A Slow Week At The Proms

By Greg Last edited 162 months ago
A Slow Week At The Proms

It's difficult to explain just why we're so very apprehensive about the late-night Arvo Pärt concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday. On the surface it sounds logical enough: intersperse choral works by Pärt with (in the words of the program) "the kind of early polyphony which Pärt studied before re-emerging in the 1970s" with his mature sound. And when the works are sung by Pärt's compatriots, the amazing Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and conducted by the man who literally wrote the book on Pärt, Paul Hillier... well, how can you complain?

Here's how: Arvo Pärt has become a superstar with the music he wrote under the influence of medieval music, but there's a rather insideous way in which his music were treated as if it were medieval, which... it's not. (In fact, as Hillier himself has amply demonstrated in his book, Pärt's style is the result of a number of influences, not the least of which is an aethetic of radical simplification and systematization that is quite distant from the method of elaboration and ornamentation at work in 13th-century motets.) In any case, the juxtaposition with medieval music is simply the most obvious and, in a way, superficial frame to put Pärt in. What will this concert tell us that we didn't already know?

Maybe we're being too pessimistic. We'll let you know.

As for the rest of the week... well, maybe it's just us, but exciting programs seem rather thin on the ground. A new piano concerto structurally modelled on Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury? Well, we guess so... The RPO does Berg and Mahler? Should be fine.... The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra? Maybe if we feel up for it.... Colin Davis conducts Tippett and the "Eroica"? We're afraid we may have to wash our hair that evening.

The weird thing is, starting a week from today, almost every single night next week is unmissable for one reason or another. (Details to follow...) Really, the ony thing we're really excited about before then is the the UK premier of Sofia Gubaidulina's The Light at the End — a friend who met her at a composers' masterclass described her as the "most depressing woman I have ever met" — although we may skip out on the annual Proms peformance of Beethoven's "life-affirming" Ninth Symphony, only because we need to get home and change our outfit in time for the still-more-life-affirming Unskinny Bop.

With all the free time you'll have this week, don't miss The Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Sadler's Wells, a truly amazing company. Although you might want to take a glance through Alma Guillermoprieto's observations on the intersections of dance and politics in Castro's Cuba before you go...

Last Updated 15 August 2005