The Proms are almost over, although the last week is something of a mixed bag. Of course the big ticket, the one you'll need to get in line early in the afternoon for if you hope to get into the arena, is the Vienna Philharmonic on Wednesday and Thursday. Zubin Mehta conducting the Rite of Spring is alone worth a very long queue in the rain, and the participation of Katarina Dalayman is frosting on the cake. (Yes, we expect a fab frock.) Of course, it is difficult for us to forget that the Vienna Phil was, until less than two years ago, an officially racist and sexist (and unofficially nationalist-supremacist) organisation. This issue deserves and extended essay of its own — watch this space. (Update: see here)
We're also very excited about the new Thomas Adès violin concerto, which receives its UK premiere conducted by the composer tomorrow night. We're marginally less excited about The Mark-Anthony Turnage premiere on Friday, entitled (rather typically for Turnage) "From the Wreckage" — Turnage is unsurpassed as an orchestrator, but it is occasionally hard to find anything else to grab on to. Fortunately the rest of the program (Debussy, Sibelius, Ravel) conducted by the dashing Finn Esa-Pekka Salonen, makes the program worthwhile even in the event that the Turnage is disappointing.
And then there's the Last Night. What to say? You know the drill: there will be some unfamiliar things, some familiar things, then a superstar soloist, and then... the union jacks come out. For the record, they don’t sing "Rule Brittania" anymore, although the melody is snuck into the "Fantasia on British Sea-Songs." And they do sing "Jerusalem." Healthy exercise of unproblematic patriotism, or descent into irredeemably tainted nostalgia for empire? Or maybe a bit of both? We're really not sure ourselves. (By the way, the rules for getting in to the Last Night are somewhat complicated. You can always just watch it on TV.)
What we can say is that German countertenor Andreas Scholl is fantastic, that the Rodrigo "Concierto de Aranjuez" (a Classic FM favourite) is always agreeable, that guitarist John Williams isn’t a superstar for no reason, that Simon Bainbridge is somewhat underrated as a composer, and that Eric Wolfgang Korngold is extremely underrated as a composer. All in all, something to look forward to.
Then there is the hootenanny in Hyde Park, featuring Andrea Bocelli, the teenage violin prodigy Nicola Benedetti and… um... Simply Red. And of course, Terry Wogan playing compere. And early in the evening: a Queen tribute band. (No, really.) We feel like being bitchy about this line-up, but really… it will probably be a lot of fun. For someone else. Besides us.