After a slump last week, the Proms ignite like a Roman candle starting tonight. (And in case you were wondering, the Pärt concert was exactly as uninspired and unrevealing as we feared in terms of programming, and excellently sung as we expected. Gubaidulina's piece on Saturday gets a big thumbs up.)
Tonight: Hélène Grimaud. So, we already declared that Leila Josefowicz was the Monika Seles of the violin, but there's no better way to explain it than to say that Hélène Grimaud is the Monika Seles of the piano. We first heard her live around 1998, before she had much of a reputation, and so we were completely unprepared when, during her performance of Brahms, she began to emit a low, guttural groaning. This was no Glenn Gould imitation: she wasn't singing along with the music, she was just grunting from the sheer effort. She's become somewhat notorious for this, although whether a laborious approach will suit the Ravel she's playing tonight is an open question. Oh yeah, and she's also really good. And pretty (see photo.)
Tomorrow: Glyndebourne's Giulio Cesare. It's a great opera, it's a great cast, it's a great orchestra, it's a great conductor, it's a great director... We really couldn't ask for much more. Sarah Connolly is a take-no-prisoners mezzo, but we're more excited about Angelika Kirchschlager, whose voice and temperament could both be described as "tough as nails." Go.
Wednesday: Górecki's Third. We'll pass on the European Union Youth Orchestra early in the evening, but head on down for the late night concert of Henrik Górecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which was a crossover hit on the pop charts in 1994. Hear it again for the first time.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday. The world premiere of Morgan Hayes's Strip quotes Michael Finissy and Gerald Barry. (We're not sure how we will be able to tell, but it still sounds fun. No word on whether anyone will take their kit off.) We always love the Berg Violin concerto. Liszt's Faust Symphony is weird, and should be performed more often. Essa-Pekka Salonen is a composer to be taken seriously (unlike certain famous conductors who compose a little on the side). Valery Gergiev is always fun to watch (although there's something a little unsettling about the "World Orchestra for Peace" embarking on their "Credit Suisse Tour 2005").
Sunday: Verdi Requiem. Yes, this piece is performed frequently, and yes, it has its hackneyed moments. But this performance would be worth going to for Barbara Frittoli alone — she is simply one of the greatest Verdi sopranos around today. We have to complain, however, about the phrase in the program book trumpeting the evening's "authetically all-Italian cast". This is not only cheap hype, but, mutatis mutandis the comment would look downright racist. Go for the good singers, not their last names.