Rossini’s masterpiece to a mass audience. His multi-faceted conducting skills brought out every colour and texture of its magnificent orchestral score, from pastoral idyll to pulse-quickening crescendo, with fluency and tireless passion.
Perhaps the main difficulty of staging this opera is casting, as this Saturday’s performance unfortunately demonstrated. The tenor, John Osborn, had difficulty coping with Arnold’s fiendishly difficult string of high Cs and Malyn Byström sung Mathilde adequately but to little distinction. Only Michele Pertusi, whose robust, warm-toned and delicately articulated bass voice is well-suited to the title role, was worth a second listen. A near five star performance.